I’m writing this before the final result of the Austrian presidential election is known. In truth, the result, whatever it is, doesn’t change my question: what do the anti-immigrant hard-right voters actually want?
At the heart of their demands is, I suspect, a fundamental paradox. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that hard-right national governments across Europe will take measures to prevent immigrants entering their countries. Increased border security, fencing, more actual physical barriers to entry into their respective countries. It’ll also have the added benefit of looking good for their voters, governments finally abandoning weak-minded “liberal” policies amidst scenes of tough soldiers and border guards battling immigrants on their borders. Add to that the populist benefit of telling Brussels to f**k off. All good stuff.
But look at a map of modern Europe and see if you can spot a problem.
It doesn’t work. If every EU country decides to go its own way, and secure its border in the hope of redirecting immigrants on somewhere else, it means spending billions, yes billions, on border security. You know all that money people complain will go to housing refugees, educating them, integrating them? It all gets spent on trying to secure borders instead.
Just look at a map of Austria. Or Switzerland, or France, or Germany. We’re not talking border posts. We’re talking East Germany, with East German levels of expenditure. We’re talking thousands and thousands of patrolled alarmed fences with massively increased security forces on both sides of friendly borders turning a blind eye if someone tries to get over your border into somewhere else. Think the Italians are going to just shrug their shoulders and carry the burden for the rest of Europe? Or Greece? Why would they? Would the rest of us? This is a European problem.
That’s all assuming, by the way, that the refugees just stop at a border. What if thousands of them try to rush the borders? Are Austrian police and soldiers going to mow down women and children with machine guns? Think the Waldheim years were bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
That’s before, by the way, that we even consider the economic cost of what sealing every continental border to a trickle will do for cross-border trade, the life blood of this continent.
This is certified madness. The only way Europeans can secure and manage immigration, as we have a right to do, is to spend a lot of money on an external border control force, and on a secure off-continent location where we can safely house and process refugees. That is the solution, not electing a bunch of pandering populist hucksters.