Will the Black Sea Become Refugees’ Next Gateway to Europe?

Migration or, more precisely, the crisis in migration policy, continues to be Europe’s main challenge – and moreover, one that is ever evolving. EU leaders are obviously planning to involve more and more players in its resolution. Having failed to forge a common position among the EU member states, they are trying to exploit the ambitions of some post-Soviet states, playing on their desire to get closer to the EU and become part of its social system. After all, Ukraine and Georgia are primarily motivated by the desire to use the clear benefits of this system to address their own difficulties, and hope for material support in the future. The EU social system is justifiably viewed as the main factor that makes the EU special, and the European Social Model (ESM) has become a major part of the EU’s values, where pluralism of values is itself a value. 

However, the EU already has to give up some of its assumptions. The emergence of camps for migrants and protective walls on national borders, as well as the use of the police and armed forces against the onslaught of an aggressive civilization are posing a threat to the Schengen agreements and European democracy, where restrictions come in a precise legal framework, which migrants are often reluctant to accept. This is demonstrated by how they get to Europe. 

Unable to cope with the mounting waves of migrants, Brussels is trying to find additional organizational capacities to better control their access to EU territory. The refusal of some countries to abide by the assigned quotas is making a bad situation worse. These are the so-called small countries – Austria, Bulgaria, and the Baltic and Visegrad states. 

A summit on the migration issue was convened on Malta in March 2015. There was general recognition that the number of migrants had grown and the EU lacked a strategy. A special fund established in cooperation with African nations to help reintegrate the returning migrants (provide them with education and job opportunities) failed to fulfill its purpose. The first attempts to coordinate the actions of partner countries were beset by corruption and mismanagement. 

It was proposed to create a network of camps for preliminary relocation outside EU territory. Some Brussels politicians thought post-Soviet space was the most attractive and affordable place for this purpose. Speaking in the European Council, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz suggested offering Georgia visa-free travel in exchange for hosting a camp for refugees on the way to the EU. The European Council approved this proposal and also mentioned Ukraine fulfilling the same role. 

Is there a threat that the Black Sea will follow the Mediterranean in becoming a permanent route for the motley flow of migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia with transit centers in post-Soviet states? Bulgaria and Romania are also Black Sea countries and they are not sufficiently strong or technically equipped to handle the challenge of single-handedly securing their borders, while the absence of a common strategy in EU migration policy is making a bad situation worse. 

Obviously, along with refugees from war-torn countries (Syrians and Iraqis who have already been recorded on vessels seized by border police off Romanian shores) these routes may be used by smugglers, drug and human traffickers and terrorists. Only cooperation and coordinated action among the Black Sea countries can ensure tranquility in the region and prosperity for its residents. 

In addition, it is vital that the EU leaders adopt a clear-cut and consistent policy, abandon political bias, hold immediate consultations and reach agreement on joint actions with the Russian Federation. This country has its own justifiable historical and political interests in the Black Sea and is an extremely powerful player in the region. Possessing enormous military capabilities, reliable defenses and strong political will, Russia is truly capable of monitoring the situation, putting an end to the uncontrolled flow of migrants rushing on to Europe through the Black Sea, and acting as a guarantor in the settlement of the region’s problems. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.