Most Europeans are born in Europe, of course. I am a European born elsewhere. I was born in Argentina, but when I came to Europe I had lived 18 years in the United States and had already acquired my US Citizenship. After a few years of being in Spain I learned that if I wanted to be a Spaniard I had to give up my US Citizenship and I did so. I became a Spaniard because while it was sad for me to give up my US Citizenship, I found Spain specifically and Europe in general a better place to live, raise a family and practice my skills as an entrepreneur than the United States. I have been in Europe for 11 years. During that time I built five telecom and internet companies, Viatel in the UK, Jazztel and Ya.com in Spain, Einsteinet in Germany and now Fon based in Spain but active around the world. Overall these companies have generated around 2000 jobs and invested over 1.5 billion euros in infrastructure. Some with better results than others but all contributing to the economy. So while being an immigrant in Europe I am a different kind of immigrant. I have not come here seeking employment. I have come here and created employment. I also did in the United States where I started two companies. Having lived through the experience of being an immigrant both in the United States and in Europe I would like to make some comments on what are the key issues that Europe needs to address for a better assimilation of immigrants.
On Having Children
Europeans have practically stopped having children. At present birth rates the native populations of Europe will disappear in a few generations. The only hope for Europe to have a future is in the immigrant populations. Still most native Europeans have a hard time accepting that their future lies with the children of Muslim, Asian, Latin American, Sub-Saharan African immigrants. In most cases Europeans refuse to give these immigrant nationality making them feel unwanted for generations. This is just not right. It is frequent to hear that Europeans accept immigrants to do the jobs that they don’t want to do. Does that job include having children? And if it is thanks to immigrant’s children that Europe’s population is not shrinking, when are foreign born children in Europe automatically going to get the nationality of the country they are born in like in the United States? Can Europe afford to have 20% of the people who actually live in Europe not have a European nationality?
On adopting a Nationality
I am a Spaniard. I have the same rights as all the Spaniards. Still Spanish newspapers keep referring to me as the Argentine entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky. Indeed in some cases I have been even called the Jewish entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky. I still have to find one article that refers to me as a Spaniard or even as a Spaniard of Argentine origin. Now don’t get me wrong, I am proud of being Argentine and proud of being Jewish, but now I am a Spanish citizen building businesses in Spain and elsewhere. Why does the American press write about me as a Spanish entrepreneur and the Spanish press as an Argentine entrepreneur? What do immigrants need to do in Europe, other than playing in the national football teams to be considered citizens?
On racist comments
I already wrote in my Spanish blog about an article published in Spanish leading newspaper El País about Condolezza Rice. This article argued that since Condolezza Rice was black it was to be expected that her intentions would be dark, lacking in transparency. It literally said that “it is obvious that Condolezza Rice´s hands are dark, the left one as well as the right one” and went on to criticize her. Interestingly when I wrote about how racist that comment seemed to me most Spaniards disagreed and felt it was fair to use a person’s skin color to criticize their behaviour. I strongly believe that racial relations will not improve in Europe until native Europeans don’t realize how racist “acceptable” comments over here can be.
On allowing immigrants to vote
I believe that part of the antisocial behavior that is sometimes seen in immigrant groups come from the fact that it is so difficult for immigrants to get nationality and therefore the right to vote. Why should immigrants help protect a society in which they have no say?
Posted on April 23, 2006