Why the 33,000 staff European Commission did not have a real contingency plan for the refugee crisis?

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. EU Heads of State or Government met on 23 September 2015 in Brussels to discuss and decide how to deal with the refugee crisis and its root causes. (TVNewsroom European Council, 23/09/2015)

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. EU Heads of State or Government met on 23 September 2015 in Brussels to discuss and decide how to deal with the refugee crisis and its root causes. (TVNewsroom European Council, 23/09/2015)

Last Wednesday the EU leaders convened in Brussels to discuss the migration crisis in view of the decision made by the Interior Ministers one day ago. The Heads of States finally decided to “work together in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility” supporting the positive vote taken by the majority of Ministers at the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council regarding the relocation of 120.000 refugees.

The German Chancellor expressed the need for a global approach in order to deal with this crisis making clear that the aforementioned action is not adequate. Everyone should help in order to overcome this long-lasting humanitarian issue which is affecting the entire Old Continent.

The recent sad evolution of the Croatian borders’ closure against the Serbian ones proves that the EU faces a crisis coming from the inside. This crisis has shown that when EU countries fear for the unknown, they react nationalistically with the excuse that they protect their citizens. Consequently Serbia responded with a ban on Croatian goods and cargo vehicles as retaliation against Croatia’s decision to close the borders. It seems the sad and intense history between the two countries make some policy makers “vulnerable” to retaliation.

Germany instead together with France and UK exert their role as leading political and economic powers to show how to resolve the refugee crisis by expressing their will to focus on the root causes.

Interior Ministers back EC’s plan

The majority of the EU Home Affairs Ministers decided this week in favour of the quota system of the redistribution of 120.000 migrants from Italy, Hungary and Greece to other EU member states.

Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic, on the other hand, were the countries to vote against this action. The latter was somewhat expected since they had expressed their unwillingness to cooperate during the last meeting of the Interior Ministers where a unanimous decision failed to come.

Towards the right direction

The Informal meeting of Heads of states that took place last Wednesday decided on a number of measures and all recognised the need for actions that must be taken by everyone in a long-term framework in order to manage the refugee crisis.

First of all, the EU will spend one billion euros on the needs of refugees within the bloc by contributing to the substantial humanitarian work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The amount of money that will be given will certainly help the UN strengthen its already established programs regarding the reception of the refugees, the facilitation of asylum seekers and the ability to provide quality food and shelter to those souls.

Furthermore, the decision that was taken to reinforce control checks at the external borders of the EU, through additional funding toward Frontex, EASO and Europol, will avoid a number of dramatic events such as the one that took place last April in Lampedusa which lead to more than 800 deaths.

In addition, the reassurance of the EU leaders that the dialogue with Turkey will be intensified, especially during the upcoming visit of the Turkish President on October 5, reveals that finally a holistic view of the matter is being applied. Through that, the cooperation between the two parties will be strengthened which will end up to a better and most importantly safer management of the large migratory flows.

Germany to discuss with Assad?

The German Chancellor seems ready to do whatever it takes to tackle this European humanitarian issue. Angela Merkel said yesterday: “We have to speak with many actors, this includes Assad, but others as well. Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia.”

It is thus clear that Germany is willing to involve all parties in order to bring back peace to Syria and consequently tackle the refugee crisis which continues dividing Europe. Besides, both Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande agreed that a political solution must be found as far as Syria is concerned. More specifically, they stated at the end of the EU summit that: “As regards Syria, we call for a renewed UN-led international effort to bring an end to the war that has caused so much suffering and forced an estimated 12 million people to leave their homes”.

All in all, despite the futile and immature introversion of certain EU member states which are closing their borders in fear of the consequences of the migrants’ arrivals, it seems that the EU in principle is now on the right track with the majority of the countries in the bloc to act in a responsible manner and for the greater good of human beings and peace.

Why the EU was not prepared in the first place?

The big question though is how much the death toll in the Aegean and Adriatic sea will increase by the time the EU’s plan bears fruit. What is more, how is it possible that the European Commission, an edifice of 33,197 bureaucrats, did not have in the first place a sound contingency plan to manage a refugee crisis of this size? It was very well known for years that the massive war conflicts in the neighbourhood would inevitably make refugees flea to Europe to save their lives. Where else could they go? Why the European Commission waited for the summer of 2015 for half a million people to arrive in Greece or Italy already, thousands of wet deaths in the mediterranean sea and thousands of exhausted souls receiving the tear gasses of Mr Orban?

The EU has responsibility for every life lost in the Aegean sea, not just Aylan’s, because it was not at all prepared for any of that despite it was obvious. Prioritisation is certainly the issue and the cause here. The EU just can’t turn a blind eye on humanitarian crisis of this size in order to bluntly focus on industry, digital single union and all those great things in the block that make the European economy wealthier.

Europe needs to be prepared to have a holistic view and act as one political body with deep cooperation and readiness, particularly in times of crisis.

The humanitarian side in the scale will weigh always more than anything else.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CAnyfantis

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