In March 2015 at the height of the Greek financial crisis I wrote of the great brain drain (‘Grexodus’) that would do lasting damage to that country’s future fortunes. Little did anyone realise that within the year that brain drain would be replaced by a massive potential brain gain as thousands of migrants flock to its shores.
Most of those now escaping from the horrors of war-torn Syria, Afghanistan or North Africa are hoping to make their way beyond Greece to settle in the supposedly stable havens of Northern Europe – but their passage is now blocked as EU States shrug off Schengen and shrink back into populist isolationisms as if folk have forgotten the point of being ‘better together’.
We may despair of the lack of pan-European political mettle, the failure of long-term leadership and the collapse of collective moral decency, but amongst these dark clouds is a potential silver lining for that woefully disregarded Greek State. The question now is whether the Greek government and the people can rise to the opportunity.
Amongst the weary but determined families trekking north are many professional families well qualified to fill the gaps left by the earlier flight of the disenchanted – the loss of thousands of doctors, researchers, students, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, teachers, technicians and nurses. The lucky recipients of that talented brain drain were Germany, Canada, USA and Australia. In that 2015 fallout, few came to the UK (further diminishing our global growth prospects) but that was hardly surprising given the prevailing attitudes of extreme right & left-wing politics and media meeting themselves on the far side of the circle.
So, the question is: What is Greece doing to encourage those who could be tempted to stay – to learn Greek – to assimilate into local culture – to rebuild their lives and contribute to economic and societal growth? Germany, initially at least, set a fine example. But will Greece be able to muster the enterprise?
We must hope so – for surely the rest of Europe must learn, and learn in time, that global mass migrations are the unintended consequences of disastrous failures of political leadership and disunity.
‘Learn in time’, I wrote. In time to stave of the tide of human misery and suffering that now besets us, or, in time to equip our leaderships with the intellectual and moral strength to deal with the next flood? How will attitudes change when we Europeans must cope with thousands fleeing the USA in the event of a Trump presidency?
It is surely not beyond the wit of humankind to get a grip – to better imagine and manage the more easily foreseen consequences, particularly as the supposedly unforeseen lessons are being played out before our unastonished, but tearful, eyes.