Anyone who’s been following the recent debate about immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania, who have been able to enter Germany without a visa since January 1, will recall a few key phrases.
“Most immigrants from these countries who have already come are well-qualified workers,” said the Federal Government’s integration commissioner, Aydan Özoğuz, on the nightly news.
On another news show, she added that it was annoying “that entire ethnic groups are constantly being denigrated this way, and instead of being happy about the right to travel and about people who can emigrate, it always begins negatively.” She said that was “really unfortunate.”
As if there were no slums in Duisburg or Mannheim
The new chair of the Green Party, Simone Peter, warned against “hysteria and fearmongering.” Rather than encouraging “xenophobic sentiments,” she maintained, we should be seeing immigration as an “enrichment of our sociocultural life.”
“Migration researcher” Klaus F. Zimmermann condemned “irresponsible propaganda,” saying that the majority of immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania are “skilled professionals such as doctors and engineers, who are badly needed in Germany.”
If you have not read reports on the immigrant slums in Duisburg or Mannheim, or have ignored the cries for help from overburdened local governments, or have missed the fact that the number of mothers with small children begging on the streets is rising rapidly, you might get the impression that there is no “poverty migration” and no problem with immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania—quite the contrary.
Apparently they’re not coming to Germany to make their own lives better, but because we need them, in order to enrich our sociocultural life. And instead of being happy and thanking them, we have started xenophobic campaigns—just like that, for no reason.
What exactly is a “small group”?
In answer to a query by the Left Fraction, the Federal Minister of Labor claimed that the number of Bulgarians and Romanians legally employed in Germany has risen more sharply than the number of immigrants from the two countries. But the number of Bulgarians and Romanians receiving unemployment benefits rose less sharply between 2010 and 2013 than the number of immigrants from the two countries—and that was only a “small group,” only 0.4% of those eligible for benefits. The questioner, Ulla Jelpke, agreed with satisfaction, “The supposed poverty immigration from Bulgaria and Romania is a populist bogeyman with no substance.”
East Germany used the same hairsplitting and numbers games to become the seventh largest industrial nation and Europe’s favorite tourist destination—by counting everyone transiting through the country as a “visitor.” Using similar methods, these days we have been told that there’s no inflation, even though every housewife, wherever she shops, knows better.
Statistics can prove anything
Yet using a flexible definition of poverty linked to average income, it has also been proven that the number of people living in poverty is steadily rising. There’s nothing that can’t be shown using statistics.
Depending on your needs, you can find Germany to be rich or poor, conjure away the rising cost of energy, or argue that the 200 billion Euros paid out every year in marriage and family benefits is not enough, because the birth rate in Alaska is much higher than in Germany.
As far as immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania, we would need to know first of all how many are coming to Germany, how many of them are working, and how many depend on welfare benefits. But those figures don’t exist—or are not being released. Instead we get vague euphemisms: the majority, most, only a few, a small group.
A recent article in “Migazin,” a journal on migration and integration in Germany, claimed that out of all the Romanians and Bulgarians who have immigrated since 2007, “80% are employed, more than one in five are highly skilled, and almost half are skilled.”
Immigration harms Bulgaria and Romania
But even these apparently concrete figures are sketchy. What does “skilled” mean? A doctor or a taxi driver? Or a doctor who has to drive a taxi because his degree is not, in reality, worth as much as one from a German, Swiss or French school, even if it is recognized by EU treaty?
The reference to the immigrants’ skills sounds like recognition and respect, but in reality it reflects the mentality of a used-car salesman selling former rental cars. If the immigrants are really so skilled, then they are needed at home.
Every “skilled professional” who leaves Bulgaria or Romania reduces the country’s chances of ever reaching the level of the rest of Europe. So Bulgaria and Romania remain the poorhouses of the EU—not despite, but because of, their accession to the Brussels Republic. In the past, construction workers, pizza bakers and street sweepers came from the poor south to the rich north; today it’s doctors and engineers.
Germany is the elephant in the room
Just as water flows downhill and hot air rises, migration—which is always poverty migration—goes from poverty to wealth. There’s no such thing as “wealthy migration,” unless we’re talking about Gerard Depardieu.
That this more or less scientific fact is so insistently denied has to do with broken promises. Until a few years ago, we were told that in the process of EU enlargement, Europe would not be Germanized; Germany would be Europeanized. Now we know better.
Europe is being Germanized, not because the Germans are imperialist and colonialist by nature, but because the German economy has a suction effect that no European economy can escape. That’s what happens when an elephant rents an apartment with a few sheep and goats. What the elephant says, goes.
Sigmar Gabriel, former SPD “Commissioner for Pop Culture and Pop Discourse” and current Federal Minister for Economics and Energy, nicely summed up this kind of cooperation. In a recent television interview, he said that we have to help the young unemployed in southern Europe so they can buy German products, because Germany’s wealth depends on it.
Translation: Belinda Cooper