Corona crisis shows that our food supply depends on cheap labor from Eastern Europe
In her research on Euroscepticism, Dutch scholar Catherine de Vries argues that for all their differences, North-West European eurosceptics share two main agenda points: they want less intra-EU migration and they want lower monetary contributions. Forget the reality that the workers, IT engineers and doctors of this new part of the EU are essential to Europe’s global value chains. Indeed, the North West European export machine would be a great deal less competitive without them. What matters politically is that the demonological order of their narrative, East Europeans loom large as benefit scroungers, track suit-clad mafiosos or, at best, “cheap Slavs”, as some in the British press put it with tongue-in-cheek Orientalist panache.
The COVID 19 crisis has brought the “cheap Slav” back to a dramatic, albeit distinct relevance. It turns out Europe’s food supply chain would fall apart without them. Last year, Germany needed 300,000 farm workers from the East to pick its asparagus crops. That’s just Germany and just asparagus. At least a million and a half farm workers from “the East” are needed for these just in time chains. First, it was Brexit Britain that announced that the country’s crops would literally rot in the fields without the immediate airlift of close to 100,000 farm workers from an East that had been covered in layer after layer of xenophobic scorn by Brexiteers. Next, it was the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium who, without any fanfare, organized an airbridge for agricultural workers with Romania and Hungary. Germany’s agriculture Minister Julia Kloecker devised a plan to fly 40,000 seasonal workers into the country in April, and another 40,000 in May. Tens of thousands more might follow in May, when most of Eastern Europe is still supposed to be in quarantine. Italian authorities are also planning for “safe corridors” of this kind as well. (By Associate Professor Cornel Ban, Department of Organization, CBS).
Read the complete article in Danish at 'Politiken' here