TAXI: Europa

For the first time since Eurobarometer surveys exist, the Spring ’17 suggests Terrorism has become the “most important issue facing the EU at the moment”. Since 2015, Immigration was, for EU citizens, the main EU issue to tackle after a decade of domination by jobs and growth as main concerns


Europe is the most open continent. Faced with less growth for part of its citizens, islamist terrorism and an increase in migrants and refugee influx, should it seize-up and become a ’Fortress Europe’? The above Eurobarometer suggests that, for the first time, Terrorism is EU citizens’ main concern, taking over from Immigration which took over from growth and jobs since 2015.


This is a long post, my longest ever, so it needs more than one song as soundtrack. Let’s start by the sunny side, Laurent Voulzy singing how the sun gives all humans the same colour Voulzy, “Le Soleil Donne” (1988, 5’08”)

Here I argue for the EU to remain Open. This is provided it develops adequate policies (which are all needed together) for (Common) Border Control, Immigration, Refugees and Development aid. Here are my main points:

  • On Border Control: Blue spots (rather than Hot ones) at EU borders would identify and screen refugees from immigrants in at most 6 months. Immigrants would be turned back, whilst refugees would benefit from a health screening and identification, receiving a European e-Health Card including their identity, sanitary data and vaccination status.
  • On Immigration: Blue Cards given by EU Delegations or Consulates would allow immigrants for temporary or permanent work depending on their skills and EU needs, learning from Canada and Australia. There should be public ceremonies for granting Blue Cards and, eventually, EU citizenship after some years (5, 10 or 15 at most) spent working in Europe.
  • On Refugees: What about having all refugees sign a ‘Social contract with the EU’ committing to observe its laws and duties in exchange for the rights and benefits they are granted? In it they should also pledge to return to their country or apply for a Blue Card if/when danger ceases in their home country in the next 10 years.
  • On Development Aid: First, the EU should increase its clout and reduce its dependence on raw materials and energy originating from Middle-East countries. It should condition foreign and development aid at efforts by third countries to solve local religious, climatic and territorial conflicts which are the sources of emigration. Qatar, which funds Paris and Barcelona football clubs AND is alleged to fund ISIS linked terrorist networks, could provide funds for an African Marshall Plan.
NB – This post is WORK IN PROGRESS (on content and form – some hyperlinks are still missing) it was updated during 2018 as debates go on to the end of a Federal Europe. We will debate in France, we shall debate on the seas and oceans, we shall debate with growing confidence and growing strength in the social media, we shall defend our Union, whatever the cost may be. We shall debate on the beaches (as I’m currently doing in citizens debates), we shall campaign on the landing grounds, we shall debate in the fields and in the streets, we shall debate in the hills (???); we shall never surrender…


1. Open Europe?

Europe is the most open continent in the world. Open to ideas penetrating and influencing its policies, open to tourists who flock to visit its eco-systems and cultural heritage, open to companies who come to invest and make profits, more open than others to immigrants who come to look for job opportunities and/or safety – but also its top quality welfare state.

This openness has brought it prosperity as well as economic and cultural influence disproportionate to its size, population and, increasingly, its economy. Europe represents only 7% of the world land, 11% of its population (from 30% in 1900) and the EU-28 represent today only 18% of its economy as opposed to 24% for EU-6 in 1970 ( – yet it has contributed (with the US) to shape a multilateral order. This rests on the United Nations to address diplomatic conflicts, the Bretton Woods organisations to develop the world’s economies, the World Trade Organisation to ensure free trade and solve commercial conflicts, the International Patent Office to share and protect innovation, the World Health Organisation to give and protect human health, a Refugee Convention and Courts ( to protect victims as well as NATO to protect its territory and partners from military attack.

The European Union gathers 28 countries which agreed to live by mutually enforced Democracy, Rule of Law, Open Economies and the protection of Minorities [The so-called Copenhagen criteria]. 15 neighbouring countries have asked to join the EU (, including Morocco who was rejected as it is not in Europe. Almost all the world countries collaborate with one or more of its policies and programmes. Even the world’s pariah, such as South-Soudan host a delegation and collaborate on trade and human rights. Only North-Korea is left out.

