Europe's shameful role in the migrant crisis

Europe's shameful role in the migrant crisis

The European Union, which has so harshly criticized Trump for his wall with Mexico, has now stepped into his shoes. Writes Ivor Mickovski

The migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border has, for the umpteenth time, exposed all the confusion, hypocrisy and division that reigns in the Union. If the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, really thinks what he has said, namely that there is a legal possibility of financing the walls and barriers at the EU's external borders, then the Union is definitely capitulating in front of Poland, which violates EU rules, as well as in front of Belarus and Russia, which are using the case to put pressure on Europe.

Although a Brussels spokesman later clarified that the decision not to finance walls or barriers at the EU's external borders was based on a political decision, not a legal one, the Union and the Commission are again wrong and too soft on both Eastern sovereign members and external opponents of the Union.

People left in the lurch

First of all, from a legal point of view, the Union must not finance walls and barriers, that is, being part of, or tolerating, the illegal return of people from its borders. There are migrant and border management laws across Europe and there is an explicit ban on mass deterrence, something that countries such as Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark have repeatedly disobeyed and violated. In this case, Poland is not only violating treaties as an EU member, but also violating the International Convention on Refugees, which means that Warsaw is violating international and European agreements that it has signed. It must not return migrants to an insecure country like Belarus, especially not people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who do not migrate for economic reasons, but for obvious safety reasons. A huge number of Afghan women and children have been spotted at the border, whom the Union has said until yesterday must be rescued at all costs, and is now leaving them stranded. Where is the coherence of the EU ?!

The second aspect is humanitarian. These people are in a desperate state and are not even allowed to return to Belarus. Poland then does not allow the entry of international organizations such as the UNHCR or NGOs, thus barring humanitarian aid from reaching people who die, suffer and freeze there. They are responsible in Minsk for that, but even more so in Warsaw, because Poland is an important member of the EU.

The third aspect is political. Of course, Belarus, backed by Moscow, is using migrants to pressure the EU, as Erdogan did, to extort money or reduce sanctions. But that is not a sufficient motive for these people to be left in disgrace and to break the rules and laws of the Union. The number of people who are currently in this tragic situation on Belarusian territory is no longer 10-15 thousand. This is a number that for the EU, provided Warsaw really wanted to cooperate and seek help from the Union, is not really a problem to be easily accepted and redistributed among the members. This is a number that for the EU, under the condition that Warsaw really wanted to cooperate and seek help from the Union, is not really a problem to be easily accepted and redistributed among the members. 

Poland is instrumentalizing the crisis

But Warsaw is instrumentalizing the crisis in retaliation for the Union for announced sanctions for violating the rule of law and destroying the independence of the judiciary. In other words, whatever Belarus and Russia do is no more frightening than Warsaw, which uses migrants as an instrument of intimidation and retaliation, while at the same time increasing divisions in the EU and defending the interests of Eastern sovereign member states in the Union. This is how Turkey or Gaddafi's Libya used to behave, but today we see how it is openly done by an EU member.  

With this development, whatever happens in the future, Lukashenko and Putin have already won the match and forced Poland and the EU to fall to their level. Poland in this case demonstrates a complete lack of solidarity and compassion for people fleeing misery and war. Poland betrays itself in this way, just as it betrays its Christian faith, which is so often propagated. At the same time, the whole Union is becoming an accomplice to the criminal and unlawful breach of its duty to assist migrants who are in apparent danger.

The more the Union ignores its own humanitarian and legal obligations, the more it strengthens the hand of those who want to instrumentalize the crisis of obvious political interests. The law should serve as a beacon, as a guide for political issues, and instead, the Union is sinking into legal and political darkness. The EU is a union of states based on rules and if that is lost, the core and essence of the European project is lost. This is an issue that stems from the denied rights of refugees and has to do with the very nature of the Union. Hence, in the whole matter, the Commission headed by Ursula von der Leyen is seriously wrong, which puts too much emphasis on the political aspects, when it is enough just to demand and ensure respect for the law and the rules.

The walls of the EU

It will be discussed in Brussels in the coming days, but the machine that threatens to dismember the Union has definitely been put into operation. Already in October, 12 member states sent a letter to Brussels asking for European money for anti-migrant walls and barriers. Before that pressure, Charles Michel is already giving in, for now in Warsaw, maybe tomorrow in Brussels. For the time being, the Commission is resisting and trying to safeguard the Union's constitutional principles for the reception of refugees and what little is left of Europe's approach to human rights. The European Parliament is in shock at Michel's position and any change must pass through Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), something for which there is currently no majority. But the chairman of the largest parliamentary group, Manfred Weber of the EPP, has already said he agrees to fund walls with European money.

What is obvious at the moment is that the Union allows this ping-pong with migrants on the Polish-Belarusian border to continue because it wants to avoid creating new conflicts with Warsaw and because both the Commission and the European Parliament know that receiving migrants is not very popular topic among the European public.

But, as MEP Bernard Guetta will note, the sense of shame over the Union's actions is enormous. It is huge because it is shameful for a dictatorship to be so easily trapped by the EU, taking advantage of its contradictions. It is a shame that the Polish opposition has nothing to say about trying to build walls in the heart of Europe. It is a shame that the EU is afraid of migrants because they are mostly Muslims. It is a shame that Europe does not know how to explain to Lukashenko that his dirty games must end once and for all.

We will only remind here that the same shame has been happening on the Croatian-Bosnian border for more than a year and that international law and the rights of tens of thousands of people and children who are victims of open violence are being violated every day.

Europe has abdicated before its legal and humanitarian obligations, and thus abdicates before the only thing that has kept it united so far. Its international credibility is at an all-time low, and the Union, which has been so vocal in its criticism of Trump over its wall with Mexico, has now stepped into his shoes.

Europe really united after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. Now it risks building walls from within to divide what has been united so hard.

Source: Deutsche Welle