Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalisms

EDITORIAL, 9 May 2016

#427 | Johan Galtung

Antwerpen, Alfaz

We are dealing with mass migration, basically into EU, and European nationalisms, many in favor of exits from the EU.

Why this mass migration, maybe to the point of Völkerwanderung, mainly into EU–but then what kind of EU–and why the European nationalisms now found one way or the other in many member states?

The forecast for migration from Africa into Italy in 2016 is about 100,000; 28,000 already arrived in the first quarter, with 1,000 drowning in the Mediterranean (INYT, 6 May 2016).  Big numbers.  They knew the risks they were taking, so the push away from Africa and the pull towards Italy, and beyond, must have been considerable.

Better think in terms of 50 million migrants over 50 years, from regions considered uninhabitable to inhabitable regions.  There seem to be five major causes underlying this basic world asymmetry:

  • Slavery, four centuries, depriving societies particularly of able-bodied males, by Arabs, then Westerners, cross-Atlantic transportation mainly by the English (Liverpool);
  • Colonialism, by Muslims after the death of the prophet in 632, from Casablanca to Southern Philippines, till the end of the 15th century, close to nine centuries, then by Christians close to five centuries, till colonialism was officially ended in the 1960s;
  • Robbery Capitalism, stealing or paying next to nothing for resources processed into manufactured goods, pocketing the value added;
  • Wars, mainly initiated by the West, killing millions (the USA more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII), destroying property;
  • Ecological Factors, like depletion-pollution, often toxic for humans or nature, erratic climate partly due to climate gases, NOX, CO2, CH4.

These are the causes of poverty in some parts of the world but also of wealth in others; creating the asymmetry uninhabitable vs inhabitable by exploitation, becoming rich at the expense of others becoming poor.

That clearly applies to slavery, colonialism, robbery capitalism and many wars (the difference between bombing and being bombed). But the ecological factor hits both; so, the West attends to that factor.

Anyhow, many think: Time has come to share more equitably this wealth.

Of 28 EU members, 11 were colonial powers. 9 in Africa: England, Netherlands, France, Belgium-Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Portugal, till the end of WWI Germany; all enriching themselves.  To believe that the other 28 – 9 = 19 members will accept “quotas” for migration due to the violence of the 9–England-France particularly, in the Middle East by Sykes-Picot colonization (*)–is simply naive.  EU has institutions, but has not managed fusion into a Europe of one for all, all for one.

EU today is an exploitative pyramid: Germany on top; 8 Northern-Germanic countries; 5 Southern-Latin countries with France, Ireland; 12 Eastern countries; Greece at the bottom.  With inequity and quotas, not strange that nationalisms flourish, tearing EU apart. Remove the causes: England-France, pick up the bill; EU, flatten the pyramid. (**)

Nevertheless, that only solves the intra-EU problem, not the world problem of mass migration from parts of the world mainly damaged by the West.  Migrating into the EU, over land and across the Mediterranean, with a small part into a USA protected by two major oceans from the problems they helped to cause–except for migration via and from Mexico.

Mass migration is now an “industry” with “helpers”, smugglers, drugs and trafficking, dubious migrants, police and military among them. Yet that does not detract from the role of the five root causes, even if all kinds of lesser causes and effects make them less visible.

EU redirects migrant flows from the Middle East to Turkey at high costs; the flow from Africa to Nigeria; NATO patrols the Mediterranean. But these are at most stopgap measures. They are migrants not only from but also to–to the colonial “mother countries”, England and France.

Today they travel on foot, by bus, taxis–tomorrow by submarines (like drug smugglers), planes (many do) or by more massive numbers?  Claiming a right to settle, uninvited, where much of their human and natural resources has been processed into the wealth of others–who also settled, uninvited.  How do we handle this?  Are there solutions?

5 Causes, 2 (groups of) Solutions. For Each, Negative and Positive


Negative: CARICOM [Caribbean Community] leads in denouncing slavery, followed by eLAC Summit meeting in Quito; EU endorsing; joint history books (USA: Frederick Douglass testimony); mapping levels of slavery; museums-memorials.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; negotiate compensation.


Negative: South Africa leads in denouncing, followed by AU; others should join; joint history books on the experience.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; cover federation-confederation costs for multi-nation states and multi-state nations.

Robbery Capitalism:

Negative: Documentation, like using Sevilla customs data calculating the value as debt of the resources robbed; “Hands Off Africa”.

Positive: Africa processing its own resources; the Gaddafi 3 points; SSS trade also with China; lifting the bottom up; new infrastructure.


Negative: Stop killing (bombing, SEALs); how many killed in how many countries, like for USA; denounce events (like Berlusconi for 1911).

Positive: Use military defensively against IS violence; solve conflicts with “terrorists” (IS)–with “communists” (Vietnam) after they won.


Negative:  reduce CO2+CH4 levels controlling fossil fuels and fracking.

Positive: Switch to renewable non-polluting resources like sun, wind; increase diversity of biota and abiota resources; help with symbiosis (enough CO2!); improve light-dark balance to absorb less solar heat.

Much more awareness is needed to understand the damage done.  But three positive approaches, from “trickling down” capitalism to lifting the bottom up, from offensive to defensive use of military, from victory to solution, could carry far way, even quickly. Likely?


