Barenboim: Europe needs unified migrant policy

Barenboim: Europe needs unified migrant policy


norman lebrecht

August 15, 2015

The conductor has criticised national attitudes on the migrant crisis. In an interview with B-Z Berlin he calls for a unified policy and says people should consider taking asylum seekers into their own homes.

Asked about the Berlin Philharmonic election of Kirill Petrenko, he calls the decision ‘brave’ and ‘wonderful’.


Full interview here (auf Deutsch).


  • John Borstlap says:

    Fully agree with DB.

  • Jonathan M. Dunsby says:

    ==says people should consider taking asylum seekers into their own homes.

    I wonder if DB does this in either of his own houses (Berlin and Jerusalem) ?

  • PDQ.BACH says:

    It is not often that Daniel Barenboim’s milk-and-water liberal stance has a firm grip on the complexities of political reality. But in this case, the maestro nails it, fair and square.

    The magnitude of Europe’s failure to react adequately to the present humanitarian catastrophe will haunt us for much longer than most of us can imagine. This would have been the historic opportunity for a supra-national organisation to rise to a challenge which surpasses the capacities of each nation alone.
    Europe, so far, failed.

    A personal note: Amnesty International has raised the issue of intolerable conditions to which refugees are subjected in one of Europe’s largest transit camps, Traiskirchen in Austria.
    I transited myself as a kid through Traiskirchen, almost five decades ago. Under present conditions, I probably would not have survived. This, with peace and (relative) prosperity reigning in Mitteleuropa. If Austria, and Europe, can’t handle this, what can they, can we, handle when the going gets tough?

    • rothmere says:

      Humanitarian catastrophe? You in that regard should be referring to ‘free trade’. Free trade treaties divestment of local economies last 20 years = blowback in action right there, here now. Open those markets to economic hit men investors in ‘distressed assets’, most recently? in Ukraine. Neocons and Eurogarchs create chaos, impose order, indebt the country to the hilt and lend them $ to pay the interest only off. Iceland said fk off. Greece tried, somehow did not. Someone(s) got paid off. Any natural resources? Corporations will do the same, take over that industrial production, pay your country 10% of every dollar $profit$ they make, leave your countrysides ruined and dead with pollution runoff, leave your henchmen rich in swiss bank accounts, and the people in destitution. Organized plan of exploitation and economic genocide. Enjoy.

      • PDQ.BACH says:

        Slippedisc being a cultured site, the only succinct riposte to this comment would be the ICAO/ITU phonetic transcription of an acronym: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

        • Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni, Sudanese, Ethiopian or Eritrean refugees are victims of free trade?
        • Bosnian, Kossovar and Albanian refugees are victims of divestment?
        • Malian, Bourkinabé, Chadian, Central African, Nigerois, Camerounais, Senegalese, Liberian, Sierra-Leonese refugees are fleeing en masse because their industrial production was taken over by Western corporations?
        • Young Libyans and Tunisians are crossing the Mediterranean because of exploitation? Those I’m talking to are telling me quite bluntly that they’d rather be exploited than starve in a spiral of unemployment, home-made oppression and imported terror.

        Progress being ever made in the field of quantum physics, it is entirely possible that you are describing your region of the multiverse. This would explain the decoherence. But how did you you transit though the phase-space wormhole?

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Any EU politicians who authorized military involvement in Iraq, Libya and Syria should be forced to take migrants in their homes. All others people who have been deceived by the above mentioned scums should be exempt.
    You broke it, you own it!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Do the atrocities committed in those countries BEFORE the West intervened, not count? What is happening now in those areas is a structural, local problem.

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Oh I see, you agreed with DB, but still want to clear the submissive EU political class…

        • John Borstlap says:

          Nonsense. It is a superficial and easy way of reasoning that all that happens in those blood-sucked areas is because of us, we bad Europeans and Americans, away with us! If so many unemployed, blood-lusty young men in search of an ideal – preferably one that justifies beheadings, slaughtering of women and children – are incapable of controlling their tostesteron levels, that cannot be blamed on European bureaucrats.

  • Neven P. says:

    A great musician but also a great hypocrite. I saw him in 2013 at the lobby of a luxury hotel in Milano – the one where Verdi spent last years of his life. He kept his nose high and wouldn’t even sign me an autograph (the excuse: he was coming back from a shopping session with his wife and had bags loaded with designer goods in his hands).

    His only interaction with this kind of people is probably by having them work for him as servants and gardeners. And now he has the audacity to suggest that they should be let into the EU and taken into somebody else’s homes (a very Marxist and authoritarian idea, by the way – you can not dictate what could or should be done on other people’s private property).

