The EU is politically, economically and culturally interconnected to key global players, from Russia to Turkey, from China to the US, whom it needs to confront if its wants to act globally. If Europe is divided internally, and the migration issue is only the top of the iceberg, how could it be a reliable interlocutor in front of its counterparts and how could it push forward its interests?
The EU Council last June has definitively been a stress-test for the EU and its member states, for several reasons. First of all, because anticipated by very strong political confrontation between EU member states, namely on the migration issue which has, again, proven how the EU still does not have a comprehensive and long-term strategy on it. Secondly, because Germany itself attended the EU Council without a clear unique position, with Chancellor Merkel divided between domestic political issues and the need to push forward European unity. Thirdly, because Southern European countries, those more affected by the migration wave, came to the Council already divided among themselves: the fact that Spain and Italy joined the Council represented by freshly nominated new governments could have been a mitigating circumstance, however not sufficient to justify such a lack of solidarity.
Italy, Spain, Malta and France could have joined the Council with a common strategy to be presented to European counterparts. However, they missed this opportunity to create an alternative front to the Visegrad one, which quite clearly has different interests and priorities on migration. The lack of solidarity, between Southern and Northern member states as well as between Southern member states themselves, has dominated the Council. Apart from public statements on how Italy has been left alone to manage migration flows, with the only result to subcontract its management to Libya and previously to Turkey, no concrete step and measure came out of the Council. Italy has tried to Europeanise the concept of maritime borders, however unsuccessfully.
If we look at the Council conclusions, Europe has committed itself, under the umbrella of a comprehensive approach made of more effective control of the EU’s borders, external action and the domestic factors, to prevent a new wave of uncontrolled migration as it was in 2015. However, what is still missing is a fundamental acknowledgment: before managing flows, which reaches Europe through the Central, Eastern and Western routes, the EU should tackle concretely economic, social, political instability in those countries of origin. The first step to do so is to put aside pure national interests and to start working together to stabilize the region: basically, to go beyond public statements and seat around the same table and build up a new strategy for the region. In addition to this, member states missed another opportunity: to revise the Dublin regulation which it is clear that doesn’t work anymore: created before the Arab Spring, which totally re-shaped North Africa politically and economically, it does not fit in the current geopolitical scenario anymore. And it is likely that the issue will be postponed to October council: at which political costs? Without even mentioning the humanitarian disaster we are facing daily.
And, another missed opportunity: to speak with one voice and to be a credible interlocutor in the eyes of regional and global partners, on migration as well as on other dossiers. The EU is politically, economically and culturally interconnected to key global players, from Russia to Turkey, from China to the US, whom it needs to confront if its wants to act globally. If Europe is divided internally, and the migration issue is only the top of the iceberg, how could it be a reliable interlocutor in front of its counterparts and how could it push forward its interests? The July NATO Summit will be of vital importance both for the EU itself and for the future of its relations with Russia and the US. If the EU Council and migration were not the case, will the EU manage to come united at least on its security architecture and its relations with Russia?