(*) To tilt the WWI power balance in their favor one century ago, the four colonies they created–instead of freedom for the Arabs–have been at the root of most Middle East problems. Take Syria as example, an artificial state constructed by Paris, with 7 built-in conflicts: with Israel-USA blocking for Eretz Israel (Golan is one aspect); with Russia if a government should deny Russia their only base (as opposed to at least 800 US bases); between minority Shia-Alawite dictatorship with tolerance for others and a majority Sunni dictatorship without; between Arab Muslims and others like Kurds, Turks, Christians, Jews; between Shia and Sunni and their countries, the Shia living in the Fertile Crescent; between Al Qaeda+ and foreigners; and between all of the above and the Islamic State.  IS wants to undo Sykes-Picot and to recreate the Ottoman Empire and their Caliphate without Istanbul; and see themselves as Islamic responses to the EU and the Vatican.

In so doing IS has a decisive advantage relative to “all of the above” who reify Syria as something sustainable with basic changes.  IS relates to a reality where today’s Syria is located that lasted four centuries, 1516-1916.  They want to reconstruct a past based on provinces and proceed accordingly. This author would be surprised if Iraq as a state survives beyond 2020 and Syria as a state beyond 2025.

(**) If we collapse the top three and the bottom 2 levels 14 Western and 12 Eastern; with ten islands 28.  Add Turkey and the point of gravity moves further East, with Istanbul challenging Brussels. And what happe then to the migrants stranded in Turkey?


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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14 Responses to “Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalisms”

  1. Britt Vestergaard says:

    @Johan Galtung


    “Wars, mainly initiated by the West, killing millions (the USA more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII),”


    How does this add up? Given that I can count a very large number of wars initiated by others than the West? Are you counting Russia as part of the West?

    • Thomas Krogh says:


      LOL – Galtung is counting the apples, oranges and kitchen sink as well to get to his figure. He has admitted that he even had to add the Hungarians massacred by Soviet tanks i ’56 (!) in order to get to his inflated figures.

      But what else would you expect from an accomplished hater…

      • Britt Vestergaard says:


        What is the purpose of counting the killed Hungarians as victims of the West? It makes no sense what so ever?

    • Markus says:

      “…Since the end of World War II, there have been 248 armed conflicts in 153 locations around the world. The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001..” (American journal of public health, June 2014)

      Vietnam and Korea wars, alone, account for several millions dead.

      • Per-Stian says:

        Had a glance at Uppsala’s conflict database, and the report for 2015. Can only scratch my head in wonder at how one can make a report about the organised violence in 2015 without mentioning the United States of America. And in a picture of active conflicts, the only one listed for our lovable peacenik is: al Qaida. (it’s a very big picture).

        On the other hand, I suppose slaughtering civilians from the high skies doesn’t really count as “battle related deaths.”

        For one example of many, here is the excellent “Drone Papers” from the Intercept, for those that haven’t seen it yet. “Target Africa” is quite enlightening for instance.

      • Berhan says:

        Thank you for the sharing

  2. Whilst I can understand the logic of the argument as presented, I find it unfortunate that no mention is made of the manner in which the West has taken the lead in encouraging an ever increasing population, irrespective of the consequent costs in terms of the crises named. The issue is rarely if ever mentioned. The focus is on short-term palliative care dubiously upheld as demonstrating that the West cares for human lives.

    Is it not the case that had the increase in the number of lives not been discouraged in a more reasonable manner there would not be the stresses named?

    More people, more stress — with more stress therefore still to come. Pumping more people into disadvantaged situations — as a celebration of human rights — is a means of encouraging perpetuation of the problem and the associated misery. Pretending that their situation can be improved has proven to be an unquestionable illusion cultivated over decades. Questionable arguments are presented to justify this.

    The situation is of course further exacerbated by the manner in which the developed countries by exposing distant populations to bombardment — deriving profit from the process. Little mention is made of this systemic link in the countries who profit most.

    • Eliane Mbuzu says:

      Hmm… what exactly are you referring to? Health innovations? Extending life expectancy? Not quite following. Sounds cynical to my uninitiated mind.

  3. Eliane Mbuzu says:

    What an excellent piece of reflection. This is a Völkerwanderung indeed and if Europe (includes USA Australia New Zealand etc) continues to behave the way “it” does in the world, it will destroy us all. Europeans, like you have obviously done Mr. Galtung, need to learn to become a part of the human family instead of imposing their world view and their behavior on the rest of us all. Very happy to see that western academia has produced such humane minds.

  4. Per-Stian says:

    I agree with the overall point that we are seeing some kind of migration due to the direct and structural violence heaped upon especially Africa and the Middle East, but I don’t like to refer to these people as migrants, at least the current “wave”. What we are currently seeing are people mostly fleeing from wars of the West’s making, from Northern Africa and the Middle East (right now, mostly from Syria, but earlier from Iraq, mostly to their neighbours in both cases).

    To take different examples, I wouldn’t feel right about calling Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution, or Iraqis fleeing US (and “allies”) bombs, for migrants, although I’m quite sure there were some migrants among them. A Polish carpenter going to Scandinavia to find jobs (with higher wages) can justifiably be called a migrant, but a Syrian trying to escape the carnage in Aleppo?

    It’s good with a bird’s eye view, however, and as global warming hits harder, the picture over the next decades may well be more migration to the more habitable and well-off regions of the world, such as Europe and the USA (with all its faults, not a bad place to live). If Europe and the USA want to prevent such mass migration, they ought to do more than just setting up physical and regulatory walls.

  5. Thomas Krogh says:


    “Can only scratch my head in wonder at how one can make a report about the organised violence in 2015 without mentioning the United States of America.”

    But of course! Using Galtung’sk logic all deaths and all organised violence comes from the USA. No real surprise there.

  6. Berhan says:

    Galtung is very intelligent man! Speaks the truth very intelligent. America is beautiful country but America is like day and like night. Like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant but also like Napalm in Vietnam with Agent Orange and Depleted Uranium in Irak. America is Heaven and Hell. Galtung shows the two. Very intelligent man.