( Sorry: If you want to know what is wrong with the EU this is a good fifteen minute read.)
In the coming century, we face huge challenges, as a people, as a continent and as a global community.
How to deal with climate change. How to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes. How to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism. How to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation. How to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world, and how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire.
Collective international action through the European Union is clearly going to be vital to meeting these challenges.
The EU comes in for a lot of criticism – often this criticism is entirely justified, often it serves as a convenient cover for domestic failings and incompetence.
No matter. The alliance made between France and Germany which gave birth to the European Coal and Steel Community, a forerunner of the EU is the biggest peacemaking institution ever created in human history.
The ECSC was first conceived by Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister in 1950 “to make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible”.
And it has worked despite the long years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Basque insurgency, say, in Spain, or the continued partition of Cyprus, no two EU member states have ever gone to war against one another.
It’s a peace that may too often be taken for granted.
Unfortunately the EU remains incapable of expressing a shared vision of a common future, which is exactly what is needed at a time when Europe seems on the brink of falling apart, when Europeans are taking to the streets to express their wrath towards other partners in the union and when mainstream politicians in the UK are looking for a way out of the club.
The single market is probably the EU’s single biggest achievement.
Europe’s history has been shaped by migration. Millions emigrated from Europe, first to the colonies and later to the Americas and the Antipodes.
Europe to-day should have revised its internal arrangements for dealing with migration flows. But frightened of the political backlash which any reform in immigration procedures entailed, EU government stuck to the old rules, which decree that each European state is responsible for dealing with refugees landed on its soil.
The result was a disgraceful “pass the parcel” game, in which each European country would turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants, provided they moved on to another European country. This has sparked a crisis with countries struggled to cope with the influx, and has created division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people.
The European Commission and most EU governments are now under huge public pressure to ease the migrant crisis which has to be said is somewhat ironic as the EU accounts for half of all global aid.
Last year, it donated €53.1bn (£42.8bn). Aid constitutes about 9% of the EU budget.
Brussels sets standards of human rights, democracy and the rule of law to which countries must adhere if they want to be part of the European Union. In practical terms these guidelines have had a particular impact on the countries of southern, central and eastern Europe, which joined after they emerged from dictatorships with often underdeveloped civil societies.
More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015 compared with just 280,000 the year before. (more than 1,011,700 migrants arrived by sea in 2015, and almost 34,900 by land. More than 3,770 migrants were reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015. More than 1,250 unnamed men, women and children have been buried in unmarked graves in 70 sites in Turkey, Greece and Italy since 2014.
As a result the Schengen agreement to abandon border posts so as to make it possible to travel freely and easily is now under attack.
Germany received the highest number of new asylum applications in 2015, with more than 476,000.
Faced with a huge influx of people, Hungary was the first to try to block their route with a razor-wire fence. The 175km (110-mile) barrier was widely condemned when it went up along the Serbia border, but other countries such as Slovenia and Bulgaria have erected similar obstacles. Although Germany has had the most asylum applications in 2015, Hungary had the highest in proportion to its population, despite having closed its border with Croatia in an attempt to stop the flow in October. Nearly 1,800 refugees per 100,000 of Hungary’s local population claimed asylum in 2015. It had 177,130 applications by the end of December.
Sweden followed close behind with 1,667 per 100,000.
The figure for Germany was 587 and for the UK it was 60 applications for every 100,000 residents. The EU average was 260.
In September, EU ministers voted by a majority to relocate 160,000 refugees EU-wide, but for now the plan will only apply to those who are in Italy and Greece. Another 54,000 were to be moved from Hungary, but the Hungarian government rejected this plan and will instead receive more migrants from Italy and Greece as part of the relocation scheme.
The UK has opted out of any plans for a quota system but, according to Home Office figures, 1,000 Syrian refugees were resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme in 2015.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years which is now never going to happen.
Austria has placed a cap on the number of people allowed into its borders. And several Balkan countries, including Macedonia, have also decided only to allow Syrian and Iraqi migrants across their frontiers.
