Saving Europe from falling apart is in North America’s interest

The decreasing significance of oil is both a blessing and a curse for North America. It is a blessing because Americans who used to be deniers of the climate change are becoming the primary figures in solving the problem. It is a curse, as oil loses its significance, Washington’s policies in the Middle East are becoming more passive, which – even if unintentionally – deepens the refugee crisis.
Michael Ignatieff Canadian politician, former leader of the Liberal Party and professor at Harvard University gave an interview to Alapblog where he said that the current migrant crisis is the failure of the western politics, and it might even lead to the collapse of the EU. He also adds: ‘If Hungary – and the other Central European countries – wants to narrow the gap between them and the West and reach higher than the international average economic development, it cannot allow closing its borders to refugees’.

Péter Zentai: The new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is also your successor as the leader of the Liberal Party, promises big wellbeing reforms and new investment stimulus packages. Carrying these out would require a lot of money. How can Canada afford it? Its primary source of income is oil – and its price keeps plummeting?
Michael Ignatieff:
There is no doubt that oil export is crucial for Canada. Until now, we have been the biggest oil suppliers for the United States; our southern neighbour bought more from us than from Mexico or the Gulf States.
It is clear that oil prices radically falling do make the situation challenging for my successor: his plans to increase spending on welfare and improve infrastructure will be achieved slower. My compatriots understand it and the majority of them do support Mr Trudeau, even more, because they know that there is certainly good news behind the current market developments. Firstly, the Canadian economy – in contrast to Russia and Saudi Arabia that are entirely dependent on oil – is quite diverse. Independently from the changes in the value of its raw material supply, it is able to be among the leaders in the global competition.

The United States used to be an oil importer – now it has become an exporter too. The American shale gas revolution persistently depreciates Canada’s oil supply, thus indirectly the whole country…
Shale gas and its more and more environment-friendly extraction is also a major thing in our country too. Canada has become a major shale gas power. By doing so, North America is starting to be more independent from the climate-changing coal, while the energy production in North America has been going through technological advancements at an extreme rate, and they – along with shale gas – allow us to increase the role of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
Ten years ago, the United States was one of the major obstacles to renewable energy sources gaining ground; giant oil companies and coal mining conglomerates dominated politics, and America used to be quite indifferent towards climate change too. However, the tables have turned: North America (Canada and the United States) used to be the main cause of climate change, and now they have taken the main role in finding a solution.
From a political point of view: if both Canada and the United States are led by people who feel responsible for the future of the climate, then the following generations will have less to worry about. However, if the oil and coal industry lobby regains its political influence, then every development we achieved will be for nothing. From the presidential election debates, we already know that Republicans have no candidate who touches upon the dangers of climate change. There is no doubt that in November, Americans not only elect a new president but also hold a referendum about whether they accept or fight against climate change, whether they bow to oil and coal industry moguls.

I assume, from a geopolitical perspective, you welcome that the dependence of the United States from the troublesome and oppressive systems of the Middle East, and the largest oil exporter in the region, Saudi Arabia is decreasing…
I absolutely do. For decades, in order to maintain uninterrupted oil export, the United States supported systems like Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern oil powers. This dependency, which promoted indifference, is finally coming to an end…

The more income America-friendly Gulf states have, the more likely that there will be troubles too. Meanwhile, the president of Russia can also become concerned if its vital profits coming from oil begin to cease.
As a result, people will start migrating from more countries, however, there will be fewer countries in that region that can financially support issues, for example, to restore order in Syria.
I must agree with you on this topic. Unfortunately, this independence is one of the reasons to the United States’ passivity in Syria, and by doing so – unintentionally – it contributes to the European refugee crisis. However, it would have been the United States’ responsibility to intervene at the right time in order to spare the millions of Syrians from being forced to flee from the terror and destruction, because this recent chaos in the Middle East is the result of the unfinished American involvement in Iraq. We managed to stop the local dictator’s oppressive system, but we did not help build up a stable and peaceful one in its place. Instead, we abandoned the region. This vacuum was filled by terrorist groups and dictators like Assad.
The extreme deepening of the refugee crisis is the result of the Western – American and European – negligence and impotency.

The new Canadian prime minister, at the head of the Liberal party, welcomes refugees with open arms…
This is quite an exaggeration. All in all, we admit ten thousands of refugees a year from now on. The United States admits a couple of thousands at most. This migrant/refugee crisis might risk the future of the European Union, North America’s greatest ally…

Could anything wake up or convince the United States to act globally within a reasonable time?  Basically, import oil, hence the Middle East is becoming irrelevant for it.
It will inevitably wake up. To North America, stopping Europe from breaking up into 28 parts is crucial. The United States cannot let its major political, economic, and strategic ally become fatally weakened. America has to actively contribute to the elimination of the reasons of the refugee crisis because the consequences could pose a serious threat to it too.
The refugee crisis is a challenge that has to be solved politically. However, the migration towards the West requires an economic approach. I think, in this regard, learning from Canada’s and the United States’ experiences would be wise, indeed. Of course, copying uncritically us shall be avoided, however, it is noteworthy that we admit millions of foreigners into our countries – in an organised and ordered framework – and by doing so, we intentionally invigorate our economy and improve our competitiveness.
If Hungary and the other Central European countries wish to join the global economic system and achieve a stable economic growth higher than the international and European average, in order to narrow the gap between the West and them, it cannot allow closing its borders to refugees.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, London, Netherlands, Denmark, and the major German cities – after years of stagnancy – have been deliberately admitting and integrating migrants, which enabled them to ‘launch’ and become the ‘middle of the world’: the centres of Europe that draws capital, visitors, culture, and art.
Politics in Eastern Europe – which encourage strengthening the borders of nation states and view isolation as a virtue – will never let these countries break away from the periphery of Europe and the European Union. They will always remain low-cost manufacturing powerhouses for those regions that are open to migration and globalization enabling them to upkeep development in the future.

Original date of Hungarian publication: January 20, 2016