It is today that Austria is arbitrarily hosting a Western Balkan counties migration meeting called “Managing Migration Together” where the Interior and Foreign ministers of seven countries (Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, FYROM, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) have been invited to participate, with Greece, the main migrant gate, to be paradoxically excluded from the discussions. The fact that the Austrian government is organizing such a meeting between Balkan countries regarding the confrontation of refugee crisis without Greece has caused serious reactions, especially from the Greek side.
Austria is not only holding a meeting without Greece whose involvement is obvious and immediate but also last Friday unilaterally imposed a limit of 3.200 migrants passing through and just 80 asylum claims a day. The latter was unanimously reprehensible by the EU leaders who expressed their strong opposition to unilateral action by the member states at the summit which took place last week on February 18-19.
The decision of Austria, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia to reduce the number of immigrants has forced FYROM to close its borders with Greece and is currently not accepting Afghans who are trying to travel to the richest northern countries to seek asylum.
Migration crisis and closed EU borders
It seems that the EU summit which was held last week between the 28 member states in order to discuss among others the long-lasting issue of refugee crisis was not at all successful since countries are ever since closing their borders trying to protect themselves from the influx of immigrants arriving in Greece from Turkey through the Aegean Sea.
Austria was the first to impose restrictions to asylum seekers provoking Germany’s reaction through its Interior Minister who clearly condemned it. More specifically, Thomas de Maiziere said last Sunday that: “ Vienna’s move to accept only 80 asylum seekers a day while waving through another 3,200 migrants, many of whom were headed for Germany, was unacceptable”.
Furthermore, Amnesty International outlined last Tuesday that Austria violates the human rights of asylum seekers by placing caps of 80 claims per day. Heinz Patzelt, representing Amnesty International Austria mentioned on ORF radio that: “the Geneva Convention does not know the terms quota or admission limit … and the Geneva Convention is binding law in Austria. We are breaking international law.” The latter even if it sounds very serious, it doesn’t seem to affect the Austrian government which claims to be in line with its laws.
This move has created a domino effect with many countries being involved. Slovenia voted two days ago to send army to its borders for three months in order to patrol refugee waves. What is more, Belgium reacted to Calais’ evacuation by imposing controls to its borders with France.
Everything shows now that Europe is facing a deep humanitarian crisis that cannot just get out of. All the measures that are implemented so far are not adequate to reduce the thousands of migrants fleeing from the war conditions of their countries to reach the European “promised land”. Obviously, there is not enough will and coordination by the member states in order to be able to deal with this crisis effectively.
Turkey and its role at the refugee crisis
But will Turkey be finally able to cooperate with the EU and fight the migrant smuggling networks? So far there have not been put serious work between Turkey and the EU against migration crisis. The EU-Turkey Action Plan remains a priority but the amount of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey still remains too high to be absorbed by the European countries.
NATO’s involvement in the Aegean Sea may assist Europe in monitoring and surveilling illegal entries. However, the Turkish side seems to be attempting to claim by the NATO patrols more air space around Greece’s coastline and islands. Thus, it is clear that there are still remaining problems between Greece and Turkey and will be very difficult for NATO to coordinate patrols between the two countries, as it was obvious from the first moment.
The next EU attempt
The extraordinary EU summit that will be held at the beginning of March with the participation of Turkey is crucial for the future of the millions of migrants currently in Turkey living with the hope to travel to Europe for a better life.
Chancellor Angela Merkel rests her desperate hopes now on the Action Plan that is being set and always remains to be put into action by both sides. Turkey has now the upper hand in this deal with the EU and is most likely to receive great benefits in order to abide by the agreement.
All in all, the EU borders are closing and border controls are imposed in order to deal with the thousands of migrant flows. Greece is being excused from the migration discussions between the Western Balkan countries, as if the rest of Europe does not care for Greece’s opinion and involvement on refugee crisis, which by the way is the mere country of arrival.
The latter though is a too dangerous act for the shaky European edifice, since not only it is not resolving this plaguing issue but also deteriorating the crisis which is not tackled at the EU level at it should but at the borders of the “Habsburg Empire”.