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Chartered Cities | Die Hanse 2.0

Der politische Arm der aktiven Zivilgesellschaft in Europa

Chartered Cities sind die neuen Hansestädte

Whether workers, economic refugees or displaced persons, the main motive of immigrants is the prospect of a better future in a new place. „Charter cities“ could here provide alternatives. Dr. Philipp Aerni is director of the Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Zurich and formed this idea of solution.

The former colony of Hong Kong is considered a model for cities with their own legal system.  According to Amnesty International 2014 230 million people were living not in their country of birth, 14.1 million have fled abroad, and 33.3 million have displaced in their own country. These figures will be even more dramatic since the summer of 2015 after the mass exodus from Syria. The low prospects of young refugees in Europe on social integration, work and marry create a breeding ground for frustration and radicalization. European politicians react to the current crisis with migration rehearsed left or right rhetoric. Enter either fully hospitable, or they present themselves as the voice of the alleged calls for the border closing of their own people. Both are signs of impotence. The positions also bear witness to a lack of long-term visions for the regions directly affected.

The neighboring countries of Syria are much more of refugees affected as we are, however, have few resources to accommodate this. There is increasing pressure to try something new. But what exactly? A look back at history shows that the construction of new cities with their own municipal law, nowadays  called „charter cities“, could face many crises and led yet to economic prosperity. One example is the success of the German Hanseatic League in the Middle Ages. She has to give its origins in the bold decision of Henry the Lion, the town of Lübeck in 1160 after a devastating fire the Soest town rights. This city law was a kind of charter that on certain individual rights helped the city (markets, settlement rights, customs law). It should serve as a kind of intangible startup capital for the newly built city. The new city law led to renewed population growth and economic prosperity, because it protected the rights of entrepreneurs and offered a refuge for disenfranchised immigrants who wanted to build a new life. As a result of this success, have adopted a similar city law in Northern Germany more than 60 cities, and it was the Hanseatic League, which led to the economic and cultural development of northern Europe in the Middle Ages.

In the 19th century Hong Kong was awarded by the British a town charter that did not have to obey the law in the then feudal China. Although today bring the Chinese Hong Kong with a humiliation of China in connection just seemed Deng Xiaoping, the pragmatic Mao’s successor, a positive lesson from the experience of having „charter city“ learned. He found is that many Chinese who himself saw no future in China, migrated to Hong Kong because there them legal certainty and the protection of entrepreneurial freedoms offered better prospects. It will also increase poverty in the Chinese region of the city has been greatly reduced. Deng’s idea of setting up special economic zones in China, based in this regard primarily on the experience of Hong Kong. From historical perspective, can therefore „charter cities“ long term prove quite a boon for lawless and impoverished population, especially in feudal societies?

Feudalistic structures also exist today in many rural areas of Africa and Latin America, and in the Arab world they dominate even in the big cities. The privileged upper class, where it holds it’s local and immigrant subordinates in economic and political bondage, and prospects for social mobility are rare. The economist Paul Romer advertises these reasons for some years in many governments in developing countries for the creation of „charter cities“. Interested are hitherto particularly governments which recognize the feudal structures a problem. Romer’s commitment to „charter cities“ is a matter of debate in Europe. „Charter cities“ are here associated with „gated communities“ in which wealthy people are supplied with everything your heart desires, and are also protected from the aggression of the excluded, poor people by privately organized security forces. With the original idea of „charter cities“ However, this has little to do; because they did not have the partitioning of the rich „insiders“ for the purpose, but should the „outsiders“ give a chance for economic empowerment. Of which ultimately always has the public as a whole benefits because many public goods could be provided only by taxing the successful economic activities.

In addition, the city right includes precisely the free entry and exit with a, for a „charter city“ is primarily a means to an end rather than a perfectly planned dollhouse, in which a homogeneous community is to live carefree and in harmony. Certainly the political rights at the beginning are limited, but if you can learn a lesson from history, it is the fact that the political empowerment is at all possible only through economic empowerment. Today, the economic empowerment is of central importance for young and educated refugees. They migrate because they were deprived of or denied the opportunity to build an economic existence for themselves and their families in safety. If they did not make it to Europe, they camped in tent cities in neighboring countries with no prospect of an economic activity. However, such temporary refugee settlements could be converted into productive cities when a corresponding „charter“ would create rule for it. Refugees would then have at least the right to entrepreneurship.

The maintenance of a Syrian refugee costs in Europe five times more than in Jordan. At the same time, the prospects would be significantly better in the vicinity of the home country if the people can be in an urban area with legal certainty, good infrastructure and access to know-how and financial services do business. They are more familiar with the culture and language, are closer to the relatives and friends who have remained in the war zone, and can then help quickly after the war to rebuild the country. What speaks against such a comprehensive refugee policy that would make immigrants part of the solution? It is only the discouragement of many European leaders who feel exclusively committed to its own electorate.

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