Sunday, September 16, 2007

Foreign talents, foreign workers...

From Post War; A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt (pp 757):

To one side stood a sophisticated elite of Europeans: men and women, typically young, widely traveled and well-educated, who might have studied in two or even three different universities across the continent. Their qualifications and professions allowed them to find work anywhere across the European Union: from Copenhagen to Dublin, from Barcelona to Frankfurt. High incomes, low airfares, open frontiers and an integrated rail network favored easy and frequent mobility. For the purposes of consumption, leisure and entertainment as well as employment this new class of Europeans traveled with confident ease across their continent - communicating, like medieval clercs wandering between Bologna, Salamanca and Oxford, in a cosmopolitan lingua franca: then Latin, now English.

On the other side of the divide were to be found those - still the overwhelming majority - who could not be part of this brave new continent or else did not (yet?) choose to join: millions of Europeans whose lack of skills, education, training, opportunity or means kept them firmly rooted where they were. These men and women, the villeins in Europe's new medieval landscape, could not so readily benefit from the EU's single market in goods, services and labor. Instead they remain bound to their country or their local community, constrained by unfamiliarity with distant possibilities and foreign tongues and often far more hostile to 'Europe' than their cosmopolitan fellow citizens.

One notable exception - migrant (low-wage) labor.

...There had always been men (and mostly men) who traveled to distant countries to find work: ignorant of foreign languages, regarded with hostile suspicion by their hosts and in any case intent upon returning home with their carefully earned savings. (They) were not likely to be found dining out in Brussels, vacationing in Italy or shopping in London...

Just like we have our own Cosmopolitans vs heartlanders, foreign talents vs foreign workers...

Related entry.

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