Yet this openness and political leadership have made it the object of terrorist attacks from organisations which contest its clout and fight the above principles. They accuse it of partnering with oppressing regimes or threatening development, lifestyles or spiritual wellbeing in countries ranging from nearby Libya to far off Afghanistan.

2. Fortress Europe?

Fortress Europe
Natural fortresses such as the Gibraltar Rock (pictured above), the Thermopylae or the Pyrenees defended Europe from invasions. Europeans built artificial fortresses to defend Greek Democracy (Castle of Rhodes above), Roman Law (Rome’s Aurelian Wall) or Commerce (See Prague’s Castle)


Faced with the weekly dripping of terrorist attacks, carried-out mainly by people of Arab origin and / or Muslim faith – often in the name of ISIS or at least Allah, many ask for building a Fortress Europe – similar to ‘Fortress USA’ or ‘Push-back Australia’. Rejecting foreigners and/or deporting immigrants and refugees is for them the solution to ensure peace and tranquillity in Europe. As if we had forgotten the two global wars Europeans started in the last 100 years, the thousands of victims of pure-bread European terrorists in the last 50 years, or the killing fields of Yugoslavia in the ‘90s…

The Nemesis, British steamer sinking all Imperial Chinese Junks

I do not believe in closing up. This is what China, the only world superpower then, did around 1500. It took time, but some 350 years later, during the first opium war a single British Iron Steamer sank the whole wooden imperial junk fleet (“1492” by J. Attali,[1]. Open countries and societies have been more performant (This is a fact, and much more fun to live in. The latter is my personal opinion, even if sharing a flat for a year with Abdel El-Abed was a challenge.


3. What can be done?

Here are five complementary avenues the EU can take, building on: my personal vision and research on immigration (see my initial thinking as I developed it in summer 2015 and terrorism in Europe (, my brief work in the Commission “migration Task Force” since September 2015 leading to a conference on Research and Migration in February 2016 ( and three recent Commission publications[2].


3.1 Ensuring Safe borders

Ensuring safe EU borders is a must. If only to reassure Europeans and confute populist claims that “Europe is a strainer” ready to be invaded by fertile Muslims. Time to play “The Armageddon” sang by The The in 1989 (Unofficial Video, 5’47” (

This is for me such a priority that it might become one of the two or three areas that could be shared in a federal Eurozone – as the current migrants and refugee crisis shows no country can police its borders on its own AND ensure free circulation as in the Schengen treaty (

For this the EU could:

  • Develop common defence tools (as in Scenario C of #FutureOfEurope reflection paper on European Defence) evolving from NATO, using a common European Defence Fund;
  • Pool resources to develop one or more European Brigades for rapid Defence intervention, situated in strategic places (let NATO deal with offense);
  • Pool in FRONTEX guards at least 20% of all EU border control forces. The defence of the borders would be funded by a common Federal EuroZone fund – as Italy and Greece have repeatedly asked for.
  • Set up ‘Blue Spots’ (better that Hot ones) at EU borders to identify and filter refugees and immigrants in at most 6 months. These should possibly be located outside EU mainland to avoid too heavy policing and guarding costs. Islands are best candidates.
  • Upon arrival in a Blue Spot, immigrants and would be refugees would benefit from a health screening and identification. This would allow to connect them to families in Europe or at home[3]. They would receive a European e-Health Card including their identity, sanitary data and vaccination status. This would avoid current practice of multiple vaccinations, in each new country in which they emigrate, which is particularly dangerous for kids. It would also be a pilot to demonstrate the benefits of the e-Health Card.


3.2 Develop an Immigration Policy

Youth will dwindle in Europe to less than 100.000 by 2035 – compared to the 600.000 Africans.

Immigration comes with Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Our main skill appears to be the ability to move and adapt ( This should however be controlled and managed, if not that would become an Exodus generating in Europe an allergy. Hear it from an inspired Italian composer Franco Battiato’s, l’Esodo (1982, 5’35”)

Europe could, theoretically, absorb one or two million migrants a year, this would not drain our welfare systems as migrants are mostly young, ready and willing to contribute jobs young Europeans don’t want to do anymore. Some say that it “needs” them to rejuvenate an aging continent and “pay our pensions”. I agree with the first part – historically no system has been able to develop economically whilst its population was dwindling. The second is wrong: European pension systems would need SEVERAL million immigrants to remain in equilibrium (Update Link to EU 2004 ***): other measures are needed too. But such a rapid influx of African immigrants, especially if they are Muslim would generate has previously generated an allergic reaction in Europeans. We have seen in 2015 that, like an allergy, it’s not the allergen (a rapid surge in immigration from Syria) which harmed the patient (the crisis is over in most countries), it’s the immune system reaction (the success of populist and xenophobe politicians such as the AfD in Germany) that has made Europe sick.

