Patten wants immigration rethink

Chris Patten has called on Europeans to treat immigrants better.

The former European Commissioner for External Relations said today (Tues): “Yes, we do have the highest quality of living in Europe. However, we ignore the need for reforms to sustain this standard.”

Speaking to Austrian newspaper Die Presse, the ex-governor of Hong Kong criticised that “every kind of change is seen as an assault on our quality of life. At the same time, we are disregarding that this lack of change threatens our living standards.”

Patten called for a debate on immigration to Europe “instead of this pseudo-commotion. We should stop giving lectures about human rights. Instead, we should start to treat people who come to Europe better.”

The number of requests for political asylum in Austria rose by 15.75 per cent from the first six months of 2010 to the same time span of the current year when 5,821 requests were handed in. Afghans were represented most strongly among asylum seekers.

More than 3,400 foreigners gained Austrian citizenship by naturalisation between January and June 2011.

Asked how the Western World could solve its political and economical problems, Patten told Die Presse: “Probably by trying to get along somehow. What is remarkable is that everything could be much worse, but the world is not more dangerous than when I grew up. When I was a child, the Cold War created a balance of fright. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought us on the brink of a nuclear Armageddon.”

The Chancellor of the University of Oxford added: “We act clumsily trying to sort out problems – and we are less willing to cooperate pragmatically on international level than we used to at times when we were less pressurised to do so than today.”

The Eurozone – the 17 European Union (EU) member countries which use the Euro as their currency – are experiencing a serious crisis these days due to the economic struggles of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland and, in particular Greece.

Patten criticised southern European countries for “breaking promises like increasing their competitiveness” they made before they joined the Eurozone. “What happened instead was that Germany increased its competitive capacity while southern Europeans took advantage of low interest rates and boosted consumption.”

Federation of Industries (IV) Veit Sorger recently warned Austria was falling behind further in international comparison. Making aware of the latest IMF World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY), Sorger called on the government coalition to get “urgently needed” reforms underway. The IV boss appealed on the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) to reduce the costs of public administration.

Many opinion leaders have previously pointed out Austria must reform its expensive pension and healthcare system to avoid a further rise of state debts. The current structure of the Austrian education sector is widely blamed for the poor performance of students in international general knowledge checks and for the problems of companies in finding adequate staff.

The WCY 2011 – established International Institute for Management Development based in Lausanne, Switzerland – ranked Austria 18th among 59 investigated countries. The alpine state, which joined the EU in 1995 and introduced the Euro in 2002, reached 14th place in 2010.

Hong Kong topped the most recent WCY followed by the United States of America and Singapore. Sweden was the best European country. The EU member made fourth place in 2011. Austria lost four places due to comparably high taxes, low average working hours and high retirement payments.

Referring to the European economy’s condition Patten criticised: “(EU leaders) said in 2000 Europe should become the most competitive knowledge-based economic area by 2010. In 2010, they agreed on a new deadline (2020) after having realised that we had lost 10 years.”