How a possible EU budget deficit affects the migration crisis

Dimitris Avramopoulos
Date: 12/07/2017. Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont. © European Union , 2018 Source: EC – Audiovisual Service Photo: Jennifer Jacquemart

The migration crisis has been long plaguing Europe but the year passed revealed that the situation is getting better and better with arrivals and deaths to be decreased to a great extent. According to IOM, the UN Migration Agency, 171.635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea during 2017 compared to the 363.504 arrivals in 2016.

However, there are still countries like Poland and Hungary which still refuse to accept migrants and don’t contribute to the quota system agreed by the EU in 2015. The latter was once more confirmed last Monday when Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the European Union’s refugee policies «threaten the sovereignty and cultural identity of Hungary».

Martin Schulz, head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), stated last Friday that Germany will reduce its financial contribution to the EU budget if Poland and Hungary continue the same stance on migration quotas.

Migration figures drop

During 2017, Italy’s effort to manage the influx of refugees crossing the Mediterranean was remarkable and effective.  Especially in the second half of the year, the arrivals reduced dramatically. Joel Millman, IOM spokesman, stated that:  “We can tell you with confidence that the numbers from North Africa to Italy this year are under 120,000…That’s the lowest in the last four years for arrivals in Italy”.

Furthermore, the reduction of arrivals and deaths was a result of more patrols and rescues off the coast of Libya and fighting between smuggling groups according to the spokesman. Joel Millman mentioned that almost 20.000 Africans returned to their home last year under IOM’s voluntary repatriation program from Libya and that the United Nations agency will repatriate 15.000 more migrants from Libya by the end of January.

The situation is similar in Greece as well where arrivals have dropped almost 6 times. More specifically, 29.595 migrants have arrived in Greece in 2017 whereas 173.614 were reported in 2016 according to IOM figures. It must be mentioned that 2017 figure is the lowest in the four years which clearly shows this positive development.

Hungary against Germany

The Hungarian Prime Minister said last Monday that his country is not accepting migrants as they don’t want to be forced and they are not the ones to have called them in comparison to Germany. Viktor Orban also stated that: “Syrian refugees were not fleeing their home country out of fear for their lives. Instead, the decision of thousands of migrants to journey to richer western European countries like Germany while passing through less wealthy but stable countries like Hungary was proof that they could not be classed as refugees, but rather economic migrants in search of a better life.”

On the other hand, Germany together with most of the EU member states do not support the above position that countries like Poland and Hungary are adopting. Therefore, Martin Schulz, the SPD chief, said that Germany will limit its financial support to the EU budget if these counties continue to refuse accepting migrants.

EU Budget shortfall?

However, the president of the European Commission mentioned two days ago in a conference in Brussels that was against major cuts in the EU budget and that the member states have to increase their shares once UK leaves the EU. More is detail, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We need more than one percent of European GDP, quite clearly, if we are to pursue European policies and fund them adequately.”

The EU Budget Commissioner though expressed his concerns of “big cuts” in several programs after the hole of 12-13 billion euros that Britain will leave with its exit. According to Guenther Oettinger, the areas that are going to be more affected are European defense, the fight against terrorism, financing against natural disasters, climate change and migration crisis.

All in all, it is clear that the influx of migrants in Europe is decreasing but there are still nationalistic behaviors that do not allow dealing with this long-lasting issue. Also, the lack of EU funds is probable going to cause problems to the solution of migration crisis. Even though these could increase migration crisis figures, it is highly unlikely to experience a dramatic change as there are mechanisms that can prevent it.

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