This is why, free circulation in Schengen or the Eurozone Federation ( requires at least a common policy. But access to the EU from third country nationals should be managed and, as much as possible, driven by the needs of the EU and in particular of a performing single market and society:

  • The Commission, together with Member States, would identify missing skills and people.
  • Blue Cards for temporary or permanent work would be issued to would be migrants based on a points systems depending on their skills and EU needs – as it is for example practised in Canada. There should be public ceremonies for granting Blue Card and eventually EU citizenship after (5-10-15?) years.
  • Priority would go to those entering via local EU Delegations (or Member State) consulates, not via Blue Spots or refugees.
  • ‘Ease of integration’ based on language skills, education, previous family presence, culture and religion would contribute to the points system.


Citizenship and residence should be earned. All the home-made terrorists savaging Europe recently, ‘received’ or ‘inherited’ their EU nationality, whilst some not even knowing the language of their nation. All immigrants (and refugees) should perform a citizenship course before obtaining a Blue Card or a Residence Card, including language, history and culture courses allowing them to integrate in the host country.

All should then undergo education and professional training agendas, just like other EU nationals and foreign residents.


3.3 Develop a policy for Refugees


IMAGE of Boat People ***

Europe invented the concept of refugee and drafted the Refugee Convention, now applied by 145 countries throughout the world. 60 million Europeans, mainly Germans, but not only, benefited from this in 1945-1950. And an estimated 5 million from war or revolution torn countries came to Europe since. Greeks and Hungarians in the ‘50s, Czechoslovakians in the ‘60s, Indochina boat-people (but also high-profile political refugees from Italy and Germany in France) in the ‘70s, Albanians and Poles in the ‘80s, Former Yugoslavians in the ‘90s. Today Europe and Africa each count some 4 million refugees (UNCHR, which are trying to integrate as sang by McSolaar, in “Ca me hante” (2003, 7’47”) A long song for a long chapter.


The current Dublin convention, even in its Mark III version should be replaced ( Europe should be able to design and apply a common asylum policy for refugees, coming from agreed ‘unsafe’ emergency countries ravaged by war (e.g. currently Syria, Iraq, Libya and maybe Afghanistan) and escaping realities where they are persecuted.


Refugees would ideally ask for asylum through EU Delegations or Member States’ Consulates in their home country, but this is really ‘ideal’. Most come to EU’s borders after fleeing home.

Organisations and individuals helping them escape should be rewarded and assisted if they do this for charity. For example, the EU supports many NGOs through part funding and tax exemptions. People smugglers profiting from refugee’s distress should be hunted and punished severely, not by sending them back to their home country, but by imprisoning them in Europe – as the US and Australia do. This policy would of course work much better if developed in cooperation with origin countries (currently mainly Niger, Libya and Turkey, for example). Such actions should be made known in countries of origin. Europe should act decisively and let them know how EU acts – Americans and Australians are good at that.


Cooperation with Developing countries has been a central to the EU since its inception. The EU currently allocates some €10 Billion/year, i.e. some 7% of its budget ( it is its third biggest common policy, pairing with Research and Innovation. As pledged with the United Nations, the EU has a whole should allocate 0.7% of its GDP in total, but the recent financial crisis has limited this to 0.5% in total, with only 6 EU countries reaching this objective (


Europe should use this cooperation as a soft power to possibly expand the respect of Human Rights and its own values and policies. More Aid would be allocated to countries respecting conditions such as and cooperation with EU (e.g. taking back their unwelcome migrants, effectively jailing ‘their’ people traffickers…) and with its neighbours. Like for immigrants, a point system for countries would determine the level and intensity of development aid: those adhering to EU principles / cooperating more would get more development aid. Being a novice in this area, I still have many open questions:

