Rebuilding Fortress Europe

 

Angela Merkel was not handed the lifeline she hoped for at the EU’s mini-summit on migration yesterday, instead she now knows that with the exception of the arch sycophant Macron, the bloc now agrees that migrants, particularle the uneducated, illiterate bones who refuse to learn the language of their host nation and integrate with its society, must be kept far away from civilised European societies.

With Sunday’s mini-summit on migration in Brussels behind her and no prospect of a pan European deal on resettlement of economic migrants masquering as refugees or asylum seekers ahead, can Chancellor Angela Merkel hope to present her partners in Germany’s ruling coalition and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer with an answer as to how refugees can be packed off back to Italy? No. Merkel must work out a bilateral solution if she wants to achieve any progress on this front. Given the self-confident new government in Rome, which is laying down the terms on which Italy’s immigration policy will operate, one can only wish her good luck with that.

More than one EU head of state said after the Brussels meeting ended that the event was not intended to throw Merkel a lifeline as she faces domestic political challenges over how best to handle asylum-seekers coming to Europe. However, she seized the occasion on Sunday to wrap up a move to the right in migration policy.

There was a lot of chatter from Merkel and Macron over how to better secure external borders, a key part of the migration debate. Yet the EU’s few land borders to the south have already been secured in unilateral actions by member states. Barbed wire fences could be made taller, and more border guards could be stationed there, but the barriers are already in place. ~It was also suggested rather spuriously, that EU member states could receive more money to put toward strengthening their own border efforts. The EU Commission has called for 10,000 border guards to give the impression of a well-protected Europe.

A guard stands watch in front off a barbed wire fence (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Barbed wire fences are already present on many of Europe’s southern borders

 

Things have moved on since 2015 however,  now the border issue is actually about closing off the Mediterranean Sea route. Italy has already asked other EU countries for patrol boats — a request aimed primarily at its Mediterranean neighbor France. In principle, French President Emmanuel Macron supports the Rome government’s position that responsibility for rescuing refugees out of the waters of the Mediterranean, especially those near the Libyan coast, lies with the coast guard there, which should be rewarded with more equipment and money. Austria’s conservative chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, also is quite excited about France’s movement on this issue.

When discussing migration, President Macron likes to wax lyrical about European values, but he is one of the first to disregard them (a typical French trait is to talk the talk but leave others to walk the walk.)

Hundreds of thousands of economic migrants from impoverished, culturally and economically backward African nations are currently trapped in Libya. Handing them over to face the brutality of the militias would be inhumane and potentially unlawful. ?Delivering them into the hands of organised crime networks involved in people trafficking is tantamount to murder.  They are no longer humans; they are merely undesirables that Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini can refer to as “meat” or “goods” without causing an outraged uproar.

What has any of this to do with the EU values Macron talks about but has never tried to define? Still the guy was an investment banker so what else should we expect?

The new populists ruling Italy will continue to push the remaining EU members along in the debate over migration. Macron has joined ranks because he does not want to offer France’s far-right extremists any room to attack. In the same fold are the right-wing populist Austrian government and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), which is challenging Merkel. Chancellor Merkel can only go with the flow if she wants to save her own skin.

 

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