Norway is erecting a controversial steel fence along its border post with Russia following a surge in migrant arrivals last year.
As a result, thousands of migrants have been stranded in makeshift camps in cash-strapped Greece, which has asked the European Commission for nearly €500m in humanitarian aid.
The US has taken just 12,000.
In the same year, more than a million migrants applied for asylum – although applying for asylum can be a lengthy procedure so many of those given refugee status may have applied in previous years.
Clearly, Europe cannot go on accepting more and more migrants.
For not only is the pressure straining existing resources, but the inflow of asylum-seekers is also imperilling all other European achievements. The so-called Schengen agreements under which all controls at the internal borders between most European countries have been abolished is now threatened: barbed wires and border police are re appearing everywhere.
A total of 3.8 million people immigrated to one of the EU-28 Member States during 2014, while at least 2.8 million emigrants were reported to have left an EU Member State.
No Syrian refugees have been resettled by China, Russia or any Gulf states.
By comparison, Jordan, which has a GDP just 1.2% the size of the UK’s, hosts nearly 655,000 Syrian refugees.
With more than 2.7 million refugees in total, Jordan is sheltering more than any other nation. Turkey has taken in more than 2.5 million people; Pakistan 1.6 million; Lebanon more than 1.5 million.
Meanwhile between 2,000 and 5,000 migrants are camped at the French port of Calais in the hope of crossing over to the UK.
There have been two major elements to the effort by the European Union against illegal immigration.
The first is the European Union’s deal with Turkey.
In February the bloc approved €3bn ($3.3bn; £2.2bn) in funding for the country to help it cope with record numbers of Syrian migrants it is already hosting. In return for billions of euros, a promise of visa-free travel and a new legitimate scheme for resettling people who have fled Syria, Turkey agreed to clamp down on the people smugglers as well as accepting migrants caught and deported from Greece.
If the European Commission makes the recommendation that Turks be granted visa-free travel in Europe’s Schengen area as whispers from well-placed EU sources suggest, then it will do so holding its nose and its breath.
The freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial and revising terrorism legislation to better protect minority rights – these are just some of the criteria demanded by the EU of countries before it lifts visa requirements – even for short-term travel.
It’s hard to see how Turkey could be described as meeting those conditions. Ankara increasingly cracks down on its critics in a manner more autocratic than democratic.
In fact, Turkey has not fulfilled quite a number of the criteria required by the EU.
But these are desperate times.
There are currently over 10 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.
Most people think about the asylum issue in domestic terms.
The current surge in migration to the European Union (EU) is rapidly becoming the largest and most complex facing Europe since the Second World War.
Syria in 2011 has killed 250,000 people as well as created an estimated four million refugees. Initially, most of these refugees fled to Syria’s immediate neighbouring states: Turkey took in about half of the total, Lebanon admitted 1.2 million, and Jordan accepted a further million.
The EU urgently needs to put in place a coherent, long-term and comprehensive strategy that maximises the benefits of migration and minimises its human and economic costs, included as part of a wider international effort to manage global migration.
But the stress everywhere has been on reducing the flow, while trying to distinguish genuine asylum-seekers from purely “economic” migrants.
It is obviously beyond the immediate power of the EU to eradicate the root causes of all migration and it is also obvious that the EU has absolutely no solution to this latest migration crisis. We are at an impasse.
Practically every European country thinks about either deporting migrants, making the asylum laws more difficult, or simply shutting the borders:
Every country in Europe is willing, at most, to be the transit point for migrants; none is willing to be the point of settlement.
Thus everybody tries to pass the hot potato of migrants to its neighbor.
Perhaps it might seem odd to an impartial observer that rich Europe of more than 1/2 billion people is unable to cope with one hundred thousand migrants and refugees while much poorer Turkey has accepted 1.7 million refugees from Syria and Pakistan and Iran have accepted several hundred thousand from respectively Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2015, EU countries offered asylum to 292,540 refugees.