  • Should we favour countries applying EU values (as expressed in the Copenhagen rules for accessing the EU ***)?
  • Should we be as strict as asking they respect Non-discrimination clauses in the EU Treaty[4] which are not even respected by some EU member states?
  • What to do with others source countries and failed states which cooperate with EU but do not respect the above criteria? – They are a majority!
  • How to deal with countries which, purposefully, are not delivering papers to their own citizens ( or taking them back when they are expelled from the EU?
  • European societies are based on a Social contract, developed over the last 2 centuries of democratic progress, which defines the rights and duties of citizens. Refugees can be granted asylum without any such history and commitment through generations. What about having all refugees sign a ‘Social contract with the EU’ committing to observe its laws and duties in exchange for the rights and benefits they are granted? In it he should also pledge to return to its country or applying for immigration through the Blue Card system if/when danger ceases in her home country in the next 10 years.


3.4 Helping immigrants and refugees at home



“Aiutiamoli a casa loro” – Let’s help immigrants at (their) home – was used by – centre left – former Italian PM Matteo Renzi during the summer 2017 refugee crisis. It was fast picked-up by another Matteo, Salvini, the xenophobic leader of the Italian North League. He became Italy’s Interior Minister in June 2018 and soon pushed immigration again to the forefront by forbidding non-Italian ships to disembark their human cargo.

Helping african countries to develop is seen as a way to scapegoat immigration problems, but it so happens that the EU would indeed be very apt for this. It has developed skills for country forming, democracy building, peace-making, developing dialogue between religions/states to address conflicts in EU neighbourhood.


These skills could be deployed first in Middle-East, then East of Africa and other most relevant regions, source of emigration into Europe. In 2016 I thought boat people saved in the Mediterranean came from poor Sudan, Niger or Eritrea, but data show they came from rather richer African countries such as Nigeria, Gambia and Somalia. Proof that you need some assets to migrate ( And Eurostat data say most EU migrants come from Turkey, Morocco, India, Albania or Ukraine (


Foreign and development aid should be conditioned at efforts to solve local religious, climatic and territorial conflicts which are the sources of emigration. Prof. Pietro Paganini points out Qatar funds both the Barcelona FC AND (is alleged by Saudis to fund) ISIS networks. Its Sheik also bought for the Paris Club Neymar for €220 million. Couldn’t it, like the US did with the Marshall Plan fund development in countries like Nigeria, Gambia and Somalia, which I would target initially based on their recent outpour of young emigrants.

400 year ago, Europe managed to surpass its religious wars, the Middle-East could try to emulate it, at least inside the same broad religion. The launch of peace-making inter-religious dialogue, first amongst Muslims in Middle-East would, for example, be a conditioning factor.




3.5 Helping immigrants and refugees in Europe

IMAGE: Lavavetri, sceicco e 4×4***

Strengthening Europe with respect to immigration and refugee countries is also a policy that could affect the integration of migrants and the return of refugees. The EU should:

  • Stop traffic and sale of counterfeit goods. Often sold by illegal foreigners these mostly benefit local mafia and smugglers networks;
  • Strive for independent and diversified Energy sources to avoid depending on some countries/regions (i.e. Middle-East and Oil Africa now). This would allow confronting the Sharia countries of Middle-East and African giants from a stronger position.
  • Provide smart help in Human Centred Services such as education, health, justice, agro-forestry & fisheries[5]. These are job rich services which do not require too high skills and would involve these countries in partnership with the EU beyond just development funds.

No, I will not address here the military option of stepping into failed states such as Libya, CAR, Congo, South-Sudan… Which number is unfortunately increasing. However, a former NATO general explained to me that, after Gheddafi’s demise, even Italy could have, alone, conquered Libya’s shores and secure temporary control of the country, thus managing the flow of emigrants. The reason is that this could, for me, only happen if there were mechanism for planning the future of failed countries with UN support – not alone. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have shown the difficulties there are in moving from stopping terror / bringing peace, to building stable and sustainable countries.

  1. An open and confident Europe


European Open Houses: the Acropolis, the Roman Senate, Anvers’ Börse and the House of the Swedish Prime Minister

In conclusion, I am convinced that if it gains confidence in itself and develops policies that gives prosperity and hope to its citizens the European Union can stay the most Open continent.