    I feel sorry for the immigrants, yes I do. And my heart goes to those who are the genuine victims of their situation and had to run for their lives (let us not deceive ourselves: many of them simply want to enter the EU to exploit the generous welfare system). But which are the marketable skills they bring, do they speak the language, can they assimilate? The EU already has enough of its own economic problems, issued with unemployment, and the system is already overburdened. Taking in additional people from another, alien culture with no marketable skills would simply not be very prudent.

    So to return to Barenboim – as one of the commenters previously suggested, perhaps he could take a couple of families into one of his luxurious homes and then his words would gain a grain of credibility with me.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Of course DB does not take fugitives in his home, because he is a conductor and thus he tells OTHER people what they should do. He is friends with Pierre Boulez, so that says it all, another ‘napoleonic’ type. Still, what he says is simply common and humanitarian sense and, by the way, a very easy comment to make, since it is rubbed into everybody’s face with every news broadcast.

      NB: It appears from various extensive documentaries I have seen, that many, probably most of the fugitives from the Middle East, are skilled people from the cities with their families, because they had some money to have ripped-off by the smugglers. Also, people from the cities are almost completely westernized, as so often in eastern countries; it are the people from the country side which lag behind and where poverty and othodox religious faith breeds most of the extremism. There is much talk in Germany, for instance, about the need to make the distinction between economic fugitives and fugitives from war zones. So, the majority of these Middle East fugitives are not exactly from an ‘alien’ culture. The impression is that they could quickly and easily settle and become Europeans. There are extensive empty areas in Europe where young people left the villages, where immigrants could pick-up a deserted life-style.

      To have to give up your home, your environment, your history, your culture, in short: your life, except your physical identity, is utterly traumatic.

    • PDQ.BACH says:

      Neven, you are raising a very important point concerning the current refugee crisis.
      They are refugees, not migrants, let alone immigrants.
      There is no way they can all become immigrants.

      No matter what the individual plight and the individual merits, our societies won’t absorb more influx than they are willing and ready to accept and integrate. That capacity need not be related to the objective economic and social situation, nor to the skill and willingness of the prospective immigrant to adapt and assimilate. When a society feels exceeded, it feels threatened, and it shutters. Force it, and the response turns irrational. That may be very ungenerous, even ugly, but it would be irresponsible to ignore the reality.

      Therefore the crisis must be addressed at the large-scale humanitarian level, because there is no hope on earth of coping with it via the customary mechanisms of individual asylum and immigration.

      As a young student in the last millennium, I did volunteer work for an organisation taking care of Ugandan refugees who had escaped Idi Amin’s ubuesque regime. They were self-organised, and their acronym was their program:
      Training for
      That spelled RETURN, which they eventually did, and from what I’ve seen, they did rather well.

    • Neven P says:

      In light of the misrepresented facts provided at the post, I have asked Mr. Lebrecht to remove my comment. He has not responded to my request so far. Sadly, as another commenter suggested, it has become apparent that his intention is to provoke rather than inform. This is why I will not be making any further comments at Slipped Disc.

  • Calais says:

    I want to house a migrant here in France, but they all want to go to England. What can I do? Norman, you have a spare bed?

  • herrera says:

    Once again, Mr. Lebrecht’s summary of an article leaves much to be desired, meant to provoke rather than to be accurate:

    1) No, Barenboim did NOT say “people should consider taking asylum seekers into their own homes.”

    He was asked by the interviewer, “Could you imagine accepting refugees in your home?” to which Barenboim only politely, vaguely, and half-heartedly replied “Yes, I suppose.”

    2) Yes, Barenboim DID say that hiring Petrenko was ‘brave’ and ‘wonderful’, but it is NOT for some magnanimous reason that the answer might imply (like because he was the first Jew, or because he is a shy but a great musician).

    Rather, when prodded by the interviewer, “Why a choice of courage?”, Barenboim was very stinting in his judgement of Petrenko in his reply: “Petrenko is known as an opera conductor up to this point, but the Philharmonie is a symphony orchestra. The decision is courageous and wonderful.”

    I leave it to others to verify the accuracy of my Google aided translation and to judge Barenboim’s actual words.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      If you’re relying on Google Translate, you are in no position to question the accuracy of my translation, Mr Herrera. Your attitude leaves much to be desired.

      • herrera says:

        You in fact did not translate. You summarized. Therein lies the problem.

      • Sarah says:

        Indeed Barenboim does not say people should take refugees into their homes in this interview. He is simply asked whether he could imagine doing so.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It’s like conducting; you imagine what it would, should, be, and then you make others carry it out.