EU Abdicates its Role as Security Guarantor

By Benoît Masset , M.A. from the University of Luxembourg & Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, PhD Candidate at the University of Trento.

The early months of 2016 saw Europeans drifting apart amid a heightened sense of unease over any single state playing the role of gatekeeper as the term “crisis” has become commonplace in describing Europe’s migration issue. “The climate has changed from the welcoming politics of Merkel to one of fear and panic,” explained Greece’s foreign minister of European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis (The New York Times, 2016).

The European continent, having shown the way of regional integration since the creation of the Coal and Steel community (ECSC) in 1951 and the introduction of the Union in 1992 with the Treaty of Maastricht, is waking-up from a beautiful slumber, putting an end to dreams of collaboration.

By the end of 2015, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Hungary and many others took steps to implement temporary border controls, which has redirected refuges along different paths through the EU. The EU’s opinion about state-level initiatives does not go a long way. It has no power in its treaties to play the role that it needs to play and has no common army that it can use, making the EU a prisoner of its own values.

The migration issue demonstrated 28 member states’ incapacity to unite and move forward with a common solution for the humanitarian management issue unfolding not just on its periphery but also in each and every one of its member states. The EU needs to acknowledge that when there is a problem in a single state, there is a problem for all of Europe. One can observe the new rise of nation states when a country like the UK seeks the return of its sovereignty from the supranational polity.

Amid fear, magisterially orchestrated by the chancellery of David Cameron in London, to see the UK inch its way toward Brexit, the EU agreed to renegotiate the accession deal of Great Britain. The deal opened a Pandora’s box, as one cannot help but speculate which country might be the next to call for less European integration and regain a bit more of its national sovereignty.

In the history of European construction, it is a shock to allow one member state to step back during the long integration process. The UK re-negotiation deal might highlight a more frightful fact, which is the general lack of support in Europe for further supranational collaboration. Moreover, if further collaboration were to occur, it will be without the UK given that the concession deal states, “the ever closer union” principle introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 no longer applies to the UK (BBC, 2016).

The Schengen zone, which allows European citizens to move freely across Europe’s fuzzy borders, has come under attack since the beginning of the migration issue. This should come as no surprise since member states have been pressing the EU to update its migration protocols for many years. Public anxiety over migration was always deeply ingrained in growing immigration numbers. Polling data provided by Ipsos MORI points to the latter half of the 1990s as a time when ethnicity and immigration fueled anxiety and was generally a growing concern in the UK, as Will Somerville, Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, and Maria Latorre note (Migration Policy Institute [MPI], 2009). Nearly two decades later there has been no movement on the issues of immigration and migration as major challenges from which, at least in part, the EU grew.

Today, many member states, including France, Hungary and Belgium, have totally or partially suspended the application of the European free movement treaty without too much outcry from European Institutions. There is also a budding sentiment that European leaders have grown incapable of coming-up with forward-minded solution like the one materialized by their peer Jacques Delors in the glory days of European integration. The recent agreement made with Turkey symbolizes the incapacity of European institutions to deal with their challenges through ever-closer collaboration.

While more than 70,000 refugees may be “stranded” in Greece in March 2016, and even more along the now infamous “Balkan route,” the EU’s 28 member states dodged their responsibility of coming up with a European response (The Washington Post, 2016). They opted, instead, to subcontract the crisis, providing €3.3B to Turkey by 2018 for to secure Europe (Le Monde, 2016Al Jazeera, 2016). The plan, with its currish “one in, one out” policy, therefore rests on President of Turkey Recep Erdoğan, despite his economic implications with Daesh, war against the Kurds, trouncing of minority rights in Turkey, and anti-Democratic nature overall, acting as Europe’s savior. Europe is beginning to show its desperation. That trait could be the necessary tool for Erdoğan’s AKP to strengthen his power in Turkey.

Those different elements unfortunately demonstrate the lack of cohesion between the 28 members of the EU, and certainly the faillite of the European integration dream in favor of a “Europe of states.”

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Categories: Europe and NATO

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