Last week from March 9, Croatia closed its borders to most refugees/migrants transiting to northern Europe through Croatia in a bid to close the so-called Balkan route, which starts in Turkey via boats to Greece then up to Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany … used by hundreds of thousands of people seeking a new life in Europe. Many genuine refugees among them but reportedly more illegal migrants. This move by Croatia to close borders means that only those seeking asylum immediately after crossing the border into Croatia are permitted through (and there are very few of those as most want to go North to more affluent countries) as well as emergency (humanitarian) cases needing medical treatment they cannot obtain in a country they’re already in (e.g. Serbia). Slovenia closed its borders at the same time as Croatia and so has Macedonia on the Greece side. Serbia has announced it will follow the lead of other countries on the route and close its borders. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has last week announced Germany would send away, deport, all those found to fail the asylum test and are confirmed to be among those seeking a better life rather than necessary protection. Certainly the “sending back” moves have already caught on like “a house on fire” – tens of thousands are already being sent back to Greece not only from Germany but also from other countries on the route, having Greece rightfully worried that its tourism industry will suffer a terrible blow because of the bottlenecks being created with refugees/migrants stuck in one place.
The moves to shut down the main route used by the vast amount of refugees/illegal migrants hoping to find asylum or better economic prospects in Northern Europe came barely a day after the EU and Turkey agreed to a proposal aimed at easing the crisis.
Slovenia’s and Croatia’s officials have stated during the week that foreigners meeting the requirements to enter the country, those who want to claim asylum and migrants selected on a case-by-case basis on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with the rules of the Schengen zone would be accepted through. While Croatia is not yet a member country of the passport-free Schengen Zone it’s evident that it’s application to become one involves proving worthiness at these times of this overwhelming refugee crisis and this is done via closing the borders to contribute to this domino effect occurring within the Schengen Zone and designed to stop or seriously disrupt the flow of refugees/migrants into the EU.
“Apparently Europe has decided to start a new phase in resolving the refugee crisis. It was concluded that on the Schengen Zone borders the Schengen rules would be applied,” Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic told RTL commercial television 9 March 2016. “The border of Europe will be on the Macedonian-Greek border and we will respect the decisions that were made,” he said, while rejecting the notion that Croatian army should be sent to the border with Serbia as well. Minister Orepic was adamant that his police force can handle the crisis at the borders at this stage.
More than 1 million people have crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece since the start of 2015, many from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and most aiming to reach wealthy Germany and Scandinavia, causing deep divisions among EU members about how to deal with Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. More than 650,000 have transited across Croatia since mid-September 2015 and as the weather warms up the fears rise that the influx of refugees and illegal migrants may become so overwhelmingly huge that it will seriously and fundamentally threaten the lifestyle and security of Europe’s citizens.
The bottleneck currently ballooning in Greece at the border with Macedonia, in particular, of some 40,000 stuck at the Greek-Macedonian border, is already showing serious signs of unrest and low-level violence that could easily escalate. A transit camp at the border in Greece, for instance, designed to hold 2,000 people, Indomeni tent camp, is now busting with some 14,000 lying in mud and battling for a piece of bread. Macedonia said it would only grant entry to the number of refugees that will be allowed to transit through neighboring Serbia and further into Europe, hence only a few dozens have been trickling across from Greece to Macedonia per day during the past few days.
At talks in Brussels on Monday 7 March, the EU agreed in principle to a Turkish proposal to take back all illegal refugees landing on the Greek islands and the price negotiated, or payment to Turkey is running into billions of euros. Newly arrived refugees in Greece in their thousands continue to head to Macedonia despite being confronted by a closed border and rain-soaked camps where conditions are squalid, human misery and unrest get larger by the hour.
The actions being taken by Brussels (EU) suggest that it’s only, or mainly, concerned with the interests of its military circles particularly the Schengen Zone, not people, in desperate bids to save itself within the demographic and freedom of movement parameters it set itself decades ago and Croatia is most desirous of being counted in. Because of this, and Brussels’ inability to reach consensus between EU member countries with regards to sharing the burden of refugees from the Middle East etc., many have in recent months/year predicted the collapse of European Union as inevitable. Some say that it’s only a matter of time when the collapse will happen
Cui bono? To whose advantage?
Nicholas Bonnal of the French Boulevard Voltaire publication says that “the Austrian newspaper Info-Direkt shows that, according to a source of Viennese intelligence, smugglers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to settle in Europe could be paid by the Americans…” Suggestions are afoot in this article that creating and organising chaos, such as the one occurring with the unsustainable influx of migrants and refugees into Europe, is a perfect example of political terrain for ruling by chaos. Only a handful of politicians would then rise above and rule and they are the ones with the knowhow in applying the principles of Neo-Machiavellianism.
Whatever the realistically based theories and/or political conspiracy theories regarding the European refugee/migrant crisis exist one thing remains blatantly obvious: people are suffering. And it’s not just one side that’s suffering. People are suffering on both sides: those fleeing into Europe (the refugees/migrants) and the European people who largely fret that their standard of living will violently be reduced to unwanted levels as hundreds of thousands of people needing sustenance and care from the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan…approach.
European Union is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place – the natural instinct is to assist and help the needy and the political responsibility of those in power is to protect the lifestyle of those who elected them into power! The two cannot be reconciled without a major shift in attempts to address and solve this seemingly chaos feeding impasse.
Brussels has the capacity to address the crisis to an end that would not mean the collapse of the EU and certainly the latest move to close borders (reportedly criticised by Germany’s Angela Merkel who has otherwise been unsuccessful in the past months to convince EU states to share the refugee load) and negotiate with Turkey to take back the illegal migrants and to keep refugees there as much as possible for a rather hefty payment of billions of euros seems to suggest that the EU is beginning to exert some strong directional force with view to “saving” the EU from crumbling under the pressure. The challenge posed by the refugees and migrants to the EU could, therefore, serve as a positive impetus for Europe to catch up on some long-neglected internal homework like bolstering controls on its external borders, deepening political integration between its member states/kicking off with a greater political unity of sorts, and taking serious moves toward common foreign and security policies. If voters (the people of EU) see these moves as successfully handled then those steps could breathe new life into the European Union idea, strengthen it to the point of prolonging its stable existence as a true union and even spur growth; and true, refugees capable of working could positively contribute particularly in a widened entrepreneurial sense. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)