The usually so cool north Europeans seem to have lost their composure when the first waves of refugees and immigrants reached their borders. Germany and Austria within a few days made full immigration policy u-turns and finally closed their borders. Both Chancellors, Angela Merkel in Berlin and Werner Faymann in Vienna, said last week they will keep the crossing points open and this week they retracted their promise.
In Germany the abrupt shutting down of borders came even after Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel had boasted that his country can take in 800.000 immigrants in 2015 and 500.000 yearly thereafter. Reportedly, Germany wants by this policy change to press other Europeans to follow her example and accept refugees and immigrants, yet the policy u-turn remains a fact.
North Europeans lose their self-control
Even the Finnish government, hundreds of miles away from the hot points, went rather wild and threatened its own people with tax increases, if the country was to take in immigrants. As for Hungary, she has quickly erected a barbed wire wall, deployed military units to keep the immigrants on the Serbian side of the borders and the Orbán government went nuts with xenophobic rhetoric. Other central EU countries like the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and Poland refuse, to varying degrees, to accept immigrants.
As for the southerners and most specifically the Greeks and the Italians, despite being the first to sustain the pressures from hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants reaching their shores, have retained their nerve. Actually Greece is peacefully but hopelessly conducting this Sunday an early legislative election, to resolve its political and financial deadlock. At the same time the EU authorities continue to address the current immigration issue which has assumed historic dimensions with police and military means. Let’s take one thing at a time.
The UN reprimands the EU
The seriousness of the situation brought United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres and the Director General of the International Organization for Migration, William Lacy Swing, to Brussels. Both participated at the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU on 14 September. They underlined the alarming situation of people massively fleeing conflict regions. Unfortunately, the Member States and the Commission who make up this EU Council agreed to further develop resettlement possibilities and use naval forces to sink the boats used to transfer the prospective immigrants to the shores of Greece and Italy.
Not a word about the causes that chased millions of people out of their homes, generating the current migration movements encompassing entire Peoples. The Western aggression has completely ruined countries in the Middle East and Africa, yet Brussels seems to not understand why those millions of migrants are abandoning whole cities and regions, where only some years ago people were leading their lives peacefully.
Avoiding tackling the real causes
During the past months the desperate situation in war torn Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, Niger, Mali and some other countries has come to a climax. The reason is that there is nothing left there to keep those millions of people in their homelands. A lot of Syrians are even walking through Turkey to the Greek borders in Thrace, hoping to reach the central and north European countries from there, after crossing the Balkans. The short trip to the Greek islands from the Turkish shores conceals mortal dangers and hundreds have drowned this year.
In any case, the immigrants aim at reaching the wealthy northern EU countries, but the EU says it will resettle them without saying where, sink their caiques, dinghies and inflatable boats, block their land trails and do whatever it takes to keep them out, accepting no responsibility whatsoever about their hopeless situation. This week’s decisions by the EU Council are nothing new since hundreds of immigrants have already drowned during the summer in the Mediterranean and the Aegean.
The Schengen Agreement falters
The EU’s powerful Home Affairs Council has launched the “EU naval operation” against human smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean called “EUNAVFOR Med” since last spring. Theoretically, this naval operation has as its mission to “identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers”. The United Nations have, for very good reasons, forbidden such action either in the ports of Libya or in the open seas. Quite understandably it’s impossible to tell which fishing boat anchored in any North African port is to be used to transport immigrants.
Nevertheless, the Europeans insist that their naval forces will be used to stop the refugee and immigrant waves from reaching the shores of South Europe. The futility, though, of the EU actions vis-à-vis this extraordinary issue has brought an internal paralysis in the Union among other things. The Schengen Agreement, very dear to the Europeans, permitting them to move freely within the Union (plus Switzerland and Norway) has been ruined. One after the other the EU countries opt out from it, now that the bad times have come.
EU faltering on the financial front as well
The problem here is that similar EU monumental projects in other equally important spheres of action, like the monetary union, are also crumbling down in the first blow of the wind. Greece is threatened to be kicked out from Eurozone after the Eurogroup Council failed to effectively resolve the country’s financial stalemate. This Sunday’s election can hardly provide the political means to secure the country’s position in the euro area.
Whatever government is formed in Athens next week will find it rather impossible to apply the third and most vicious austerity program imposed by Greece’s euro area creditors. The country has been economically, socially and politically tormented for five years now by the mistakes of the IMF, Berlin and Brussels. Unfortunately, the pain caused has brought no real gains. Clearly the Greeks can no longer endure more of the same medicine; on Sunday they will surely turn out a Parliament much worse in every respect than the one just resolved.
Now the Schengen Agreement is tested and proved to be good only for the good times. With such a record the EU has not a chance of becoming something more than a polyglot gathering of egotistic nations ready to drop out in the difficult times.