Will Refugee Flows Split EU?
Vladimir NESTEROV | 31.10.2015 | OPINION

Will Refugee Flows Split EU?

The urgent EU summit in Brussels took place on October 25 upon the initiative of Angela Merkel to tackle the migration problem. The event brought together Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Romania, and Croatia – the countries hit hardest by the refugee flows. The summit took place right after Merkel visited Turkey with no concrete results achieved (Ankara will continue to push refugees out to make them go to Europe). The German Chancellor has to act quickly. According to the recent Emnid weekly surveythe support for her government slipped as low as 37 per cent.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said before the summit that the leaders of the nations locate along the Western Balkans migration route should shoulder the burden of crisis and stop waving migrants through to neighboring EU member-states. According to him, they should impose tighter controls on the flow of refugees from the Middle East to Europe and provide for humanitarian aid. Otherwise, the Schengen agreement will be jeopardized, the head of European Commission warned.

The summit’s agenda included taking measures to impede border crossings without prior permission of the receiving countries, strengthening EU border controls in the Balkans, improving the system of registering arrivals of migrants and deportation of those deemed ineligible for asylum in Europe. The participants agreed that the problem has become critical enough to imperil the existence of the European Union.

The situation is especially troubling in Slovenia. The country is overwhelmed by flood of migrants. Speaking at the summit, Slovenia’s Prime Minister Miro Cerar warned that the EU would «start falling apart» if it failed to take concrete action to tackle the refugee crisis within the next few weeks. «If we don't find a solution today, if we don't do everything we can today, then it is the end of the European Union as such», Cerar told reporters. The Prime Minister realizes that he can not rely on the unity of the European Union. Miro Cerar is ready to act on his own. According to him, if there is no concrete and urgent plan of action, then many countries will have to take unilateral measures. He will do his utmost to protect Slovenian security if need be, because his country is within the zone of risk. 

The concern expressed by Prime Minister of Slovenia is justified. 58 thousand migrants came to the country with the population of two million people during the week before the October 25 summit. How many will have come before the end of the year? 

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović also demanded concrete steps instead of empty words. «I came to discuss, not to adopt a joint conclusion, which leads nowhere», he said. Before the summit Milanović said the proposals were written by the people who had no idea of what was going on. «That is impossible. Whoever wrote this does not understand how things work and must have just woken up from a months-long sleep», he said. The Croatian Prime Minister believes that establishing control over the migrant flows at the Greece-Turkey border, the place where asylum seekers enter the territory of the European Union, is the only way to tackle the crisis. «It has to be tackled in Turkey and Greece», Milanovic noted. 

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban was assertive, as he normally is. He did not go into details about creating centers and providing refugees with humanitarian aid. Instead he firmly said that the European Union must immediately end the «open door policy» and stop encouraging more migrants to come. 

Angela Merkel went through hard time having come under harsh, though veiled, criticism. She greatly contributed to the all-European disaster with her policy of «widely open doors». This time again she managed to speak without saying anything in concrete terms. «We are all duty-bound by the Geneva Conventions. We have standards for human dignity and that’s why this is about relief and about how to share these tasks on the so-called Balkan route. Of course we will also talk about further developing registration centers on the outer borders. Better protection of the EU borders is an important task as we know», said Merkel.

Not everyone wants to see new reality, no matter the need to stop refugee flows pouring from Turkey to Europe is becoming more evident. For instance, European Parliament President Martin Schulz prefers lecturing. He says it’s a shame that there are people in Europe who try to stop the refugee flows with the use of force.

Looks like Germany finds it more important to keep watch on the PEGIDA (the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) activities than take steps to prevent the entry of Islamic State militants mixed with asylum seekers. No matter that, PEGIDA keeps on getting stronger with more cells established.

The Brussels summit participants finally agreed on the 17-point plan of action.

It would seem, the increase of reception capacities by 100,000 temporary places for shelter and rest along the Western Balkans route (not in Austria or Germany) is the most meaningful step envisaged by the document. Greece is to create 50 percent of these places. Reception capacities of the Western Balkan countries (mainly Serbia and Macedonia) will be increased by 50,000 places. Today Slovenia is the first to bear the brunt and the burden of the refugee crisis. The summit participants took a decision to deploy 400 police officers and essential equipment in that country within a week. The EU leaders agreed to work with Frontex (the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) to monitor crossings at the Greece-Macedonia-Albania-Serbia borders.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres lectures the European Union saying it has to receive refugees and provide for their future. The European Union does not agree it’s under such an obligation. It evidently prefers to keep Muslim refugees on the Western Balkans route for a long time, if not forever.

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