Rado's Blog

Dropping the ballast

European Union is not sailing the waves of multiple crises particularly well. It is still floating, but just barely, patching things up and dropping the ballast.

Last year, when the existence of Eurozone was (again) in question, Greece was ritually sacrificed. It´s new government had to swallow a bitter – and largely counter-productive – medicine, ordered by international creditors. Athens have yielded when the rest had threatened to drop them like a ballast. That´s what was in fact Wolfgang Schäuble´s suggestion of “temporary Greek exit” from Eurozone

The same tactics – ritual public immolation – is being applied in the migration crisis.

EU and it´s member states have more than one reason to feel ashamed of what´s happening in their neighbourhood. To control the complex refugee crisis, we have to adopt a multi-level solutions, addressing the whole chain – from instability in the Middle East and Afghanistan, through help to neighbouring countries, opening legal migration routes, etc. up to fair distribution of asylum seekers, and integration measures. Still, the EU leaders seem to put fetishist believe in the “border protection”.

The reasons are obvious. EU is not able to create a working mechanism for fair distribution of asylum seekers – largely thanks to unhelpful positions of countries like Slovakia. As for the causes of the crisis, in the short term there is little that the EU could do (stopping the civil war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, stabilising countries in Africa, etc.), or would do except for empty promises (i.e. helping countries like Lebanon or Jordan, boosting funds for international organisations). Turkey is upping the price for becoming the EU buffer zone. Last but not least, traumatised voters are asking for uncertain protection of barbed wires and police cordons.

But there´s a problem. It´s really hard to barbed-fence the Greek border. And so far (thank God – but for how long?) we have not come to situation when majorities would accept sinking rubber boats on open seas. There´s one solution left. Shifting the border. Obliterating Greece we could keep all those immigrants out of Schengen.

There´re at least three signs that this is what the EU is preparing to “save Schengen”. First, Commission has published a scathing report, which blames Greece for serious flaws in protection of external borders. Some politicians, including those from Slovakia, have “smartly” remarked that “Greek could do it, if they´d have wanted”. Let the Frontex say whatever they want about physical impossibility of closing the sea border…

Second, this spring the Commission will allow to prolong “temporary” border controls to two years. And this is a politically long period. Last but not least, external border agency will get mandate to intervene in non-member countries. Soon it will be “strengthening the protection” of Greek-Macedonian border (something that several states have already started to do on bi-lateral basis).

Now Athens are facing an impossible choice: Either they accept becoming a huge refugee camp for Schengen (yes, we will send them policemen, maybe we´d even help them with providing food and housing, but forget relocation schemes), or it would end up de-facto out of Schengen – and become a huge refugee camp for all those unfortunate souls, trying to get to “better Europe”.

Indeed, offers that are impossible to decline. You can sense that spirit of solidarity.


The post is based on commentary published in the Slovak daily Pravda


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