LJ user lasterix
mentions a Postimees report about proposed changes in the labour import laws. The EU is pushing new members to accept more foreigners, and by 2009 Estonia might adopt a simplified work visa scheme, as well as doubling the annual quota to 0.1% of the population, around 1300 people.
This is scaring a lot of people: after the April riots, the last thing locals want is a bunch of Africans and Muslims, or any other foreigners in significant numbers, in fact. While the law states that any guest worker must receive at least the industry standard wage, and the employer is significantly responsible for them, the fear is that with Estonian specialists increasingly moving to other EU countries for work, the immigrants will be poor, uneducated, cheap labour that will turn this country into another shell of a European paradise, infested and polluted by mullahs screaming at prayer time.
Curiously, the LJ user in question writes in Russian, and so do her commenters; the people most scared of a black ghetto in Kopli are the ones currently perceived as unwelcome foreigners. It's a well-known phenomenon that the second-to-last group of immigrants are usually the most adamant about keeping the borders closed, just funny to see it actually happen so close to home.
However, I think Estonia is in a better position to handle the influx of guest workers than most other EU countries, and the local Russians have had a hand in this.
The key issue, again, is idealism. Europe is too wrapped up in its own noblesse oblige
to approach the problem of immigrants forcefully.
The problem is not that the immigrants are there. It's that both sides - the immigrants and the locals - have the wrong approach, a mentality that precludes successful coexistence. After all, migration has been an aspect of human society from the start; very few peoples can claim that they now live where they originally did (though Estonians at least have the distinction of descending directly from the first human tribes to settle the north Baltic). Immigration itself does not lead to conflict; what does is the lack of desire to understand and accept the values of the new country.
A British friend of mine has once stunned me with his pathological tolerance, saying he didn't mind that all the people with wildly differing lifestyles and values came to Britain, nor that they continued to practice them; he would just appreciate if those values were not forcefully applied to him. This approach is wrong because it puts the native population into the position of a powerless minority, happy for whatever small opportunity is given to them. The truth is that IT has given a new dimension to globalization; we are now in the initial stages of a post-global
world, where instant communication and cheap transport can be used to decouple economics from geography and society. A business's new branch can be established anywhere on the globe, wherever the labour is available; globalization now creates not only sweatshops, but positions for highly qualified, well-paid specialists, who can have a comfortable enough existence in their own country. This will not completely eliminate migration, of course, but it does weaken the economic argument for migration. People who leave their countries because there is no way for them to make a living there, are very rarely qualified enough to practice their profession somewhere else.
Or at least they won't have the excuse. Most Third World countries now have a booming economy, as the West wages its wars
with economic means rather than military (this is the point behind the quip about democracies not going to war with each other); the Western economy needs access to new markets, but these markets need to be rich enough to pay the West's prices. Since the West is in a post-industrial state, and richer than ever, it actively wants its customers to be increasingly wealthy, not just from selling off their countries' natural resources, but from having a healthy economy of their own. North Africa and South-East Asia are no longer disaster zones, and people who leave them to come to Europe do not have the justification of inevitability.
So any immigrants to Europe now come here because they want to partake of the riches and security of the world's single wealthiest entity. This is where the buck stops and the white man's burden morphs into righteous indignation; because if these folks want the benefits of life in Europe, they'd better fucking behave themselves
. European countries have every right to demand, individually, that immigrants subscribe and follow the rules of the community they have proactively decided to join.
But they won't, at least most of them, because Europe is still suffering from the spectre of intolerance. Between the effect of the Holocaust and the increasing historical awareness of colonial abuse, Old Europe has not been willing to implement any sort of policy that could be seen as limiting the rights of the immigrants. Of course, the personal liberty that is the hallmark of Europe is only viable if the citizen chooses not to exercise it to its full extent
. The civilized European community functions on consensus and compromise, with members who realize that limitations for the sake of society benefit themselves in the end. Immigrants with no tradition of living in a social democracy do not have this understanding. Both sides are at fault.
However, I think Estonia may be one of the very few European countries with the ability to resist this combination of offense and apathy - and to a large part this will be because of the Russians, because of the riots of April 26th. Because while Estonia does suffer one half of the problem - the lack of the immigrant community's desire to play by the rules, and their sense of entitlement unmarred by obligation - it has just come through a test case, and is certainly not short of political will
to tackle the issue.
The Tallinn riots were tame by world standards in terms of actual violence - in fact I've been told by Canadians that over there hockey riots with no political undertones whatsoever regularly result in far more damage - but in terms of political fallout, this was quite close to the worst case scenario. The riots broke out over a historically sensitive subject, a third rail that most European politicians will not touch (people have pointed out that the EU outrage over Russia's behaviour formally applied to the breach of the Vienna convention only); the government, with a single leader assured of his personal mandate and popularity, antagonized a very significant portion of the population, which was backed by an agressive neighbouring country that was also an important trade partner.
And yet here we are, less than two months later, and the world has not ended. The Kremlin has more or less stopped making noises in our direction, and local Russians may still be pissed, but they've realized that there is nothing for them to gain. Overall, the Estonian government - and more importantly, any future government - has a precedent for defending its decisions against a violent minority. For what it's worth, the YouTube propaganda clips will convince any potential immigrant with an Internet connection that Estonia is a country where foreigners are tolerated only as long as they don't stir up any trouble. Those that do, end up in D-terminal.
Ironically, the recent EU member state that was woefully unprepared for riots, is now the one most capable of dealing with hostile immigrants. If we do have to open up our borders to refugees and guest workers, I guess it's not such a bad thing to have that sort of reputation.
When I first wrote about the riots, the best comment was "Welcome to Old Europe". Glad to be here, Jens-Olaf; we've brought our own riot squad