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Friday, 22 April 2016 13:23

The European Union (EU) is facing serious challenges, but it will overcome them.


This was the conclusion of a high-level panel at the fifth session of the 13th Eurasian Media Forum, debating the question:  “The future of the European Union: erosion of Europe’s competitiveness.”  The moderator was Riz Khan, British and international broadcaster and the overall Forum host.


Erlan Idrissov, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister, said Europe was one of the most powerful centres of influence in the world, a source of technological advance as well as values and political reforms.


“The role of Europe will never diminish in the world,” he said.  “Migration represents a challenge but the core of the European Union is strong.  It has the will and the capacity to come to terms with it.”


Jack Straw, former British Foreign Minister, said he believed Britain had been strengthened and enhanced by successive waves of immigration.  What was needed now in Europe was to make a distinction between genuine refugees who faced persecution in their home countries (eg Syria, Iraq) and economic migrants masquerading as refugees.  They must be treated differently, he said.


Timur Suleimenov, Minister for Economy and Financial Politics, Eurasian Economic Commission, Kazakhstan, declared: “The European Union is here to stay”  The EU had a very strong economic base, he said.  Its current difficulties were not fundamental, more to do with bureaucracy and red tape.  Even the migration issue was not a real crisis for the EU.  “It’s manageable,” he said.


Alexander Rahr, Research Director of the German-Russian Forum, Germany, was more pessimistic.  This was Europe’s worst crisis of the past 60 years, splitting society between those in favour of integration and those who wanted to close the borders for fear of the ‘Islamisation of Europe’.


Traian Laurentiu Hristea, EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan, said the EU was facing an acute crisis but it was not apocalyptic.  “We have to maintain a sense of proportion.”


Because of an ageing population, Europe actually needed immigrants, but it must be a well-managed inflow within a legal framework, he added.


Ray Hammond, British futurologist, said it was inconceivable that the UK should consider leaving the EU.  On its own, the UK would have very little influence in the world.  The UK had a duty and a right to stay in the club that ensured peace in Europe and then region, he said.