How the refugees crisis will shape the future of the European Union

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A picture that could drastically reshape the future of the European project. Reading the history of the European unification, we all know that only crises have the power to inject a new impetus in the most ambitious and complex political process ever known in  modern times where sovereign nations are slowly and incrementally creating the building blocks of a new political entity, a federation of states that despite different cultures and traditions, are all united by common principles and values.

The same common principles and values are actually what underpin the vision of an “ever closer union”, a concept currently fought by David Cameroon and a good part of  British society.

It seems that the British are not alone in their quest to change the most important paradigm at the foundation of  the entire process of European unification.

The recent rejection by the so called Visegrad Group states - the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, to accept mandatory quota of refugees reflects an increasingly bigger divide splitting the EU into two groups proving that the unification of  Eastern Europe with the rest of the European nations when the  Berlin wall fell was not carried out on a solid foundation.

While thousands of migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea for the last two years, a single picture, the one portraying a small Kurdish child drowned while attempting to reach the shores of Greece with his family, sent waves of shocks and horror throughout the entire world.

Only a few weeks ago the corpses of a dozen of migrants were found in various states of decomposition in an abandoned truck on a highway nearby Wien at the same time when the EU leaders were meeting their counterparts from the Balkans States just a few kilometers away.

While these two tragic episodes symbolically represent the thousands of refugees who did not make it, at the same time all our attention, almost like we were watching a reality show, were diverted to those other refugees, mostly all from from middle and upper classes families from Syria as reported by the New York Times, who made it to Hungary and Austria, all desperate and determined to reach Germany, the new heaven.

Overwhelmed by the images of this latter group of refugees, storming the central train station in Budapest on their way to Germany, eventually Chancellor Merkel started feeling the heat and, as always, started to react.

Ironically it has been years since the Italians, the Greeks and the Maltese have been pleading for a stronger European common approach to the migration crisis. Recently things had improved with the EU agreeing to deploy a naval military mission to reduce the flow of migrants coming from Libya.

Probably this was the reason why the mafias controlling the trafficking business decided to go for the Balkans route with thousands of refugees able to reach Germany by land. (I am wondering if any intelligence analysts could have ever imagined this second route as an alternative to the Mediterranean one).


Suddenly the Germans woke up realizing the vulnerability of their borders, finding their own  Lampedusa, the tiny Italian island off the costs of Tunisia flooded by migrants, in the central railway station of Munich, the rich capital of the Free State of Bavaria, the southernmost German state.

So given the magnitude of the emergency, no one should be surprised that Chancellor Markel is taking the initiative, proposing  a mandatory quota of refugees’ distribution among the countries of the European Union.

Only a few months ago the same proposal prepared by the European Commission that acts as informal government of the EU was rejected. Countries could not even agree on how to distribute 40.000 refugees, a figure far below the real number ] now reaching Europe.

Now the Germans and French will come up with a new proposal that will be discussed in a special EU Summit on 14th of September. At the same time, policy makers are waiting for the first Speech of the Union from the European Commission President Junker that had strongly but in vain pushed for the adoption of the mandatory quota system a few months ago.

Will Merkel succeed where Junker failed? Despite the claims about the German hegemonic role in the Union, the real truth is that Germany, with no doubt, the most powerful economic member of the bloc, can only play a role of primus inter pares, first among equals. In matters such as migration, each member state can block any attempt of “federating” the issue by relinquishing their powers on the subject to the European Commission in Brussels.

Once again the Visegrad Group of nations, an informal alliance, is trying its best to block any  attempts of mandatory division of migrants.

Correctly Chancellor Markel said that migration is a more threatening problem for the entire European project than the Euro crisis.

On this she is absolutely right; solving this human catastrophe is all about implementing the core values of the Union. Solidarity (despite the Germans rejecting hypocritically a system of financial transfers between richest and poorest members) is a cornerstone of the European Union. If some eastern Europeans are rejecting it, they are skipping one of their key responsibilities as members of a Union based on common principles and a shared vision. I am wondering if they really deserve being part of the EU.

It is ironic to think that only twenty years ago these same countries were the ones in desperate need of help. As a child I still remember the Sunday mornings where I used to see the buses of Polish citizens in a park station just outside the highway near home, who had crossed half of the continent just to sell communist era vintage over the weekend.

A tragic picture of a dead child on Greek beach can remind all Europeans what are the values we stand for. The future lays in a stronger and united federation. We are already a confederation though no one wants to admit it. The members using the Euro as currency will forge ahead in a real federation while the eastern Europeans with the British and some Scandinavians will claim their role exclusively in an economic  and trade union.

It is not only them who are not willing to join a further process of unification. Simply right now they are not up to being members of such a political union. They do not deserve it.

They will never unless they drastically change their attitudes and own up to their responsibilities of being part of a political process based on common values.

For sure what we know is that this crisis will help in redefining what the EU will become in the next twenty years.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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