History in mo­tion

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PANTELIS BOUKALAS

Through­out the history of mankind the walls pro­tect­ing cities un­der siege were never able to keep a de­ter­mined en­emy away for­ever – a first wave would be fol­lowed by a sec­ond, and so on. But when that en­emy con­quered those cities, the waves would stop. How­ever, the over­whelm­ing waves of mi­grat­ing peo­ple that are reach­ing our shores to­day, mo­bi­lized by the des­per­ate need for sur­vival as op­posed to the de­sire to con­quer, will sim­ply keep com­ing. These des­per­ate peo­ple are try­ing to es­cape Mid­dle Eastern, Asian and African coun­tries where poverty, war and a lack of free­dom threaten their very ex­is­tence. What has been set in mo­tion now is not the per- se­cu­tion of cer­tain pop­u­la­tions, but history it­self. This process can­not be halted, no mat­ter how many fences are erected, no mat­ter how many high walls are put up, such as the ones un­der con­struc­tion by Hungary at its bor­der with Ser­bia, or those en­vi­sioned by con­tro­ver­sial mogul Don­ald Trump, a can­di­date for the Repub­li­cans’ pres­i­den­tial ticket, at the US-Mexico bor­der. As for the Chan­nel Tun­nel, do the Bri­tish truly be­lieve that 50,000 – in­stead of 5,000 – de­ter­mined refugees in Calais could be pre­vented from cross­ing at the mere sight of po­lice of­fi­cers and weapons? A re­cent ed­i­to­rial in The New York Times was poignant: “Res­i­dents on the is­land of Les­bos – where many refugees from the Mid­dle East land be­cause of its prox­im­ity to Tur­key – have re­sponded gen­er­ously, pro­vid­ing meals, blan­kets and dry cloth­ing. Their re­sponse should shame oth­ers in Europe, par­tic­u­larly the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, which is pan­ick­ing over the prospect that a mere 3,000 mi­grants in Calais, France, might make it across the English Chan­nel.” So far, de­spite of­fi­cials’ meet­ings, the po­si­tions of Cen­tral and North­ern Europe with re­gard to the refugee is­sue leaves a lot to be de­sired. As if Italy’s south­ern borders and Greece’s eastern borders were not the Euro­pean Union’s own borders. Also, up to now, with the ex­cep­tion of Greece’s Golden Dawn and Italy’s North­ern League (with which ex­treme right­ists in north­ern coun­tries iden­tify), Greek and Ital­ian cit­i­zens have been show­ing their sol­i­dar­ity in ev­ery pos­si­ble way. Es­pe­cially in Greece, a coun­try deeply wounded by the cri­sis and about to suf­fer fresh blows dealt by our fel­low Euro­peans, the sol­i­dar­ity demon­strated by lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties on the is­lands, along with the hu­man­i­tar­ian stance of the peo­ple of Athens, make up for the ma­jor gaps left by the coun­try’s fi­nan­cial weak­ness and the im­pru­dence of the gov­ern­ment, which should have sought Euro­pean fund­ing much sooner. Be­cause no mat­ter how mea­ger this as­sis­tance may be, in to­day’s Greece it seems huge.

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