Refugee crisis: Time is running out for Europe

One country after another is closing its borders and there's still no sign of a joint European response to the refugee crisis. Thousands of migrants are gathering on the border in Greece, unable to enter Macedonia. Macedonian security forces near the village of Idomeni used tear gas to hold them back. Commentators warn that Greece could implode and see the continent gripped by panic.

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De Morgen (BE) /

Europe faces choice between Merkel or Orbán

The closure of borders within the EU could cause Greece to implode, the centre-left daily De Morgen warns:

“A growing number of refugees will gather at the border with Macedonia and be forced to set up camp under harsh weather conditions. After a while cold, hunger and frustration will make them so angry that they start attacking customs officials and soldiers and storm the borders. … The chaos on Europe's doorstep will escalate. … But the response to Merkel's appeal is once again just mocking laughter: from Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and in Belgium from the leader of the [Flemish nationalist] N-VA, Bart De Wever. ... In the coming weeks Europe's politicians will be forced to decide between Orbán's position and Merkel's. Do they barricade the borders and accept the risk of Greece imploding? Or will they try, like Merkel, to create an organised system for taking in refugees?”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Gripped by panic

If it's not careful Europe will drown in mass hysteria, professor and opinion researcher Henri Beunders warns in the centre-left daily De Volkskrant:

“Wave them through, wave them through, until the neighbours suddenly slam the door shut. What now? Many countries in Europe are gripped by panic. … Now that the 'every man for himself' mentality has descended on Europe like an avalanche we see how high tensions are running. … They are sparking anger, populism and hypernationalism; they are leading to the Orbáns, the Trumps, the Boris Johnsons, and all the others who simply want to get rid of the problem. … The question is whether the Tsipras government will survive this crisis. And whether 'Brussels' will survive it. We mustn't forget: the need for a breakthrough in response to the sickening fear of losing our own culture can develop a dynamic that only yesterday in our narrow-mindedness we wouldn't have believed possible.”

Avgi (GR) /

Disintegration of EU as the last hope

The rules it has imposed on itself are making it impossible for the EU to overcome the refugee crisis, writes columnist Giannis Kibouropoulos in the left-wing daily Avgi:

“Europe remains as evil as it was on the eve of the First and Second World Wars. … The refugee crisis has brought Europe's true soul to the surface once more. … If there were no Dublin Regulations, no European asylum system, no Frontex and no Schengen Area, Europe's only obligation would be to ensure adherence to the international laws laid down in the Geneva Conventions on the protection of refugees. But now evil Europe is violating the basic obligations behind its own 'rules and regulations'. The disintegration of the EU under the burden of its regulations may be dangerous, but perhaps it is also the last hope.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Vienna being led by tabloid press

Austria's government has swivelled towards a closed door policy in the refugee crisis, allowing populist propaganda in the media to dictate its agenda, the centre-left daily Tages-Anzeiger criticises:

“For a while Chancellor Faymann fancied himself in the role of Merkel's partner and even showed interest in a pan-European policy. But that brought him neither votes nor sympathy at home. So he is once again following the advice of the Kronen Zeitung, which has never been overly fond of the joint Europe. … 'Now everyone's attacking us' ran a headline in the paper. The role of victim is a cosy one and releases you from responsibility. It's always the others who are to blame. Desperate refugees are threatening to kill themselves in Greece; others want to tear down the fence on the Macedonia border. In Vienna the publisher of a free paper praises the break with Europe: 'Our government is finally showing some backbone on the refugee issue.' It's this praise that counts for Faymann and his ministers. Nothing else.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

France also to blame

The French daily Le Monde predicts that 2015 and 2016 will be seen by historians as the years when Europe began to disintegrate. That's true, but it should be stressed that France is partially responsible for this development, philosopher Étienne Balibar writes in the left-leaning daily Il Manifesto:

“Two stances were possible in view of Angela Merkel's unilateral decision at the end of last summer to ease the Dublin asylum regulations so that Germany could take in refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom were fleeing the massacres in Syria (causing some to start speaking of a genocide...) and other war scenarios in the Middle East: backing her initiative and those of the German people, or sabotaging them. After some initial shilly-shallying, the French government pretended it was adopting the first while in fact practising the second. Having finally accepted Juncker's plan for the distribution of refugees in Europe - which although inadequate was at least a start - France put all its energy into having this agreement go unheeded.”

Sme (SK) /

Merkel's critics don't have any better solutions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's critics have failed to come up with more constructive solutions, the liberal daily Sme fumes:

“When Austria and the countries along the Balkan route decided on tougher border controls last week, Merkel wasn't invited because she was viewed as a problem and not as part of the solution. As a result Greek Prime Minister Tsipras is now threatening to torpedo the summit on March 7. ... A strong showing for the Alternative for Germany in the state elections [in mid-March] would up the pressure on Merkel to follow Austria's example and close Germany's borders. ... Nevertheless Europe remains obliged to take in these people. ... It may be possible to score points in Vienna or Warsaw by making fun of Merkel. But the spreading rebellion only serves to conceal the inadequacy of the rebels' own solutions.”