"The European population is shrinking steadily. We must open our borders wide to migrants, both refugees and economic migrants, or will see the gentle death of Europe… We do not have enough children to replace the aging population… The speed of aging is very fast: on average in 2015, there were four working-age citizens per pensioner. In two decades, there will only be two workers per pensioner. Our societies will change gradually but completely. The native European population is imploding," Giles Merritt, the founder and chair of the Friends of Europe think tank, told Sputnik.
Merritt continued by emphasizing that even if immigration is emotionally rejected by many Europeans it has great economic value to Europe, citing the example of Germany and Nordic countries.
"The cost of integration is estimated at 9.9 percent of the German GDP, but the [migrant] influx of 2015-2016 alone would contribute 65 billion euros [$80 billion] to the German economy by 2026. Other economists have calculated that in the Nordic countries, which welcomed the largest share of migrants per inhabitant in the same period, GDP will be 2.5 percent higher by 2020, as compared to a scenario where migrants would have been barred from entering," Merritt explained.
While the UN predicts that virtually all European countries will face population decline and population aging by 2050, thousands of desperate migrants and refugees are risking their lives to enter the European Union and face even more danger and doors slammed shut.
Europe Should Invest In Young Migrants' Education
According to Merritt, a future economic crisis in the European Union over the lack of labor force could be averted if member states invest in educating young migrants and creating jobs for them.
"We must make a huge effort: double what we spend on education and training and find jobs for these youngsters… Without these new workers, there will be nobody to pay our pensions in a few decades. The boost to the economy will be remarkable. Migrants are also consumers by the way. And Europe needs to find a way to tax robots. With the rise of artificial intelligence, many tasks are done by robots, which do not pay taxes. We need a global agreement at European level on this. Integration is not a black and white issue. It can stimulate demand and activity," Merritt said.
Training migrants coming to Europe might also contribute to the development of the African and the Middle Eastern countries, from which they come, through so-called circular migration, Merritt stated.
Europe's Fear of Islam
Commenting on Western European countries’ reluctance to take in migrants, Merritt noted that these states, particularly Hungary and Poland, have already accepted hundreds of thousands of migrants mainly coming from Ukraine. What these countries refuse to do is to take in Muslim migrants out of fear of jihadism and integration difficulties, the think tank chair suggested.
Since Europe has been one of the main targets of terrorist attacks by jihadists recently, certain countries expressed their views in favor of restricting migration for fear of even more terrorists' reaching the continent in the increased migration flows. Thus, the terrorist threat, which is attributed by many to the increasing Muslim population, and migration have topped the list of Europeans' major concerns in 2017, according to Eurobarometer, the EU public opinion monitor.
The think tank chair stressed that Islam and jihadism were not interchangeable terms and called for changing mentalities in Europe for a more effective process of integration of Muslim migrants, coming from the Middle East and Northern Africa.
"Yes, the fear of Islam is there in the European population, but we are not actually suffering from Islamic terrorism. Statistically, the number of victims from Islamism is very small. We are where we are. We know that most migrants are and will be Muslims. So we’ll have to change our mentalities in Europe. We cannot just paint Islam as jihadism. It only makes things worse between communities … Moreover, the unemployment issue, regularly brought up to refuse migrants is a ‘red herring,’ to draw attention away from the real issues," the think tank's head said.
The views and opinions expressed by Giles Merritt are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.