AGUSTIN FERRARI BRAUN: ANOTHER CHANCE – THE REFUGEES’ GIFT TO THE EUROPEAN UNION – September 9th, 2015
This article reflects the views of the author, and not necessarily of The Wilberforce Society, which publishes this article in hopes of spurring a productive discussion on the topic.
Two weeks ago, the newspapers showed Germany’s worst face to the world. The country, still a synonym for Hitler for many, was represented by the violent neo-nazis attacks against refugees’ asylums. Hate, fear and xenophobia seemed to be Germany’s answer to the pleads of thousands of asylum-seekers that saw in that country a promised land far removed from the Middle East. And yet, today the nation’s image has radically changed. The violence is no longer at the center of the public eye (which does not mean that it has vanished) and what we see today is Munich police’s tweet asking citizens to stop bringing goods for the refugees as they had already enough to supply the needs of the people that would arrive that day and the day after.
Please do not bring any more goods for the Moment.The donations at hand will be sufficient for the refugees present and arriving today.
— Polizei München (@PolizeiMuenchen) September 1, 2015
The image that the rest of Europe is showing to the world is way less flattering. If we were optimistic we would say that it is the image of a bunch of blathering Brussels bureaucrats. If we were pessimistic we would assert that is rather one of police brutality and barbwire on the borders. None of them are exactly positive. The picture of Aylan, a three-year-old kid lying lifeless in a Turkish beach was so unbearable, so intolerable that our governments had to do something about the migratory crisis we are living in. And most of them did, creating a mad cacophony of different possible policies. Yet, we lack one single and unique decision about what to do shared by all the members of the European Union, the one trade block in the world that also has a political dimension.
The EU is not going through its easiest moment, the Grexit fear is no longer with us but Cameron’s referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership has a very tall shadow and it is an almost tangible proof of the union between the Old continent’s countries’ fragility. It is in that context that the largest migratory crisis in European soil since World War II takes place. One could think that this is the perfect occasion for the politicians to show that Europe can agree, that solidarity and moral values count more than political distinctions. Nevertheless, what we actually receive is the factual demonstration the incapacity of European governments to understand that union means strength.
David Cameron has announced that the United Kingdom will receive more than 20.000 refugees over five years but his major political play was revealing a targeted drone strike that killed two British soldiers of Daesh in Syrian soil back in August. This operation will hardly help the asylum-seekers, the Syrian population or even the war on terror but it clearly shows that Albion has its own particular policies regarding the Middle-East. Another, different, plan was presented by the French president François Hollande the very same day willing to give accommodation to 24.000 people but also planning bigger deportations of economic migrants. A weird cocktail that seemed consciously prepared to annoy both the Left and the Right. Yet, one of the most unbelievable cases happened in Spain where the cities ruled by the opposition have a different policy plan on asylum that the government. The migrant crisis is far too vast to expect a solution from one single state and the only ones that benefit from all those crossed declarations are the eurosceptic who can point out this mess with a sardonic smile and state the obvious inutility of the EU.
It is precisely the multiplication of eurosceptics that has to force the EU to make a move: one of its major flaws has always been its incapacity to produce a coherent discourse, shared by all its members, when it comes to significant geopolitical affairs. If this historical drawback is not overcome we, the ordinary citizens, are going to have to agree with Farage, Le Pen or Orbán and admit that Brussels is just a retirement home for politicians ending their careers. The migratory crisis we live in is a perfect occasion for the EU to prove the eurosceptics wrong but that means a consensus and common policies all across the continent involving both internal and foreign affairs.
The common domestic policy has to be based on an agreement between all the European leaders establishing how many refugees each country is going to receive and when they have to be received. Moreover, the agreement has to recognise that the people that are waiting just outside our borders, waiting to get into the Shengen Area will eventually pass and hence they have to be accounted for in the pact. This logically leads to the tear down of the walls created with the will of keeping the asylum-seekers out of Europe. In addition to that, the EU must help the different governments, especially the Greek one that is absolutely overwhelmed by a triple crisis (political, economical and migratory), in order to be sure that the different temporary asylums count with, at least, the minimal facilities needed to have satisfactory living conditions. Finally, European functionaries have to be where the refugees arrive in order to coordinate their correct distribution across the continent.
However, the hardest task for the EU is the common foreign policy. As almost every single commentator of this crisis has stressed, welcoming the refugees will not end the terrible situation of the Syrian people. The only way that our leaders seem to consider for ending this circumstance is a military intervention. Yet, before we start launching the rockets, they have to define very well the aims of the mission keeping Europe’s interests in mind. Syria’s strategic location is crucial for the distribution of pipelines in the Middle East, hence there are many economic interests; the European governments must not answer too promptly and without a careful analysis on what is the best for both Syrians and europeans. A quick attack can win some credit for the leaders on a short term basis but it could eventually bring more chaos and destruction to the region which would be terrible for us, the people that rely on them.
We are very well aware of the fact that those policies are going to be very expensive but with that money we could buy two things: firstly, a unique and coordinated answer of the EU to this crisis would save many lives and spare a lot of suffering to the refugees that had to flee their homeland. Secondly it would give the EU some political legitimacy that could help it face the new challenges that are right around the corner. As we said at the beginning of the article, Europe’s global image is nowadays full of barbwired xenophobia. The politicians can change that and, while doing so, start rebuilding the European dream; or they can stick to their individualities, keep on using contradictory policies and show the world that, at the end of the day, the EU is nothing but a trade block with a superiority complex.