A perfect storm seems to be building up over Europe and Greece, as the uncontrollable influx of refugees and migrants is giving rise to the kind of scenarios that only crazy analysts could imagine.
Let’s assume that the Schengen agreement is temporarily suspended and that Europe decides that its real borders are no longer in Greece. The inflow will not stop. Those familiar with the issue are predicting that in such a case up to 500,000 people could find themselves stranded on Greek soil, unable to cross over to Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. No Greek government would be in a position to handle such a situation and, unavoidably, thousands of refugees and migrants would reach the country’s northern border. No matter how well managed the situation may be, no European could stand to watch thousands of refugees pushing fences live on BBC or CNN for hours.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leading officials are fully aware of this. However, they themselves are facing growing public frustration and the prospect of rapid political developments. Greece is looking like an easy scapegoat.
Of course, it is not helping itself either. Instead of having a solitary missionary roaming through Europe pleading Greece’s case on the refugee crisis, it ought to have strengthened him with a solid framework, with the country’s best resources in the field of organization, security and migration at his disposal. There are people capable of doing their job well – this is obvious every time an interim government takes over and parties are left to deal with their own affairs instead of those of the state.
Meanwhile, back in Athens, we are living in our own little bubble. We have yet to see the storm that is becoming increasingly felt in Berlin, Brussels and the rest of Europe. No one is in the mood, or has the time and patience, to deal with us. Our only concern is to prevent pension cuts and besides the IMF, our other lenders argue that this would mean either a new loan or a debt write-off. However, the atmosphere at the decision-making centers does not allow for such decisions.
So, Greece faces the risk of finding itself cut off from the rest of Europe because of the refugee crisis on the one hand, and facing fresh threats of Grexit if the current review does not come to a close, on the other. The sirens of anti-European populism will once again attempt to seduce society and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Going this course could be very tempting, even if disastrous for him and the rest of the country. Further north, however, the sirens of anti-Greek populist sentiment will also become more attractive. We’ve seen this before: When the sirens of both the North and the South are combined in the absence of strong political leadership, the storm is never too far away.