A mini-summit took place in Brussels last weekend involving the Western Balkan countries and aiming at tackling the escalating migration crisis in the EU. The outcome was the promotion of a 17-point plan which aspires to tackle the issue.
The problem that keeps on lingering though is whether the EU countries will look at the greater good of the bloc or their personal, political and territorial interests will prevail as currently is the situation. The time is running out for thousands of refugees since the rough European winter will be soon creating hostile conditions for people trying to flee from war zones in Middle East and Africa.
The European Commission (EC) together with the European Parliament (EP) decided to provide financial aid to Greece to shelter 20.000 migrants in addition to the 30.000 ones who had been already accepted in the last summit. However, the amount of people coming from Turkey is much greater and more effective actions are needed.
The enhancement of the EU-Turkey relationship that is undertaken mainly by Angela Merkel is a good start and focuses on moving refugees directly from Turkey to the EU easying the burden of countries that lie in-between and most of all reducing the number of deaths in the Aegean sea. The big thorn though of this plan is how determined is the EU to exchange the latter with visa-free travel for Turkish students and businessmen and continuation of the negotiations for the Turkish membership in the EU, as Turkey demands.
Another migration summit and more measures
Only during last week, 56.000 refugees moved to the Greek islands in a desperate attempt to migrate before the beginning of the winter which could be literally a death voyage for them. This incident was enough to motivate President Juncker to convene the leaders of Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia to discuss and find immediate solutions to the migration problem that torments the Old Continent.
Mr Juncker promoted this as a most of all humanitarian issue and urged the leaders to collaborate with each other and implement the required measures so as to deal with this efficiently. More specifically, Mr Juncker mentioned during the Western Balkans Migration Route summit: “Countries affected should not only talk about and at each other but also with each other. Neighbours should work together not against each other. Refugees need to be treated in a humane manner along the length of the Western Balkans route to avoid a humanitarian tragedy in Europe. I am therefore pleased that today we were able to jointly agree on a 17-point plan of pragmatic and operational measures to ensure people are not left to fend for themselves in the rain and cold.”
The 17-point plan basically focuses on better communication of the involving countries regarding migration waves, shelter supply to refugees by using the European funds and mainly more efficient management of the migrants in such a way that aid will be provided only to those who really meet the international protection law requirements.
The majority of the plan’s points target at this crisis superficially. Issues such as migration flows information, border management, financing of the countries in need, tackling smuggling and trafficking are measures that deal with migration as a temporary issue and do not aim at its roots, something that could solve this problem once and for all.
However, it must be mentioned that the EU continues providing more handy financial means and human resources that surely result in hiding the true uncontrollable impact of the problem under the carpet.
Refugee crisis: EU’s 2016 priority
One of the priorities of the EU now is to tackle migration crisis which is plaguing the bloc. The EP’s committee proposes a €157.4 billion budget for 2016 and about €1.2 billion are proposed by the EC to be assigned to the migration crisis, which includes the implementation of actions such as redistributing refugees between European member states. Further, the EP will propose adding €900 million to this project.
The aforementioned amount of money would be distributed not only to the improvement of the refugees’ admission and life conditions but most importantly to the funding of foreign affairs aiming at countries outside the EU. The latter, if implemented correctly, could tackle the causes of this crisis and manage to save thousands of lives.
The migration talks with Turkey fostered by the powerful German Chancellor have a great potential. Angela Merkel, who is often accepted to act on top of President Juncker and President Tusk combined, is preparing now a deal of billions of euros with Turkey whose purpose is to accommodate more refugees in Europe.
This ambitious plan has some very difficult parts though. In order to achieve this agreement, the EU has to provide with visa-free travel for Turkish students and businessmen and re-open the negotiations for the Turkish entrance in the EU.
What is more, Alexis Tsipras, this controversial new political figure of the EU, mentioned during the Western Balkans meeting that Turkey should have been invited also to Brussels, since the country’s tactics highly affects the increase of migrants in the EU. In detail, the Greek Prime Minister told: “Till today, it was difficult to find a solution, because a series of countries adopt a stance ‘Not in my backyard’. Turkey should have been called to the talks. The discussion will be among the countries of the corridors, but everyone knows at the end of the corridor there is an entrance”; pointing clearly to his neighbours.
All in all, even if Merkel’s plan sounds too difficult to be implemented, the EU will and should invest more on that in order to show its good humanitarian face.
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