Monday

23rd Apr 2018

Opinion

What Central Europeans want to know on the refugee crisis

  • Lack of clarity, not xenophobia, is behind resistance to quotas (Photo: European Commission)

With its decision, in early September, not to return Syrian nationals to EU transit countries, Germany unilaterally suspended the bloc’s Dublin rules, creating a pull effect for migrants.

Tens of thousands of people are now trying to cross EU borders, determined to reach Germany and apply for asylum there.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Last week, the European Commission also presented a new legislative package to address the crisis.

At its core is a temporary relocation mechanism (for 120,000 migrants, in addition to the 40,000 previously proposed) as well as a proposal for a permanent relocation mechanism, to be triggered if a country is experiencing a “large and disproportionate inflow of third-country nationals”.

Germany and the Commission’s approach have had an impact on public opinion in western Europe, creating the impression that if EU states show solidarity, the problem will be solved.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

The resistance which the Commission quotas face in Central and Eastern Europe is not caused by lack of solidarity, nor, for the most part, by xenophobic sentiment.

It’s the magnitude of the refugee numbers - more than 1 million are expected to come to the EU this year - which prompts the misgivings.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn has estimated there are up to 20 million refugees in our part of the world who would welcome the opportunity to seek protection in Europe.

The population of Africa is forecast to double by 2050 and the wars in Africa and the Middle East look unlikely to go away.

All signs indicate that millions will keep coming, making the Commission proposal for 160,000 people look out of touch.

The quota proposal contains no ideas on how to control asylum seeker arrivals. Like Germany, it will send out the message that more people are welcome and prompt more people to make the journey to Europe.

Don’t get us central Europeans wrong: We’re ready to shelter people in need of protection, as we did during the 1990s Balkan wars.

But taking in ever-greater numbers of displaced people won’t solve the problems in the Middle East.

We should instead help improve conditions in the refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

There’s a need for huge financial investment, deployment of other resources, and, indeed, EU resettlement programmes. But as part of a coherent, long-term strategy, not as a knee-jerk reaction to individual tragedies.

People in Central and Eastern Europe want answers, from Germany, from EU institutions, and from our own governments, to important questions.

How will Germany regain control of the chaotic situation, in which tens of thousands of people breach EU borders to reach their preferred asylum destination, in violation of EU laws?

What will we do if the hundreds of thousands turn to millions and our reception capacities break down?

Are we creating a system of ever-increasing EU relocation quotas, with proposed figures becoming out-of-date before they even enter into force?

What is the mid- and long-term plan?

How do we ensure that relocated people who don’t want to stay in Central and Eastern Europe don’t just go to Germany or Sweden?

How do we maintain Schengen-area travel freedoms while keeping those people in place?

There are other questions too.

Do Germany and the EU Commission understand that people in Africa and the Middle East have access to social media, and that their message, of open doors, and of generous state support, will motivate many more to come?

Given Europe’s old shortcomings on integrating Muslim communities, and the new problem of radicalisation, do we really believe that the integration of hundreds of thousands of people from conflict zones will be any more successful?

There is no other way to face these challenges than through a common EU asylum system, common protection of EU borders, and a common re-admission policy.

But without credible answers to these questions and efficient measures to regain control over EU immigration, the crisis threatens to begin a slow, and painful, disintegration of what we’ve built.

Radko Hokovský is executive director of the European Values think tank in Prague

What Central Europe got right about the refugee crisis

The perception that Western Europe cares about refugees while Eastern Europe does not is overly simplistic. Despite hatred incited by some leaders, proposals made by Eastern Europeans have proven sensible in the long run.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  2. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  3. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  4. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement
  5. Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD
  6. Report: EU budget to refocus on South
  7. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  8. MEPs urge better protection for journalists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly
  2. France tightens immigration law, sparking division
  3. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  4. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  5. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  6. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  7. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  8. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights