The first European leadership programme
Side events are events organised outside the bi-annual seminars that take place with the entire group of "40 UNDER 40" in two European capitals. These events are planned and conducted with the support of partners who wish to get an original and different perspective on a specific topic in line with their field of work by working closely with a part of the "40 UNDER 40" and selected experts.

The first of these types of events took place on 25 October 2012 in Brussels on the following topic: "How can we develop a new narrative on immigration?". The workshop was soponsored and hosted by our supporting partner the Open Society Foundations. For more information on the workshop please see below.

Context

T
here is a new tribalism in Europe at national and European levels. On a national level, the “other” is the immigrant, who comes to our countries, takes our jobs and benefits from our social security systems, for which he has not paid. On a European level it is the “lazy” South Europeans, which the German tax payer has to finance. It seems that the essence of both narratives is the same: they touch upon a sense of “fairness” and values that are not respected by “the other”. In some countries, populist parties have been extremely successful in tapping into these sentiments, and have made big electoral gains, often by combining a xenophobic and anti-European agenda. The discourse in Europe on immigration has moved to the right, with immigrants becoming the scapegoat for all kinds of problems in societies and, as a result, immigration policy is becoming more restrictive.

As the economic crisis is not over, and its effects in Europe are to be felt for years to come, we cannot create a narrative around an argument that the cake is big enough to allow for “diversity” and “tolerance”. On the other hand, although economic arguments pointing to the benefits of immigration, particularly in the context of our ageing society are being put forward through academics and some policymakers, they don’t seem to resonate with the public. As a recent study of Facebook fans of populist parties by the UK think tank Demos has confirmed, people are afraid that their “identity” is under threat, and this threat weighs heavier on their minds than the potential benefits of migration, such as a young workforce able to compensate for current demographic trends. Though large parts of the liberal political elite see the necessity and benefits of immigration, they do not seem to be able to develop convincing ways of communicating these and are becoming more and more reluctant to defend immigration policy and open societies.

How can we change the narrative on immigration?
Will the same arguments work all over Europe?
How different are the various national debates?
How can we convince politicians and the media to adopt a new narrative and start defending liberal immigration policies?

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