Opening remarks

meeting photo

Dear friends,

I would like to welcome all of you who came to Cyprus from all over the world to discuss all issues that relay to one of the biggest problems that humanity is facing today: The issue of migration.

Before going further, however, I would like to congratulate the InterAction Council for its initiative to organise this seminar in Cyprus and express my personal appreciation to Tom Axworthy and Tanya Guy of the InterAction Council and to my personal assistant, Maria Dionysiou, for overcoming all the hurdles and succeeding to have everything prepared for today’s seminar.

We are all fully aware of the huge size and importance of migration and its effect on our societies. It’s enough to realise that, according to estimates, there are at least around 100 million legal immigrants and anything between 10 to 30 million illegal immigrants in the world currently. According to UN estimates, as of 2014 well over 60 million people had to move from their countries due to war conflicts, violence and human rights abuses. Furthermore, millions, particularly young ones, facing the lack of prospects in their own countries, are trying to find a better future for themselves and their families in some other place or country. 

The subjects that arise are too many and the time available very limited. Therefore, we cannot expect miracles from today’s exchange of views. Of course many of you may think that we should have dedicated more time for the discussion of the various problems. That would have been certainly useful but at the same time we have to realise that whether we talk on the subject for one, two or several days we will still not be able to either cover every aspect of it nor arrive at final conclusions. I would therefore be extremely pleased if, as a result of today’s discussions and exchange of views, we could highlight the trends and size of migration, related to the fact that the population of our planet increases by 80 million a year. In other words, a new Germany is born every year.

By today, well over 60% of the world population lives in countries where fertility rate is below replacement and in some, as for example our country Cyprus, dramatically lower, near 1.1%. Accordingly the indigenous population is continuously declining. Only in Africa and some other countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America the population continues to grow. Overall, however, people living on our planet continue to increase. 8 billion by 2025 and 9.4 billion by 2050.

Therefore, we all have to realise that we cannot stop migration. Both because of the increasing population and also because it is part of the human nature to wish to exploit new opportunities and new possibilities.  After all, we are all migrants, either recent ones, from our fathers, grandfathers or early ancestors. We also have to appreciate that the development of technology, the internet and nearly universal usage of mobiles, in many ways encourage millions to migrate.   

We all favour globalisation but we must not forget that globalisation goes hand in hand with migration and also that immigration is necessary to help solve the demographic problem Europe and many other countries are facing. Data show that for example the real GDP in Northern countries will be 2.5% higher by 2020 thanks to immigration. My only hope is that although we do know that there will always be a great number of people that want to move we can still reduce and control the numbers of migrants. To start with by ensuring that peace reigns in the world, by helping and promoting economic growth and substantial improvement in education, particularly in Africa but also in many countries in Asia and Latin America. 

We know very well that people would prefer to stay in their own countries and live in the environment that they are familiar with, if they could only succeed in making a living there. We need to realise the conflicts that arise between the effort to assimilate and learn to live in new homes, in countries away from their own, and the conflicts between home cultures and the need for understanding and accommodating the new demands they face in the countries in which migrants have to live, etc. etc.  The tragedy of the situation lies in the fact that the need for continuous migration is huge and demographic changes are such that make it absolutely necessary to take measures.   As a matter of fact Europe needs more, not less, migrates. According to a study by a group called “The Wise Men” Europe will need about 100 million immigrants over the next 40 years.

We need to assess the way that we are facing and trying to solve the relating problems in the various countries, express views as to how world at large could help address the issue of migration and examine the way that, unfortunately, migration is exploited by various so-called politicians to promote their own personal interests. 

I am afraid that I have been talking too much because I am, the same as you, worried and interested in how and which way we could help the inhabitants of our planet live better and control the issue of migration. But this is exactly the scope and purpose of our today’s seminar and I would therefore like to end my brief remarks at this stage and wish all of us a very successful meeting.