Europe’s refugee or migration crisis has exposed its huge weaknesses, but also some positive aspects. Sure, one cannot forget that the crisis is the result of myopic and naive decisions taken by European leaders such as former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
It was Washington that opened the path to instability in the broader region by launching the absurd war on Iraq. After that came the expectation that the Arab Spring movement would export Western-style democracy to the Middle East.
President Barack Obama chose to keep the US out, sticking instead to the dogma of leading from behind. Sarkozy went on to wage a personal war against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. But he seemed to have never really thought out the outcome or the broader geopolitical fallout of that operation.
Israeli analysts had warned of a security black hole. Moscow officials too had warned of the risks from destabilizing regimes in Syria and Libya. In the end, Europe proved unprepared and too immature to handle hard issues of security and diplomacy. Europeans left unfinished business, and they are now paying a price for the mess.
A big problem is that the ongoing crisis has released the worst instincts in people. In Hungary, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, nationalism and racism are on the rise. Europe’s open-border policy is being put into question. Will the Old Continent be able to withstand the pressure?
It is hard to tell. However, there are reasons for optimism in all that. The Germany of Chancellor Angela Merkel has thankfully displayed a very responsible stance in dealing with the situation.
The European project is at a key turning point. The combined pressure from the debt crisis and the record refugee and migrant arrivals could easily have made the Europeans hide behind their walls. Fortunately, Merkel showed leadership here (not to be taken for granted considering her overall style) and a desire to go against the dark instincts of nationalist populism which is on the rise everywhere. Here’s some hope.