It would then be able to project forward and in the world its socio-economic model based on democracy, the rule of law and a social market economy.

Europe is an open house, like the Acropolis – symbolising Democracy, the Roman Senate – establishing the Rule of Law, the first Stock Exchange, in Anvers and the house of the Swedish Prime Minister, where we end our long trip.

Why the hell are we in Stockholm, Giorgio? Because Sweden it is a country which, for 200 years hasn’t waged war. True, it avoided taking sides in World Wars, dancing awkwardly with both alliances – twice. Still, Sweden has had much influence in world affairs by developing and promoting its welfare state model (and being the first Nordic country to challenge its funding), by developing and exercising soft-power through the Nobel Academy, by having a long-standing and well-funded strategy for cooperation with developing countries[6] and by accepting much more than its fair share of refugees in 2015.


NB- This post is private and personal. It does not represent views of the Commission (for which I work) or of the Union of European Federalists or Alliance Europa (for which I campaign). Re-publishing is possible under Copyleft principles. I would appreciate being quoted and informed.



[1]From 1405 to 1433, large fleets commanded by Admiral Zheng He—under the auspices of the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty—traveled to the Indian Ocean seven times. This attempt did not lead China to global expansion, as the Confucian bureaucracy under the next emperor reversed the policy of open exploration and by 1500, it became a capital offence to build a seagoing junk with more than two masts.” ( At the time China had an estimated 300 years advantage in science and technology over the rest of the world and constituted 50% of the world GDP. This closure to the world was the beginning of its decline and, 350 years later, during the first Opium War, a single UK iron clad steamer, the aptly named “Nemesis” sank the whole Chinese imperial fleet made of wooden junks (Thus originating also the pejorative word “junk”). This was when China surrendered leadership to UK.

[2] Reflection Papers on Harnessing Globalisation (***) and Defence Europe (***) + until the very recent “Action plan on the central Mediterranean route” (


[3] During the height of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, the Red Cross spent half of its resources in reconnecting family members as traffickers destroyed SIM cards to avoid remote identification of refugees and also to put them in a weaker position. Families were separated as able men could move faster and longer when crossing land. Women, kids and less able people were smuggled separately – and often for more money. On the contrary, families crossing by boat often come together. [Red Cross report to the EU Migration Task Force]

[4] Art. 19 TFUE prohibits discrimination on basis of Race, Religion, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Age and Disability

[5] See my blogpost #ByHumans4All


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  1. Thanks Giorgio for including me in this.

    First off, I would like to express my sadness at the Eurobarometer survey results with which you start your post. That terrorism and migration are the top issues Europeans are concerned about reflects one thing only: the way the agora has been polluted by populism, abetted by the dying business model of media. Terrorism, as I don’t need to remind you, is less lickely to kill any europeans than a tea kettle, a lighting strike, or a bedsheet (take your pick). Migration is tiny by the standards of other countries (Uganda, a poor country of 42 million, has accepted over 1 million South Sudanese refugees in a couple of years; a similar proportion for Europe would be 17 million new arrivals these past couple of years. Meanwhile, issues that could actually see tens of millions of europeans descend into poverty, like climate change, don’t figure at all.

    So, issue one: how do educate the masses to better assess risks and probabilities?

    Second, on your proposal for handling migrants. Six months to screen people is a long time; what do you with them while that happens? To avoid people just upping sticks and disappearing in the European underground economy, you need to keep them locked up. That would mean camps for about 100,000 people, including women and children. Where and how?

    Third, “Immigrants would be turned back”. Fine, but how, when the countries sending them won’t have them return, and most will have no ID records proving their citizenship? In practical terms, they’ll have to be kept in detention until someone accepts them back. That’s a political ticking bomb, since to work the scheme has to inflexible, which means men, women and children kept locked up in some cases for decades. Visions of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

    Fourth, “blue spots”. Fine as far as it goes, but won’t do anything to stop illegal migration.

    Fifth, development aid. Must be fundamentally re-thought away from the calls for proposals – grant – final report model. This generates a hugely expensive storm of almost totally useless paper, and the multiplication of thousands of itsy-bitsy projects that maainly do two things: a) not much and b) prevent partner countries from building the institutions that are needed to durably tackle development (since they can offload the responsibility on donors).

