By Jan Čarnogursky
Since the massive outbreak of the refugee crisis which began to hit Europe in August and September this year, approximately 1 million refugees have fled from war torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, African countries as well as from Western Balkan states, in order to seek asylum in Europe or look for decent work opportunity in Europe. The flow of refugees which came from Turkey, Greece and from the Mediterranean shore of Africa has reached in the last weeks such dramatic proportions that countries like Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany were coming to their limits with more than 20.000 refugees trying to cross the borders per day, in the hope to find some safe place in Germany, Sweden or elsewhere.
In Germany the number of arriving refugees (10.000 and more in the last 20 days per day alone in Munich!) has escalated so dramatically that all estimates made by German Interior Minister de Maizière that by the year end Germany would receive 800.000 refugees -which must be registered – is as of now overrun by reality; serious estimates speak of more than 1 million refugees.
In turn this reality has provoked dramatic tensions within the EU. The majority of the Eastern European States, the so called Visegrád states (among them Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Romania) have in the last 24 hours (22.09.15) rejected the proposal which was made by EU Commissioner Claude Juncker, as well as by the majority of the EU Interior ministers who decided in a majority vote to introduce a quota system in order to distribute 120.000 refugees among all EU states. Despite an EU majority decision it seems that some Eastern European states are not going to accept the qualified majority decision, a further crack in the European Union.
The way in which things are actually developing and the expectation that in reality several more million refugees will try to seek refuge in Turkey, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Sweden makes clear that the EU is facing the biggest political, economic and moral challenge since the end of the second world war; a crisis which may break the EU apart. The crisis is accompanied by a very harsh tone of language (exemplified by the dialogue between Hungary and Germany) and has prompted the countries which refer to their right of sovereign territorial protection to build iron fences and introduce harsh border controls.
The question is: Where will the whole process lead to? It is clear that nobody at this point is telling the EU populations how many more million refugees are trying to flee to Europe. At the same time there is no strategic debate within the EU which addresses the “real” causes for the refugee drama – the wars in Syria and Iraq. With the exception of a few voices governments follow the dictum of the US government which has started the wars in the first place, leaving the entire Mideast in chaos that is still is supported by EU powers such as GB and France. The only sensible solution to bring the unfolding drama within the EU to a halt is to end the war with a peace that is negotiated between the present Syrian government, Russia, USA and Europe, as well as neighboring Arab states.
The following article is a commentary written by the former Prime Minister of the Slovak Federal Republic and former Justice Minister Dr.Ján Čarnogurský. The article was first published in Valdai Discussion Club (17.09.15).
The influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East in Europe has become a tragicomic problem of the European Union – tragic for migrants and comical for the European Union. Their numbers are growing incessantly. Last summer, there were tens of thousands a month, now they come in hundreds of thousands. The internal rhetoric of the European Union is focused on compulsory quotas for individual states. In accordance with the decision, Brussels sets the quota for migrants that each EU state is compelled to accommodate on its territory. The quotas go up every month. For instance, Slovakia was to accommodate about 500 migrants in the early summer, the figure has risen to around 1,200. No one can predict how many there will be next year. Politicians of the European Union, however, are drudgingly avoiding talks about the causes of the migrant inflow: wars in the Middle East unleashed by the United States and actively backed by the European Union. Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls deemed the influx of migrants as a European problem that countries cannot solve on their own. Yet, he did not mention that the inflow had been orchestrated by France under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, when it intervened in the civil war in Libya in 2011, aided in ousting Muammar Gaddafi and destroyed Libya as a state, whence thousands of migrants rushed towards Europe. Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico ventured to demand at the meeting of heads of government of the Visegrád Four in Prague that the causes of migration to Europe should be named. France during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy was the only country he addressed on the matter. He did not have the courage to appeal to the US. Not a single European government politician calls backing of the civil war in Syria by the West to be the source of migration. Such politician would not last long in the government.
Setting forth the causes of migration to Europe is the first step in solving the problem. The United States stood at the origins of mass migration to Europe, and now the US looks upon it as a solely European problem. Sometimes it addresses us with a pep talk (Hillary Clinton) that Europe will cope with migration. Europe’s inability to name the causes of migration exposes its inner debility. Seeing that influx of unarmed migrants has never provoked turmoil in the history of Great Powers. But the European Union is shivering under the gush of migrants and inventing solutions (a quota system), only to encourage a higher inflow of migrants. Perhaps, the EU wants to compensate its negative role in the civil war in Syria by greater readiness to accept Syrian refugees. Migrants have already figured that out and made pragmatic use of it. Refugees from other countries of the Middle East are trying to pass as refugees from Syria.
The inability of European politicians to name the causes of migration is bound with their inability to free themselves from ideology, the source of which, first of all, can be found on the eastern coast of the US. In accordance with the ideology, the world should be organized in a way that would facilitate constant spread of the most perfect, i.e. American, democracy. Seems like Trotskyism the other way around. Leon Trotsky wanted to spread the communist revolution all over the world, while modern Trots want to propagate American democracy all over the world. Europe has already paid for leadership in the ideology once. Before the beginning of the acute phase of the war in Yugoslavia, Croatian President Franjo Tuđman and Serbian President Slobodan Milošević agreed in advance that Yugoslavia would be divided according to national and religious borders. The agreement would have saved Yugoslavia and Europe from the bloody war. But it did not fit into the Western ideology of Yugoslavia’s breakup in line with the existing administrative borders, it could not be put into practice, and the bloody war began. The outcomes of it echo to this day.
Amid the current European discussion about the migrant quotas of individual states, Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico said that Slovakia would accept only Christians from the Middle East, should quotas be adopted. They are more culturally congenial to Slovakia and integrate into the Slovak society easier. His words stirred frantic protests in the Slovak liberal press! Afterwards, Slovakia got in tune with the general line of the Visegrád Four, which repelled the system of compulsory quotas as a whole. Whether the quota system can solve the problem is debatable from another standpoint as well. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was right when he said at the European Parliament that the problem of migration was, first and foremost, the problem of Germany, because all migrants wanted to settle in Germany as the state with the highest living standards. Not one of them wants to live in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland or any other states. If other EU countries accept them within the framework of quotas, they will use the first opportunity they get to move to Germany or, perhaps, to Great Britain. Whether Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary manage to relinquish the system of compulsory migrant quotas for individual states is uncertain. So far, no one in the EU has offered a sensible solution to the problem of migrants. Meanwhile, the starting point in solving the problem is obvious. The causes of the migration wave must be outlined, in other words, first of all, the war in the Middle East and those responsible for unleashing it. Support for the civil war in Syria must end and, on the contrary, the legal regime there should be backed as a shield from terrorism. The problem of migrants should be settled in such a way that they would be better off living in their own country than moving abroad.
Realism, however, does not nourish expectations of such boldness from European governments. Realism forces to prepare for continuation of the tragedy of migrants from Africa and the Middle East and the bitter comedy of European politicians.
Jan Carnogursky is former Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Member of the board of directors, Paneuropean University Bratislava.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club’s, unless explicitly stated otherwise.