This is such a dismal prospect that it must not be allowed to become reality. There must be a way to avoid it – after all, history is not predetermined. When the European Union was only an idea, a fantastic object, it was conceived as an instrument of solidarity. Today, Europe hangs together out of grim necessity. That is not conducive to a harmonious partnership. The only way to reverse this seemingly inexorable fate is to recapture the spirit of solidarity.
Since I am a fervent believer in the European Union as the embodiment of an open society, I have set up an Open Society Initiative for Europe – OSIFE for short – and I have been looking for ways to achieve this goal.
I realized that the best place to start would be where current policies have created the greatest human suffering. Clearly, that place is Greece. Within Greece, the fate of the many migrants and asylum seekers stuck there particularly resonated with me. Clearly, their plight cannot be separated from that of the Greeks themselves. An initiative confined to migrants would reinforce the hostility they face from some in the majority.
The problem seemed intractable, and I couldn’t figure out how to approach it. But I was in Stockholm recently to commemorate the centenary of [Swedish diplomat and humanitarian] Raoul Wallenberg’s birth. This reawakened my memories of World War II – the calamity that eventually gave birth to the European Union.
Wallenberg was a heroic figure who saved the lives of many Jews by establishing Swedish protected houses in Budapest. During the German occupation of Hungary, my father was also a heroic figure. He helped to save his family and friends and others. He taught me to confront harsh reality rather than to passively submit to it.