Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists – Hillary Clinton
Former Democratic presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton has said that Europe must get a handle on immigration to combat a growing threat from rightwing populists.
Clinton call on the continent’s leaders to send out a stronger signal showing they are “not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support”.
Former Democratic presidential candidate praised the generosity shown by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, but suggested immigration was inflaming voters and contributed to the election of Donald Trump and Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” Clinton said, speaking as part of a series of interviews with senior centrist political figures about the rise of populists, particularly on the right, in Europe and the Americas.
“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”
Clinton’s remarks are likely to prove controversial across Europe, which has struggled to form a unified position ever since more than 1 million migrants and refugees arrived in the EU in 2015.
While some countries who have borne the brunt, such as Germany, Italy and Greece, have argued for the burden to be shared more evenly, some, particularly in central and eastern Europe, have rejected demands to take in refugees.
Migration numbers have fallen sharply since 2015, while a series of initiatives have been tabled, from a 10,000-member European border and coastguard agency to an overhaul of EU asylum procedures.
Clinton was one of three heavyweights of the centre-left interviewed by the Guardian to better understand why their brand of politics appears to be failing. All three have seen their countries upended by political events that to some degree can be explained by the success of rightwing populism.
The other two interviewees, Tony Blair and Matteo Renzi, agreed that the migration issue had posed significant problems for centrist politics.
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“You’ve got to deal with the legitimate grievances and answer them, which is why today in Europe you cannot possibly stand for election unless you’ve got a strong position on immigration because people are worried about it,” Blair said.
“You’ve got to answer those problems. If you don’t answer them then … you leave a large space into which the populists can march.”
Clinton urged forces opposed to rightwing populism in Europe and the US not to neglect the concerns about race and identity issues that she says were behind her losing key votes in 2016. She accused Trump of exploiting the issue in the election contest – and in office.
“The use of immigrants as a political device and as a symbol of government gone wrong, of attacks on one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity has been very much exploited by the current administration here,” she said.
“There are solutions to migration that do not require clamping down on the press, on your political opponents and trying to suborn the judiciary, or seeking financial and political help from Russia to support your political parties and movements.”
Brexit, described by Clinton as the biggest act of national economic self-harm in modern history, “was largely about immigration”, she said.