OPINION

Drastic measures

After a long period characterized by their loose stance on the issue of illegal immigration, the EU member states are shifting toward a common and stricter policy. In view of the EU summit in Seville, a number of proposals have been laid on the table which are expected to be endorsed in some form, sooner or later. Until now, EU countries have adopted half-measures, not because they were driven by humanitarian concerns, but rather because the presence of migrants has helped them to keep down labor costs. Although they took some measures to block the illegal entry of migrants into their territories, in practice, they tolerated those who in one way or another managed to settle. This inconsistent policy not only failed to stem the influx but, in a way, also exasperated the phenomenon, which has now taken an unprecedented dimension, causing strong reactions. Discontent runs deeper among the lower-income strata as they are the primary victims of the rise in crime and the, often, unfair competition in the labor market. Furthermore, there is broader concern over the transformation of European societies. Pressured by these reactions, the EU will, for the first time, discuss drastic measures. The first is the creation of an task force made up of national experts which, in combination with Europe’s nascent border police force, will seek out the main transit routes and reinforce border controls. A second measure is to put pressure on and take steps against the main non-EU transit countries, such as Turkey. A third measure is to hammer out an action plan for the return of refugees to their homelands. Finally, a fourth measure is an agreement between member states on the provisions of asylum. An efficient policy presupposes enhancing the EU’s frontline states. In practice, this means that the EU will have to make the necessary investment to fund border controls and the immediate repatriation of refugees. Should the EU member states fail to reach an agreement on the issue of funding and fair burden-sharing in the implementation of the new policy, its results will be few. But even if enough funds are channeled, the problem will remain. There can be no solution without a long-term program for the transfer of large amounts of developmental aid from wealthy countries toward poor ones.