Undoubtedly, 2015 has been the refugees’ year in Europe. According to the UNHCR, around 1,006, 768 immigrants have arrived in the European Union fleeing from war and poverty across the Mediterranean Sea. In absolute terms this figure represents half of Turkey’s burden, and proportionally, a shameful comparison with counties as buoyant as Lebanon. However, this burden may be heavy enough to make the veil fall off, revealing the weaknesses of the current EU model, already downgraded by the loss of legitimacy of the last civic features of the mercantilist European project: The Schengen area.
It is true that, according EU and Frontex data – and despite the fact that the lawfulness of the solution is more than doubtful – the best way to prevent illegal entry and shut down internal political turmoil is subsidising third party-countries to block migration routes. It succeeded in the relations between Morocco and Spain, and on a larger scale this will now happen with Turkey. However, the long-term cost of these measures perhaps suggests that the remedy has been worse than the disease itself.
Apart from the embarrassment of many people to recognize themselves Europeans, the solution adopted to save Schengen triggered a chain reaction that has revealed all the weaknesses of the EU:
- Obsolete legislation and slow policy making process: While people have been stuck between borders, the Dublin Regulation has proven itself inappropriate to address the issue. Adjusting it could take take years.
- Lack of competences on behalf EU institutions: The European Commission has no power to condition member states behaviour. Donald Tusk‘s act behind the curtain, and despite finding serious legal deficiencies in the agreement, the European Parliament has no power to block it.
- Lack of political will, internal fractures and rise of xenophobic claims: National politicians are only listening to the EU when it comes to money, prioritizing their re-elections rather than sound evidence-based policies implementation. UK immigration is used as a weapon within the context of Brexit and could generate a dangerous contagion effect on other electoral processes. In addition, countries such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden are performing U-turns, and are even considering confiscating refugees’ money and goods to cover the costs they generate. The Visegrad Group continues using the manual “What-you-should-not-do-in-a-migration-crisis” fostering illegal and discriminatory measures, installing razor fences and spreading anti-Muslim institutional messages.
- Systematic undermining of the public: Southern countries, especially Greece, suffer financial deprivation derived from austerity policies. This fact hampers their ability to comply with the minimum legal standards. In addition, funds or EU civil servants arrive slowly and always conditioned by the subrogation of public services that damage basic democratic principles.
- Lack of real external influences: The EU is no longer able to influence their surroundings in a military nor a diplomatic way that would build peace. Moguerini’s tears were other symptoms of powerlessness to influence European geo-political reality beyond trade agreements that do not solve anything to anyone except for multinationals. Solutions such as the current migration crisis, only weaken the negotiating position and external image in other fields of where the homework was being done right.
Either way, unjustified militarisation of borders, outsourcing the control of external borders to countries like Morocco and Turkey (which do not ensure respect for human rights) ends an already embarrassing process to seek solutions. When the EU divested itself of the little moral authority it remained, it illuminates a path to rethink and perhaps even rebuild the EU model, or on the contrary, face a fight for its own survival against the fragility of its external image and the detachment on behalf of EU citizens, who share fewer values as the days go by.