European policy is utterly incomprehensible when it comes to the management of the massive flow of refugees from the war-torn Middle East and economic migrants in general. Skittishness is encouraging the German government to adopt unilateral initiatives that are often misguided or incompatible with the collective agencies and the interests of some members of the European Union.
A few days ago, and without consultation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel heralded the abolition of the Dublin agreement, which foresees undocumented migrants being returned to their first entry point in Europe. But as her popularity took a hit, her conservative partners returned the agreement into force. It is said the decision was taken behind her back – also unilaterally. So much the worse for Merkel.
Berlin’s contentious plan exempts Greece but not Italy or Hungary. Some would argue that this is a way to ensure that relocation quotas – which no one accepts happily – are met. But the rate of absorption of refugees by the countries of the EU is comical. Moreover, the plan does not clarify how the so-called Balkan route will be bypassed. The most likely result is that Greece will becoming a collection point for human misery.
Merkel obviously exempted Greece because the government would otherwise have been forced to close its border with Turkey by developing its naval force, something that would have an immediate negative impact on relations between Athens and Ankara. While we’re on the subject, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker probably thought he was having an epiphany when he recently proposed joint Greek-Turkish patrols in the Aegean. But it would be best if he were not so hasty to take geostrategic initiatives. Over 20 years ago when Greece nearly went to war with Turkey over the islet of Imia, the European Union was in hibernation and open conflict was averted thanks to the intervention of the United States.
Of course Greece needs to guard its sea borders better and this can be achieved by inducting Turkey into the EU’s border force, Frontex. If Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has any reservations about such a plan, he should get over them soon. That said, the refugee problem is still a European issue and should be treated as such.
Finally, when Merkel visited Turkey last month she made certain promises – again without consultation. The European Commission’s recent report on Turkey, meanwhile, reiterated concerns about the country’s democratic deficit.
The European Union is, unfortunately, teetering, so Greece should be preparing for a serious dialogue with Turkey.