Perspective: The Unfolding Refugee Crisis (12/3)     Print

By Chris Matteo

While addressing the European Parliament in mid-October, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz maintained that, '''Willkommenskultur' is prevailing over growing fear and scepticism.'' At this point only a few weeks later, Mr. Schultz would perhaps admit that this sentiment is fading even in his own country, much less around the rest of the EU.

The EU hastily organized a conference in Valetta, Malta recently where EU leaders met for the sixth time in seven months to discuss how to remedy its floundering response to Europe's worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. By the end of the summit, the EU decided to offer Turkey 3 billion euros to assist Syrian refugees located in Turkey. However, critics, such as European Parliament Rapporteur for the Relocation of Refugees Timothy Kirkhope, are hesitant to extend financial assistance to Turkey, citing its creeping authoritarianism.

It's no secret among Europe's leaders that more needs to be done.  And the solutions are no mystery or secret. European Commission President Juncker and Mr. Schultz have clearly promulgated answers.  

Among their solutions include continuing search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean, combatting human traffickers, increasing funding to humanitarian organizations, normalization of the Schengen border area, intensifying cooperation with EU neighbor and third countries, creating a genuine European common asylum system,  adopting a list of safe countries, creating a fair and firm system for repatriations?, extending further resources to the EU's border control organization FRONTEX, and finally immediate relocation of refugees from strained, front-line member states to other EU nations.[ii] Shortly thereafter, it adopted a decision by qualified majority vote to establish a temporary relocation mechanism of an additional 120,000 refugees from Italy and Greece.[iv] During a plenary session on October 27th, MEPs ''deplored EU member states' slowness to deliver on their pledges to pay for more help for refugees, and more manpower to process them at EU borders.[vi] National interests, however, must be distinguished from narrow self-interest, as many member states do hold extremely valid security concerns regarding EU refugee policies. This is especially evident after Paris.

It is unfair for, ''EU member states to preach solidarity when it suits them and resist it when it does not,'' said Mr. Schultz while addressing the Parliament in mid- October. Perhaps these continued debates about ''who is to blame?'' should cease. In light of the Paris terror attacks, member states should seek a newfound solidarity, instead of continuing to play the blame game.

Chris Matteo is Recent King's College London graduate in European Affairs working in DC   in the European Political Field. 

Perspectives is an occasional forum of The European Institute reflecting member and guest views on topical issues.

[ii] EPRS: Legislation on Emergency Relocation of Asylum-Seekers
[iv] European Parliament Press, Migration Debate: The Real Divide
[vi] Speech by Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament