Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers have become the main source of disagreement inside the European Union. Hungary lashed out at Austria and Germany for encouraging refugees to come to their countries through Hungary, effectively turning it into a migrant thoroughfare. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban gets tougher. He sounds like if we were a hundred years back in the days of extremely complex relationship between Austria-Hungary and Germany and rivalry between Vienna and Budapest.
Passions are running high in Scandinavia. Sweden and Denmark are on the verge of confrontation. Sweden appears ready to receive refugees and migrants but at the same time it tries to stop them from crossing the Swedish-Danish border. Stockholm says Copenhagen is trying to “get away with murder” at the expense of its northern neighbors. Bilateral talks and closed borders will not solve the problem. Europeans delegated authority to the European Commission and other bodies of European Union. They did it themselves. That’s the root of the problem. There is an established model of European integration where some states are totally excluded from decision-making process on some issues. If an issue related to protection of national interests comes to the fore, the model will have to be reviewed or a government will have to breach the established order. In turn, it will necessitate a regime change in a country that dares to choose this way of action.
Is it a possible scenario? As far back as late 1990s, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote that one of the major problems the European Union faces is the need to do away with national antagonism. One can say today that the external and internal policy of the EU leadership revives and fosters the antagonism Mr. Brzezinski talked about.
In 2008, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a think tank within the United States Intelligence Community, made a prediction that Western Europe could have 30 million Muslims by 2025 (Western Europe Muslim population totaled around 18 million). These estimates were based on the pattern of immigration and Muslim residents’ average fertility at the time the report was issued. It failed to take into consideration the very possibility of migration tsunami hitting Europe. Even then, some things caused alarm. The growing Muslim presence could result in increasing tensions and have a destabilizing effect, experts of National Intelligence Council warned.
Today the risks have grown exponentially. According to experts, around 800 thousand people are expected to ask for asylum in Germany this year alone. Half of them are expected to have their applications accepted. The same experts believe that Germans give little thought to possible consequences. The German authorities spread around the idea that the country needs large inflows of immigrants to maintain current living standards. Otherwise, German economy will face the gap in the labor force at 10 million people by the year 2030.
These estimates are well substantiated and that’s exactly what may cause further aggravation of the situation. Various norms and rules adopted by the European Union begin to contradict each other. On one hand, Brussels and some other EU members appeal to the Dublin agreement, which states that the country in which asylum seekers first enter the EU takes the full responsibility for them. On the other hand, the quota system imposed by the European Union makes all the participants host migrants/asylum seekers and shoulder the associated.
This collision offers a wide range of opportunities for leading EU members (mainly Germany, France and Austria) to manipulate the situation. They can choose the right people to satisfy their economic needs sending other refugees and migrants back to Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Greece.
European governments have already started haggling over quotas distribution. For instance, Spain has rejected the EU Commission quota plan and said it will accept only 2,749 (a surprising accuracy) of the 5,849 refugees it was asked to rehome.
The refugees’ problem splits the German ruling coalition. According to Munich municipal authorities, 40 thousand migrants arrived in the city last weekend to cause serious alarm. This federal state hosts around two thirds of refugees coming to Germany. The dramatic events that took place near the city’s main train station stunned the activists of local Christian Social Union (CSU). Horst Seehofer, CSU leader, criticized the chancellor’s decision to allow free flow of refugees and migrants coming to Germany from Hungary. The Interior Ministry of Mecklenburg–Vorpommern, another German state, called for taking immediate measures to stop the “free flow of refugees”, otherwise in a week or two the state will simply have no space to accommodate them.
European Commissioner for energy Gunther Oettinger offered nothing less than making amendments to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany to accelerate the adoption of decisions on refugee status. The Commissioner proposes a faster procedure of returning home migrants from safe countries. But the majority of refugees and migrants are coming from the countries that have become “unsafe” as a result of the policy implemented by the United States and its NATO allies. That’s the gist of the problem. The majority of NATO members are also members of the European Union.
Actually, the current crisis pointed out four fundamental weak points of the European Union.
First, the European Union is unable to implement an independent foreign policy without looking back at the United States. The events in North Africa, the Middle East, Ukraine and Russia confirm this fact.
Second, Brussels cannot make reliable forecasts and take precautionary measures.
Third, the European Union has no efficient mechanisms and strict rules to effectively manage the influx of refugees and migrants. The ones in place are not effective and often contradict each other.
Fourth, there are contradictions between EU members, its central agencies and national governments, as well as individual states.
The problem is complicated enough to question the vitality of the European Union. On September 13-14, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia reinstated border controls. Effectively, they have temporarily withdrawn from the Schengen system. Belgium and Poland may follow. What’s next?