In 2001 the UK had only 169,370 officially recognized refugees living within its borders compared to Germany’s 988,500, Iran’s 1.9 million or Pakistan’s 2.2 million?
But should European states even try to stop economic migration?
No one knows what is really happening now; one reputable estimate puts the number of illegal migrants smuggled into the EU each year as 400,000.,
Permanent factors that are unlikely to abate any time soon. These factors are political chaos in the Middle East and, more importantly, the extraordinarily huge income gaps between Europe and Africa. With globalization, the knowledge of these gaps as well as the practical means to bridge them by migrating to a rich country are more known and affordable than ever.
These trends look even more unmanageable for Europe when one takes a longer-term view and realizes that sub-Saharan African population which is currently only slightly greater than that of all of Europe is expected to be almost six times greater by 2100. Thus, economic migration will, if anything, increase.
Europe’s immigration problem is one which genuinely has no obvious solutions, an emergency which is only containable with partial answers, but there has to be some sort of amnesty, especially for the children of illegal immigrants.
The 2012 Nobel peace prize was awarded to the EU.
As Europeans, we owe it to ourselves and to the world to help them.
One thing is clear:
The response so far does not meet the standards that Europe must set for itself. We must therefore pursue a European asylum, refugee and migration policy that is founded on the principle of solidarity and our shared values of humanity.
We must guarantee a common European code of asylum, so that asylum status is valid throughout the EU and the conditions for receiving it are stable across member states.
Can we be proud. I think not.
I suppose it depends on how one views his fellow human beings.
Immigration is reflecting the complexity of contemporary national and global relations. These include issues of nationalism, sovereignty, racism, demography, human rights, arms sales, war, refugee health, economic policy and moral responsibility.
What do the media have to say about the fact that the UK has recently sold arms to all five countries of origin topping the UK list of asylum applicants in 2001? This, despite the fact that, in each case, violent military conflict remains the dominant root cause of refugee flight.
We must therefore reform the Dublin Convention immediately, and find a way of creating binding and objective refugee quotas which take into account the ability of all member states to bear them.
We must provide immediate assistance to the EU countries that are currently under particular strain.
We cannot stand idly by and watch people risk their lives trying to get to us. The Mediterranean Sea cannot be a mass grave for desperate refugees. Europe’s humanitarian legacy, indeed our European view of humanity, are hanging in the balance.
Survival has thus become the primary impetus for unauthorized immigration flows. When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.
The world – including Europe – will simply go on without you, and it will leave you behind. Like it or loathe it, it’s globalisation. We can’t go back to 1960.
Europe’s preference for debt over shares, must change.
Worldwide, there is an estimated 191 million immigrants; The world’s wealthiest nations of shirking responsibility towards refugees. Ten countries which account for just 2.5% of the global GDP are sheltering more than half the world’s 21 million refugees.
Given the current economic ailment that Europe is suffering from, EU governments urgently need to recalibrate the economy for entrepreneurs and most of these will be the new Immigrants. It’s just a part of globalism that cannot be resisted.
Not a penny in welfare for immigrants. It really is not that simple.
What is needed in any proposals is to control our borders and that requires tamper-proof identification, and some level of physical border control.
UK’s current process means that the prison-like asylum centers house people who may be waiting up to seven years before their case can be heard.
The European Union is going into unchartered territory.
Championing the rights of poor migrants is difficult as the economic climate is still gloomy, many Europeans are unemployed and wary of foreign workers, and EU countries are divided over how to share the refugee burden.
Let’s hope that the growing inequality is not defining issue of our time. Such inequality is bound to get worse. Not only are the rich seemingly getting richer and the poor poorer, but middle-income earners appear to be gradually disappearing.
Every genuine refugee that has the door slammed in his or hers face is tomorrow’s enemy.
