Refugee crisis and the EU in 2015: No coherent approach

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. The European Commission proposes creating of European Border and Coast Guard agency. What do you think about this idea and do you think this agency will be established?

2. Could you please shortly evaluate EU, Members States approach towards refugee crisis in 2015, how wrong or right we have been?

Answers:

Christian KaunertProfessor of International Politics, Director of the European Institute for Security and Justice, University of Dundee

1. This is an old idea actually. It preceded the creation of Frontex, and was already put forward in the context of Eastern Enlargement of 2004. At the time, member states did not want to subscribe to it, notably countries such as Poland. I think it would be very useful though – it is clear that some member states are not willing or capable to guard the external border to the standard that it required for Schengen to continue. Establishing such a border guard is within the logic of having a free travel area inside the Schengen zone. In my view, it needs to be established for Schengen to function well.

However, I am less confident whether it will pass. It is clearly a big advance in EU cooperation, and several member states will be opposed. It remains to be seen how this can be implemented in the absence of political will in some member states.

2. There has not really been a coherent approach by the member states of the EU. You have several approaches, like Germany accepting the reality of the refugee flows but not having sufficient capabilities to cope with that, to Hungary and more recently Poland, that have the impression that they can shut themselves off the refugee flow (which is of course not possible, as the example of Hungary shows). In short, nobody has been right – there were clear signs already last year that the flows will be very significant this year, and member states did not react well or coherently. I am slightly pessimistic as to whether they will react well for next year – the flows are likely to grow bigger still and EU member states are clearly not well prepared.

Lorenzo NannettiInternational Affairs Analyst

1. The first thing I’m asking myself is: what about FRONTEX? Couldn’t we expand that instead? Likely, this new proposal covers new concerns like a) a new agency could be set up nearer to the Southern borders, without taking away FRONTEX HQ from Warsaw, that could have been negative in Poland’s eyes. b) with FRONTEX deemed ineffective, it’s a move to show skeptical countries that EU is willing to cary some costs of the border controls, hopefully also taking those away from national policies. But I can’t see local police or armed forces in border countries give up on current duties altogether, it will be more of a shared thing. b) ultimately more a political move than one which has real effects.

I’m not so sure on the timing… being a political move, it’s a 50:50 that it will be really established. The political urge may make it more likely to be really set up, but at the same time the little real value of it may mean it may be dismissed later. I hold my vote on this.

2. As I told you in the past, clinging to Dublin Convention has been an error: too much burden on border countries, and the Convention was anyway superseded by later decisions like the German offer to take Syrians. Another error is not carrying out the redistribution of refugees that was decided months ago. With only 100 or so people relocated instead of the projected thousands, Southern countries feel betrayed and the burden, which could have been minimal if shared across EU, for Greece is becoming higher. Third, lots of migrants straddled in the Balkans and at EU’s land borders. With some right-wing nationalists claiming they bring illnesses and the like, why don’t we realize that even sanitary safety is not ensured if you leave them like this?

In short: what we’re doing well is starting to see that a new approach is needed. But what we did wrong is almost everything else. We still tackle only the Emergency, most country still reason in selfish/individual terms, we still don’t have a serious holistic strategy to deal with the root causes in the origin countries.

Daniela IrreraAssistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Catania

1. In principle, the agency could be a significant improvement. It is expected to have financial and technical resources, sufficient permanent personnel and ample powers. In particular, the right to intervene could mitigate the recurrent emergencies and, at the same time, provide support to Member states under pressure. It is also expected to cooperate with neighboring countries and facilitate return of migrants. Additionally, it will also act on terrorism prevention, strengthening internal security through checks on EU citizens.

In practice, this ambitious plan requires some basic conditions to work in an efficient ways. Even though the agency is a technical one, a strong coordination among member states is required, as well as the acceptance of the implications it will have on the management of coasts and borders, particularly as for the joint operations and the use of drones. Additionally, the EU should make additional efforts to guarantee the liaison officers in the third countries and the newly established Return office won’t turn into a duplication of non-efficient administrative units.

Finally, and in a broader perspective, the agency should be one of the additional tool to cope with the migrants emergency, to strengthen controls and security perception. However, the EU should be very careful in maintaining the technical and surveillance dimension, avoiding to use the agency –  in a political way – as a way to close more and more the borders and to send people back

2. In a nutshell, I would summarize the EU approach as a mixture of necessity, forced attempts and fear. Member states have to face the crisis but not all of them were involved at the same level. The EU replied through several measures, used Frontex and all tools currently at the disposal but failed in promoting a real coordination and commitment. Thus, current steps were a combination of individual initiatives and forced attempts to act collectively.

The need to face the root causes of the crisis (civil war in Libya and Syria) implies a stronger political will and more sophisticated commitment (on a foreign policy and defense level) and it remains in the back.

Artur GruszczakCentre for European Studies, Jagiellonian University in Krakow

1. The very idea of establishing a European Border and Coast Guard from Frontex is sensible. Frontex has been systematically weakened by some Member States unwilling to deliver their resources and co-operate in good faith. What is really worrisome and should be questioned is the proposal to endow the Commission with the right to intervene in situations requiring urgent action. This leads to several dilemmas. First, is the external border a part of national security of any of the Member State or is it a field of Union politics? Second, whom a EBCG team is subordinated to? The Executive Director of the Agency? The Coordinating Officer seconded by the Director? Authorities of the host Member States „issuing instructions”? Third, under what conditions the Executive Director should terminate or suspend an intervention by the EBCG team? This altogether makes the mechanism of establishment and deployment highly controversial and imprecise. Assuming that an ECBG team will be sent to an EU state, what if that state does not wish to host the team? Would it be a casus belli against the EU? Quite ridiculous and absurd. Moreover, one can see a double-standard approach on the part of the Commission. If it supports community method in case of external border control as part of EU internal security policy, it should have also supported the establishment of an EU intelligence agency. Meanwhile, the Commission representatives have claimed that it would have required a treaty change, in the light of Article 4.2 TEU highlighting the sole responsibility of the Member State for its national security. So, the Commission’s rationale behind this proposal stems from the thesis that there is „an EU external border” and it is no longer the institution of national security and sovereign policy of the Member States. I can hardly imagine this would get wider support among the Member States. It would rather deepen divisions and controversies within the EU. That is why I believe this proposal will worsen the crisis over migration and external borders.

2. The refugee crisis was generated by several concatenated factors:
1) Some deficiencies in EU law on migration and asylum which could have been filled if the Member States had taken these areas of integration seriously indeed.
2) The lack of proper implementation of EU legal instruments by some Member States.
3) The lack of prudency of those Member States which adopted a soft approach towards migrants entailing a snowball effect.
4) The deficit of solidarity among EU Member States, especially those which bore responsibility for protecting the remaining countries against proliferation of threats and risks.
The reactions to the crisis were varied, lacking a common approach and highlighting national interests and needs. EU Member States failed in the test for European solidarity. EU institutions demonstrated the lack of proper crisis management mechanisms within the EU.

 

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