Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?

If the European parliament votes in favour of the new Morocco agreement without knowing that it complies with the European Court of Justice judgement, how can it demand that other countries respect international law and their own courts?

Trump's wall vs Europe's sea

Though we would never admit it, the only difference between Trump and the EU is we don't need a wall - because we're 'fortunate' enough to have the Mediterranean.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

News in Brief

  1. British PM scrapes through no confidence vote
  2. Spanish PM calls for EU gender equality strategy
  3. Farage says bigger Brexit majority if second referendum
  4. Macron starts 'grand debate' tour after yellow vests protests
  5. Barnier: up to London to take Brexit forward
  6. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  7. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  8. German economy hit by global economic turbulence

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  2. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  3. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  4. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  5. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  6. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  7. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  8. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us