October 25, 2015
The recent flurry of diplomatic activity by EU leaders who are trying to slow down the migrant influx has not as yet yielded any tangible results. In truth, the situation has become so complicated that there are no good moves left in order to stabilize it.
To illustrate this, one should consider the results of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s October 18 visit to Istanbul, during which she offered Turkish authorities a 3 billion-euro contribution and the promise to speed up the country’s accession talks with the EU. (A deal so far refused by Turkey.) If anything, the visit has frightened the Syrian migrants into crossing to Greece in even bigger numbers. From around 5,000 people a day making the perilous trip before the visit, the IOM authorities have announced that the number of migrants increased to around 9,500 a day for the whole week following Merkel’s visit.
The Commission also tries to convince transit countries like Macedonia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria to help stem the flow of migrants to Germany. So far, the efforts have generated the fear that these countries might be obliged to keep a huge number of refugees on their territory for longer than a few days. Accordingly, the Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian premiers have announced on Saturday October 24th, in a joint press conference, that if Austria and Germany will close their borders to migrants, they would have no choice but to follow suit. After the mini-summit held in Brussels on Sunday 25th of October, the Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov has complained to the press that the European Commission suggested to governments such as his to take out loans from the EBRD or BEI in order to pay for the upkeep of refugees.
Finally, there is a lot of bickering going on between the Commission and a number of Central and Eastern European members which flatly refuse the imposition of migrant quotas. In fact, the leaders of these countries are resisting the very idea of quotas, as they feel that their populations are totally unprepared to accept Arab migrants in their midst and that their economies might be adversely affected by the expenditure necessary for the migrants’ upkeep.
The only glimmer of hope to date might come from the ongoing negotiations to reach a political solution in Syria which involves the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The quartet might be joined next week by Iran and is expected to ultimately reach a deal in order to bring about an end to the bloody civil war that is the root cause of the current refugee crisis.Florian Pantazi