OPINION
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Those who leave

The new migratory mobility, particularly that of the young, takes the wind out of the sails of those who might transform their countries of origin

The crisis is pinching harder. In the European media we hear more and more about people pulling up stakes and leaving, tens of thousands of people emigrating from the East and South of the European Union. They take with them much of the professional talent that those countries need to get back on the road of growth. But emigration is also an escape valve for unemployment; young people acquire experience; remittances help the local economy. There are economic pundits aplenty to argue one side or the other.

But we must not forget the political factor: the new migratory mobility, particularly that of the young, takes the wind out of the sails of those who might transform their countries of origin, making it harder to put together the critical mass indispensable for the change and political regeneration that these countries (which include Spain) need much more than remittances, or alleviation of unemployment.

The news often harks back to darker days. In 2012, for example, there were more Portuguese in Angola than in colonial times. The 3,000 people leaving Ireland each month mark the highest rate since the great famine of 1845-52. Hungarians are now leaving their country in numbers unknown since the Soviet intervention in 1956: especially people between 25 and 35, who account for 50 to 60 percent of the emigrant flow. About 10 percent of the population has left Latvia in the last ten years. In their home countries, emigration contributes to the general feeling of dismay and gloom in an aging population.

Southern and Eastern European countries have long been used to seeing their scientists and executives heading for greener pastures; but the present drain is setting records, particularly among professionals such as Greek doctors, Portuguese engineers and Spanish architects. In Riga, Bucharest, Cork and Oporto, the young and youngish are leaving in search of better pay, better career experience, or simply a job that they cannot find at home. They are also leaving behind them, don't forget, a world of string-pulling and nepotism, closed labor markets and gender discrimination; of having to dissemble or apologize for their family model, sex life, way of dressing or opinions. With this, their towns of origin grow more homogeneous, less tolerant and, often, even more repressive to those who cannot or will not leave.

The upsurge of right-wing national chauvinism and populism in Central and Eastern Europe will be hard to stop

The upsurge of right-wing national chauvinism and populism in Central and Eastern Europe will be hard to stop, if those who hold progressive views and want more open societies, opt to live in London, Berlin or Stockholm instead of fighting for the society they aspire to in their home town. Southern Europe runs the risk of being as Ireland has been for well over a century, where the emigration drain helped to make it one of the most conservative corners of Europe. And countries like Rumania and Bulgaria, where many people despair of ever changing the situation in their country, and dream of putting ground behind them, are finding it ever more difficult to work up the necessary political regeneration from within.

The free circulation of persons is one of the achievements of the EU. Mobility, particularly that of the young, is almost inevitable, has some positive economic effects, and opens up possibilities that earlier generations could scarcely dream of. But the ease of abandoning one's place of origin may be lethal, if those who depart take with them the will to transform and reform the society of the country they are leaving. Spain in the past, and Poland in the present, show that return is possible. But until that moment comes, the best use must be made of modern communications to keep the emigrants present and active in the public life of the home country, so that their journey will not be a renunciation, but the beginning of change in a society that denied them a chance of advancement.

Rules
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS