Looking back at the year that has just ended the so-called “refugee crisis” remains the prevailing issue marking political controversies within the European Union. As compared to the previous year, there has been a decline in the number of people arriving in Europe crossing stormy seas and perilous – often deadly – routes. It’s the outcome of more or less effective policies and of measures that we can’t be too proud of. Indeed, walls and fences have been erected to halt the path of refugees and asylum-seekers.
The massive migration flow from Africa and the Middle East is a major challenge for Europe that it will be coping with throughout 2017 and in the coming years.
Given the powerlessness and complexity of this process, along with the difficulties it entails, defining it “a refugee crisis” is wide of the mark. In fact, we are faced with various juxtaposing, mutually intertwined problems. The ensuing crisis has become a testing ground for the European Union, challenging its cohesion, its determination. Europe is called to address a multi-faceted challenge involving domestic and foreign policies, and, last but not least, the ethical sphere. Humanity requires and demands assistance, support and closeness to those in need and in danger. However, reaching an agreement on organization, funding procedures, along with housing, assistance and integration measures, depends on the determination of Member Countries, in compliance with Community regulations and criteria. Are EU Member Countries willing and capable of adopting common migration policies and jointly agreed asylum regulations and procedures? Clearly, the capabilities of economically sound member Countries are not unlimited. There ensues that the EU must protect herself from those who take advantage of her availability to help, notably from organized crime. This involves in particular all those people in need of protection and assistance, in too many cases exploited by mobs that profit from the emergency situation. The question is: do and can Member Countries jointly protect the external borders of the EU and successfully control access to their national territories? Also in the interest of domestic security, the EU needs to know the names of those who arrived and settled down, also in the light of the evident dangers of imported terrorism. In order to reach a sustainable, effective solution to this problem stemming from the huge gap separating the poor Countries of Africa from the rich ones in Europe,
Europe must be prepared to address the causes of the plight of hundreds of thousands of people at Community level,
focusing her efforts on the uprooting of hunger, thirst and extreme poverty in the affected Countries via targeted, generous investments, whilst solving regional conflicts through diplomatic action, and if necessary, with military presence. EU institutions and member Countries’ leaders are seeking solutions to these challenges and are indeed making progress, albeit with hesitant, insufficient steps. A successful outcome is jeopardized by the fact that a number of national governments reject an equal division of responsibilities linked to the inflow of migrants and to their respective cultural, linguistic backgrounds and traditions.
Thus vanished mutual trust – critical to ensure cohesion.
Since solidarity is a primary value of the EU, the fundamental value of the European integration process and its goals, there is need for political unity or at least for unity of action among member Countries. The lack of solidarity between member Countries will result in insufficient understanding and unity. The dubiousness on the lasting validity of this ethical principle also thwarts initiatives aimed at the future growth of the European Union, urgently needed to counter the decline forecast by experts in this field. The latter refer to the UK’s decision to leave the EU to cope with the weaknesses of its own political system, evident also in the difficulties experienced when facing the challenges linked to the inflow of migrants.
European nations will be unable to solve this complex, multi-faceted crisis independently of each other.
Hence the European Union and its institutions will need to be strengthened, in order to ensure Community intervention and recover mutual trust.