September 2017, Year IX, n. 9
The radicalised, extremist mayor. A fundamentalist of multiculturalism
Telos: Immigration and integration are among the hottest topic of the last few years, worldwide. Maybe the hottest of the current year, above all in Italy. What is your view about the latest decisions taken by the Italian Government on how to tackle immigration, mainly immigration from the sea?
Bart Somers: As a politician, I strongly believe in a harmonised European way to tackle the challenges posed by immigration. The only way to secure a dialogue based on human values is for all European Member States to adopt the same procedure. The same rules and criteria need to be taken into account everywhere. Therefore, we need a fully authorised European Asylum Support Office.
If this European strategy is to be successful, we also need a rational refugee quota plan. Based on the Geneva Convention, we need to take into account all the claims of refugees and aim to achieve a balanced demographic impact in every individual Member State. Only a harmonised procedure, and a clear engagement by all Member States will lead to a truly unified European project.
When it comes to Italy, I think it is very important to continue to focus on the role of Frontex as the guardian of Europe’s external borders. Europe also needs to ensure the creation of European registration centres (the so called ‘hot spots’). ...more
When a conversation turns to immigration we immediately become defensive and very rarely say what we think or, on the contrary, say it too aggressively. There’re many reasons for this. We’re afraid of being labelled a racist, do-gooder or dreamer, or maybe we simply don’t have a solution. Or perhaps we think ‘how boring, always the same old story’. That’s why we’ve purposely chosen a title that makes you feel you’re been hit by a truck: we’ve accused the off-beat Mayor of Mechelen, Bart Somers, of being an extremist, a radical and fundamentalist. Somers was awarded the World Mayor Prize 2016 for having transformed what used to be a disadvantaged and rundown town in Flanders into a model of multicultural integration for the whole of Belgium. The words of Cicero sprung to mind, the ones he pronounced when he lambasted sugary-sweet or middle-of-the-road choices when it comes to the basic principles of life: ‘I must remind you, lords, senators, that extreme patriotism in the defense of freedom is no crime (...)’. ...more