EU: Divided they stand on immigration and Trump hurricanes

The European Union heads of state or government met for an informal summit in Valletta, Malta on 3 February 2017. At the morning session, the 28 EU leaders focused on migration issues. During the afternoon session the 27 leaders, after the British PM Theresa May left, prepared the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. From left to right: Joseph Muscat, Maltese Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. Shoot location: Valletta – Malta. Shoot date: 03/02/2017. Copyright: European Union.

The European Union heads of state or government met for an informal summit in Valletta, Malta on 3 February 2017. At the morning session, the 28 EU leaders focused on migration issues. During the afternoon session, after the British PM Theresa May left, the 27 leaders prepared the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. From left to right: Joseph Muscat, Maltese Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. Shoot location: Valletta – Malta. Shoot date: 03/02/2017. Copyright: European Union.

The last Friday’s Malta Summit of the 28 minus 1 EU leaders, on emigration and the future of Europe, was convened amidst a steaming wider political environment within and without Europe. The Council could only agree upon on transferring another €200 million to the one of the at least two Libyan governments, that a small number of EU member states have arbitrarily installed in Tripoli. Not a word of guilt was spoken about the chaos that always reigns in this completely destroyed country, still at the mercy of hundreds of armed factions.

In the sublime chambers of the Ioannite Knights Valletta Castle (the St. John Knights of Malta and Rhodes) where the EU leaders gathered, their differences in confronting a hostile Donald Trump were echoed loudly. The US President has stopped just a step ahead of predicting the dismantling of the EU and he has deafeningly rejoiced about Brexit. There was a quarrel about that in Malta. Not a word was uttered however about the difficult situation in some eastern parts of the Union, where Romania is at the verge of a civil conflict, the Baltic republics are increasingly anxious about the US-Russia rapprochement and Bulgaria having just installed a Putin loving President of the Republic.

Divided they fall?

Not a word was either heard about the North-South division in the Eurozone, which leaves at least Greece and Italy unsure, if it’s better to leave the euro area or not. And despite all that, Donald Tusk, the Polish President of the Summit chose, to insist to the EU leaders, that ‘united we stand divided we fall’ in his invitation letter. Alas, if this motto is read literally, the EU has already started disintegrating. But let’s take one thing at a time.

As things turned out, the most important task the Valetta EU Summit did was to…shiver before the soon coming spring/summer season of presumably good Mediterranean weather. Already, this winter some hundreds, almost exclusively African hopeful immigrants, have died trying to cross from Libya to Italy. Within a few weeks, along with the amelioration of the weather conditions, the flows of immigrants will grow to unpredictable numbers. The reason is that the other route, through Turkey, the Greek islands and the Balkan corridor has been blocked.

Of course, the Aegean moorings of immigrants will remain rare for as long as the Turkish President-Sultan Tayyip Erdogan sees fit. This depends on how much money Brussels pays and on some other favors to Turkey which the EU member states are ready to consider. In this respect, Turkey will continue to blackmail Europe, for as long as Asian and African populations will be so desperate as to undertake the killing trip rather than stay at home.

The Libya-Italy route has opened

Last Friday, Europe decided to pay for the blocking of the Libya-Italy passage also. Yet again, it would have been a laughable matter for the EU leaders to continue pretending that this human river can be stopped in the shores of Africa and Asia. The EU leaders cannot anymore be seen to overlook the destructive interventions of the West in both continents. To mend that, they went as far as to promise billions in development aid. The Malta Declaration by the members of the European Council says: “the European Union is strengthening the mainstreaming of migration within its Official Development Assistance for Africa, which amounts to €31 billion during this financial period”.

However, that kind of money will start to be spent not to support the economic development of Africa, but rather to block the immigrant flows. It’s like using aspirin to fight cancer. The same text reveals that the EU has decided to “train, equip and support the Libyan national coast guard and other relevant agencies”, obviously in order to block boats full of immigrants from sailing from Libyan ports. To be noted, that such a thing as a ‘Libyan Coast Guard’ doesn’t really exist.

Blocking not curing the causes of immigration

So, the EU money will be spent to support the European ‘trainer’ coast guard, which will undertake ad hoc the task of blocking, intercepting and forcefully returning to Libya the immigrant boats. The ‘trainer’ pretext will be used to cover up the fact that EU coast guard and possibly some European war ships operate within the Libyan waters and why not in the ports of the non existing anymore sovereign Libyan state.

The entire EU immigrant policy is supported only by a few EU member states, leaving the rest of the Union completely indifferent, if not hostile to the related initiatives. The central European countries Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, the three Baltic Republics and even some central EU members like Austria and Holland have completely pulled out from the Brussels immigration policies. They have not accepted immigrants relocated from overloaded front-liners from Italy and Greece. In short, the EU was and still is deeply divided over the way Brussels and Berlin have confronted the immigration question right from the summer of 2015.

New American threats

Immigration is not the only issue the EU is at odds with itself. The confrontation of Trump’s America is another topic that deeply divides the Union. Reportedly, the outgoing French President Francois Hollande did not only attack Trump for his celebration of Brexit, but he warned some eastern EU members not even to think they can conclude bilateral free trade deals with the US. If there weren’t such tendencies, Hollande would not have gone that far. He explained that this is impossible because all member states have once and for all officially delegated this authority to Brussels, that is, the Council, the Commission and the Parliament. Understandably, for an EU member state to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with third countries, she has first to quit the club exactly like Britain is doing. Collective foreign trade management and the strictly related function of the EU common internal market are the ‘Holy Grails’ of the Union and Britain is learning that the hard way.

Nevertheless, it’s not only trade talk that divides the EU. If an EU country clearly follows a manifestly different way in dealing with Trump, she trades a strong blow to the central ‘directoire’ of the Franco-German axis, presently at odds with Trump’s US. Still, the extreme right wing, populist and Eurosceptic Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo reprimanded Council President Donald Tusk – who theoretically expresses the common opinion of the EU leaders – for describing Trump as “a threat to Europe”. According to Reuters she said, “European politicians trying to build this sense of fear … are making a mistake. One cannot be confrontational in our relations with the United States.”

Summing up all that, one impartial observer can hardly say that the EU is united in dealing with two of her three most important challenges, immigration and Trump’s US. The third one being the North-South division of Eurozone, but this is another story as Rudyard Kipling would have said.

 

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