Sat, Nov 03, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Reviving the spirit of solidarity — not just discipline — in Europe

Investor George Soros proposes a European initiative to build solidarity houses in debt-ridden Greece to provide food and shelter to migrants and refugees

By George Soros

Wallenberg was a hero who saved the lives of many Jews in my home city of Budapest by establishing Swedish safe houses. During the German occupation, my father was also a heroic figure. He helped to save his family and friends and many others. He taught me to confront harsh reality rather than to submit to it passively. That is what gave me the idea.

We could set up solidarity houses in Greece, which would serve as community centers for the local population and also provide food and shelter to migrants. There are already many soup kitchens and civil-society efforts to help the migrants, but these initiatives cannot cope with the scale of the problem. What I have in mind is to reinforce these efforts.

The EU’s asylum policy has broken down. Refugees must register in the member state where they enter, but the Greek government cannot process the cases. About 60,000 refugees who sought to register have been put into detention facilities where conditions are inhumane. Migrants who do not register and live on the street are attacked by the hooligans of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party.

Sweden has made migration and asylum policy a high priority, while Norway is concerned about the fate of migrants in Greece. So both countries would be prime candidates to support solidarity houses. Other better-off countries could also join them. OSIFE is ready to provide support for this initiative, and I hope other foundations will be eager to do the same. However, this has to be a European project — one that eventually must find its way into the European budget.

Currently, Golden Dawn is making political headway by providing social services to Greeks while attacking migrants. The initiative that I propose would offer a positive alternative, based on solidarity — the solidarity of Europeans with Greeks and of Greeks with migrants. It would provide a practical demonstration of the spirit that ought to infuse the entire EU.

As soon as possible, I will dispatch an OSIFE needs-assessment team to Greece to contact the authorities — and the people and organizations already helping the needy — to work out a plan for which we can generate public support. My goal is to revive the idea of the EU as an instrument of solidarity, not only of discipline.

George Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management and of the Open Society Institute.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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