Europe’s Migration Problems: Finding a Way out of the Impasse

Europe will change. Is this the conquest of Europe by the Asian barbarians? More likely it’s a survival test for the European Union, but a test that is not entirely natural.

On October 25, Brussels hosted yet another emergency meeting on migration, attended by the leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia. What means of dealing with the migration crisis exist today?

The Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency held a roundtable discussion on the theme, “Europe’s Migration Problems: Finding a Way Out of the Impasse,” which involved a number of Valdai Club experts, including Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladislav Belov and General Director of the Political Information Center Alexei Mukhin.

According to Vladislav Belov, migration to Europe was a hotly discussed issue at the St. Petersburg Dialogue forum, from which he had just returned. Experts at the forum noted that Chancellor Merkel was facing mounting resistance within her own party and that her popularity ratings were falling. Ms. Merkel no longer says Willkommen! to the migrants, adopting a tougher policy that involves sorting the new arrivals who are truly fleeing from armed conflicts, from those who simply want to find work in Germany. The problem is where to send those who are sifted out. Mr. Belov thinks that the crisis has affected ten countries of Europe rather than the European Union as a whole. It is these ten countries that are grappling to find concrete solutions.

The emergency meeting on October 25 approved resolutions on creating a hotline and on easing the pressure on the EU’s external borders. But for the time being, all these resolutions are like a drop of water on a hot stone. Despite Merkel’s curtseys to Turkey, President Erdogan is still offended by the EU’s reluctance to help his country deal with 2 million Syrian refugees. Now the EU and Germany are trying to flirt with Ankara.

Before 2015, the EU's migration policy was quite effective, but Brussels didn’t expect that someone would use criminal networks for refugee smuggling. This has become a very lucrative business. Speakers at the St. Petersburg Dialogue forum said that illegal migration brought between 8 and 9 billion euros in profits per year. But the biggest problem of all is social migrants who don’t want to work and are hoping for handsome benefits. These people need to be dealt with more toughly. They are violating the law, they are crossing the border illegally. Drastic measures are needed to stem the flow of migrants. Either they shut the border, or face a surge in right-wing radical sentiment. This will manifest itself at elections in France and Germany.

The migrants should under no circumstances be settled as compact ethnic communities to avoid the emergence of diasporas. The Germans do not want to create transit camps. But if these camps do appear, there will be tensions inside. Russia knows how to receive refugees and practice multiculturalism. It should share its experience and cooperate with the Europeans.

Alexei Mukhin remarked that experts at the latest meeting of the Valdai Club discussed the migration problem as a consequence of the wars in the Middle East. European experts told other participants that the face of Europe would change. Is this the conquest of Europe by the Asian barbarians? More likely it’s a survival test for the European Union, but a test that is not entirely natural. According to Mr. Mukhin, the present crisis is an artificial one, and has nothing to do with the natural migration processes in the world.

In his view, there are tested mechanisms for accepting migrants in Europe. Germany has excelled as a host country for Turkish guest workers. This was a success story, and until recently Germany calmly watched a new wave of migration. Other countries were less prepared and their reaction was stronger. Regrettably, other waves will follow the first one. The first wave is made up of strong young men, who have money and means of communication. There are few women and children. The second wave will consist of their relatives. Next a third wave will rush in, because those who remain in North Africa and Afghanistan will see that everything has worked out, and they will want to try the same path. This will require the EU to put aside even more money.

At the same time, it should be kept in mind that the main waves of migration are stopping in countries contiguous on Syria. It is these countries that face the real problems, while Europe is just simulating suffering. The EU will in any event emerge from the crisis as a new economic and political entity. The political elites will adopt right-wing views. Some institutions will collapse under the pressure. New financial centers will emerge in Europe. The US is playing the main role in whipping up the hullabaloo in connection with the migration crisis in Europe. It needs this to compel the EU to sign the trans-Atlantic partnership treaty.

The roundtable discussion was also attended by Nikolai Toporin, lecturer, European Law Department, MGIMO (U) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Vladimir Olenchenko, senior research fellow, Section of European Countries’ Economy, Center for European Studies, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russian Academy of Sciences.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.