Migration Collapse in Europe: Political Will and Need to Compromise

The immigration problem will inevitably affect the political climate in the EU. There is a revival and the growing influence of extreme right-wing forces which affect the results of elections in a number of countries.

In recent months, the influx of refugees in Europe has not declined but turned into a migration collapse. The arc of instability in the southern part of the continent was defined very clearly. Moreover, it has spread to the north and east, covering Central and even Northern Europe. The number of refugees from North Africa, Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan exceeded one million.

The immigration problem is closely linked to the internal situation in the EU, including such countries as the Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Finland. It had serious impact on the public policy and social climate. Nine Schengen countries have tightened their borders’ control, using not only police and border guards, but even the army.

As a result, uncontrolled migrant masses have been blocked on the southern European borders. Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia have installed border walls, using barbed wire to protect their territory against uninvited, fugitive, obscure and uncontrolled people flows of different ages, who pinned their hopes on their help.

Unrealistic expectations, distressful situation, unpractical demands often cause protests and aggression, criminal behavior of immigrants. This leads to tensions with the local population, violation of the social balance, which always was one of the EU top values. Certainly, the EU was not ready for this "immigration tsunami."

According to the rotation rules, from January 1, 2016, the Netherlands held the presidency of the European Union. There is no coincidence that the priority task for the half a year, as officially stated, was to overcome the migration crisis. However, the call to member states to share responsibility for the implementation of this task did not find support. Countries of the so-called second tier expressed dissatisfaction and refused the Brussels proposal to share the flow of refugees and to ensure the immigrants transit.

Positions of human rights organizations in countries such as Germany, Belgium, France, calling for tolerance and humanity, could not change the anti-immigration sentiments. EU leadership was forced to accept the need to tighten conditions for the immigrants’ admission to the European Union, introducing passport control at the internal borders, i.e. within the Schengen area, and strengthening the protection of external borders.

Attempts have been taken to attract Turkey to settle the crisis, because the most massive flow of migrants to Europe goes through that country. But appeal to Erdogan did not give desired results. During her visit to Turkey German Chancellor Angela Merkel received only vague promises to control migration and the statement that the offered three billion euros were clearly insufficient to resolve the problem. In March two special EU summits were convened with the invitation of the Turkish leadership. However, they did not solve the desired objectives and did not bring tangible results. Promises of Turkey to restrict and regulate number of migrants are accompanied by demands which are unacceptable to Brussels.

The behavior of Turkey is under increasing disapproval and direct criticism from the European countries and even the United States. It directly affects the aspirations to resolve the migrants’ problem.

At the same time, the situation in the southern European countries requires immediate intervention. By virtue of its geographical position Greece, Italy, Malta are the first on the path of the migratory influx. Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Serbia ring the alarm bells. Nine Schengen countries have tightened their borders control. Masses of migrants were locked on the Southern European borders due to tightened conditions.

After the construction of the border wall by Macedonia, Greece was "cut off" from Europe and became a "holding basin" for migrants. The receiving center, designed for 1,500 people, has accumulated more than 10,000. But Greece has no means and capabilities to accommodate migrants, give them food, medical treatment, filtration, documents (70% come without any papers). Humanitarian assistance by the United Nations and different charitable organizations, as well as 700 million euros allocated by Brussels to build housing for refugees are not enough. At the camps the migrants (their number is increased daily by 2,000) are forced to live in unacceptable conditions. In accordance with the decision of the EU summit Greece has started deportation of migrants to Turkey from countries that do not belong to the zones of military conflicts. However, this does not solve the problem.

The EU plan to establish in Ukraine a receiving center for refugees from Syria is unlikely to be fulfilled because of the population protests in this country, despite the clear desire of the Ukrainian leadership to receive the financial help from the West.

Brussels established a European Refugee Fund. However, there is a reluctance of some member states to allocate there part of national incomes. Difficulties arise in connection with the growth of anti-immigrant sentiments among Europeans who see a threat to their material and social status.

It seems that in the near future it will be difficult to reach consensus. Heads of EU states and governments clearly demonstrate difference between their national interests and intentions. This is evidenced by unilateral measures. There is a shift in the attitudes of such countries as Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and France, a convergence of small countries, the so-called Visegrad Four, who intend to speak with one voice on a number of issues.

A real threat appeared to the Schengen agreements. Passport control at internal borders confirms this. Serious disagreements are about quotas and distribution of migrants.

Polls show that the local population is opposed to temporary refugees’ camps in their current form. Hostilities or direct conflicts, even aggression, demolition of immigrants shelters (Camp Calais, France) are evident. In the Netherlands, 56% of the population is strictly against the migrants. The reason is not only financial costs (although only in 2015 the country spent 1.4 billion euros on reception, registration and support of migrants). Everywhere there is a fear of anti-social and sometimes criminal behavior of "guests", as well as terrorist attacks. No secret that not only refugees penetrate into the European countries but also radical Islamists, supporters of Daesh (ISIS, organization banned in Russia).

The immigration problem will inevitably affect the political climate in the EU. There is a revival and the growing influence of extreme right-wing forces which affect the results of elections in a number of countries. The idea of the incompatibility between "Europeanism" and Islam is maturing.

The only thing that meets universal support is the need to strengthen the protection of the EU external borders, of European values, social and economic gains, which have more than half a century. But this implies additional costs for armament and maintenance of forces designed to solve the most acute modern problem - to overcome the migration crisis. Can the EU cope with this task together with the need to overcome the global crisis in the economy, financial and social spheres, shattered party political system, complex relationship with the civil society? There is an urgent need not only to work out appropriate measures, but their effective implementation. At stake is the future of the European Union.

An important, if not decisive, role belongs to an ability to achieve broad-based compromise, concentration of the EU and member states leadership on the Pan-European problems. Life will show whether there is a wise political will to convince the EU to sacrifice national interests to resolve such problems as immigration, to show the same solidarity and cohesion, as recorded in all EU Treaties.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.