In 2016 so far, around 29,000 have arrived in Italy and they continue to do so at the rate of roughly 1,500 a week – that’s about one-fifth to one-sixth of the traffic that was going via Greece before the EU-Turkey deal came into effect.
What the last few months have shown us is that many governments (notably in central and eastern Europe) are far more interested in preventing illegal migration than they are in living up to refugee quotas. Some have also made clear that they are prepared to use their armed forces to protect their borders if they have to.
Whatever happens EU members, will have to re-evaluate what the Union really means and what should be done to rescue it from its current crisis of illegitimacy, as well as the institutional and political mess so evident today.
The communist government claimed in 1961 that it had to build a wall around the portion of Berlin it controlled to keep the population safe from the evil capitalist wreckers and saboteurs. It didn’t take long for the world to realize that the real threat to the East German leaders was that the people trapped in East Berlin would try to get out.
If the European Union does not reform it will not be just the UK handing in its membership card.
Britain joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973 as the sick man of Europe it remains so to day sacrificing its young who voted with an overwhelming majority to remain in the European Union.
For years the EU has been struggling to harmonise asylum policy. That is difficult with 28 member states, each with their own police force and judiciary.
It’s a big problem but it’s a very solvable problem.
Eliminate incentives for those who would come here to live off the rest of us, and make it easier and more rational for those who wish to come here legally to contribute to our economy. No walls, no government databases, no biometric national ID cards.
Not the putting up of new procedural and administrative walls risks transforming the immense advantage of being a European into a bureaucratic nightmare, not only for the UK but also for the rest of the EU.
Greece has tottered on the verge of financial bankruptcy throughout this decade why don’t we write off its debt by giving the Olympics Games a permanent home in Greece.
Its time that the EU stops kicking the can down the road and operating like a sort of osmosis.
Of course this leaves the question, where will the funds to achieve change come from. How will pay?
The answer is personified Capitalist Greed caused the problem in the first place.
If we just share the the responsibility out, say 60 to 90 countries we could be in a very different situation which in this world of I’am alright Jack is impossible leaves only one viable solution.
By placing an World Aid Commission of 0.05% on all High Frequency Trading, on all Foreign Exchange Transactions over $20,000, on all Sovereign Wealth Funds Acquisitions we would create a perpetual fund. ( see previous posts)
Perhaps some of the funds could also be found by placing an EU Aid commission on
Defence spending by Europe’s Nato states is set to rise for the first time in nearly a decade, figures show, as fears over Russian aggression and the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean stoke anxiety over security across the continent.
Last year, Nato’s European allies spent $253bn on defence compared with a US spend of $618bn. According to Nato European countries should be spending an additional $100bn annually on their militaries. The current spend is equivalent to around 1.43 per cent of gross domestic product.
On the largest lottery activity in the EU comprised of draw based games with brand names like Lotto, EuroMillions and Joker. This category of game, offered in all 27 EU member states, had sales of €50.9bn.
In Europe, some 22% of people aged between 15 and 24 are not in employment, education or training.
On the Common Agricultural Policy was set up in the 1950s to make Europe more self sufficient. The system ensure farmers in Europe can continue to produce food even when the market conditions are not right, therefore maintaining land and jobs. At €55 billion the CAP accounts for 42 percent of the EU budget, making it the largest agricultural aid programme in the world. The system is expensive to the whole EU bloc, causing tension among voters.
And there is one other thing.
THE farcical travelling circus which sees the European Parliament move between Brussels and Strasbourg every month which has already seen more than an estimated £2 BILLION pounds poured down the drain.
Before I leave the subject credit where credit is due.
The EU liberalised the telecommunications markets.
EU via legislation to improve the quality of rivers, seas and beaches, and reduce acid rain and sulphur emissions.
Of course the EU needs some reforms to make it more efficient and more accountable.
We must move away from the European Council acting by consensus – which means that everybody has a veto right bringing constant blockage and no interest in common solutions – and behind closed doors, or the EU will sooner or later slip into irrelevance.
All comments welcome.