    Properly defended Schengen borders: amen to that, including full interoperability of police, intel and military databases. But you’ll of course meet lots of issues (example: would GCHQ really share all its data with the Hungarian services? No) that need to be sorted.

    Blue cards: fine, but remember that most migrant labour in Europe is deployed in low-skill jobs that Europeans don’t want to do, from picking berries to wiping old people’s bums. The demand for such labour will stay; the supply will keep coming. A system is thus mostly be needed by low-skill migrants. I would thus recommend something radically different: a three-tier society in Europe. Tier 1: citizens. Tier 2: blue card holders. Tier 3: legal migrants. Tier 1 gets the full set of political, social and welfare rights; Tier 2 a gradually rising proportion of these rights, and Tier 3 none except these: the right to travel back and forth to the home country without visa hassles, and the right to work and pay taxes in the EU. When a hundred RyanAir flights a week connect Bamako to the EU, any Malian with a passport can fly in and try his luck; if he can’t find a job he has no right to any social help and must go home; if he can’t afford to go home and needs to be deported, he loses the right to come back to the EU. What this does is that it drastically reduces the demand for illegal migration, since the legal sort if cheaper and safer, and it codifies the contribution of low-skill labour to Europe while sending a strong message to Tier 1 that these workers will not swamp their cultures or welfare systems. I call that the Dubai option, where citizens enjoy fantastic services but foreign workers, from bankers to labourers, none unless they pay for them. It works: citizens are a tiny proportion of the total population, yet there is no anti-migrant movement there as there is in Europe.

    1. Dear Patrick, thanks for your comment and for engaging with me on this.
      First, as you’ve seen on Facebook, I have “bought” and are championing your 3 Tier ‘Dubai’ solution (we just need to find a better name….). Let’s put the mafia and people smugglers out of a job. There are few higher reward targets that this one. Thanks for suggesting it to me. Do you have a reference for that, other than your comment on my blog ?

      Then, let’s take things as you describe them:
      1. Eurobarometer – I remember a British stand-up comedian joking in the ’70s about British radio news: “A couple was injured in a car crash on the M1. Their little dog Milly sadly died. One brit dead and two injured in a fire in San Francisco. Major quake in Chile with more than 1000 dead, luckily no Brit was injured….”. Educating masses to local is global (and vice versa) and real risks and probabilities is a lost battle. We are programmed to care for what’s here and imminent. Read”Nudge” or Daniel Kanehan work on Behavioural Economics. And have it read by more than freaks like us and economists.
      2. Today, in Italy, the delay is 12-18 months, so indeed most up sticks and go to Ventimiglia or, if they can, Calais. So the blue spots should be on islands, from which escaping is more difficult or, better, not in Europe. The 6 months target is ambitious (for Italy and Greece were most of the landings take place, or Africa). Technology can help there: linguists, DNA testing, tagging, big data can help identifying origins, for a start.
      3+4. Turning back “not wanted” immigrants is a tricky bit. And there your proposals for the 3 tier solution comes in handy. Only countries who accept their immigrants back would be able have the “Blue Visa” for legal unskilled migrants. It’s a win win enabling for all citizens of a given African country the ‘circular immigration’ concept we promote for researchers. That should reduce illegal migration.
      5. On development aid I am an amateur and am still learning from comments I receive. I take yours in as institution building is something EU is good at. And we are ourselves moving away from the “project” model, for example starting to give ‘lump sums’ to cash for doing needed medical research and trusting the winners to use it correctly (but verifying in a randomly selected number of cases…).
      6. On jointly defended Schengen borders see my previous taxi trip to Strasbourg on the Federal Eurozone – with commonly funded and defended borders. Neither GCHQ nor Hungary would be members.

  2. A year after I posted my then Weltannschau over migration, the issue proved to be critical to democracy in the developed world. After Brexit in UK and Trump in US, elections in Austria, Hungary and Italy were shaped by Immigration issues. Hungarian PM Orban wants to make immigration “The only subject” of the next European elections thus highlighting Europe’s failure in addressing the issue. ,
    The Economist addresses it this week | Crossing continents
    Besides 1. Managing access (or giving the impression of it), the other policies “are all about integration.
    2. Migrants should be encouraged to work.
    3.They should be helped to fit in.
    4. And they should be seen to pay their way.

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