Will the EU reach a consensus on refugees?

Shortly before the EU summit this weekend - and after the mini-summit held at Angela Merkel's request - it remains unclear whether the EU member states will be able to agree on a common migration policy. And who will win out - the advocates of an open door policy or those who want a hard line against refugees. Journalists urge the politicians to deliver results.

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The Economist (GB) /

Debate ignores root causes as usual

Europe's migration debate is failing to address the real problems, The Economist complains:

“Both illegal sea crossings and asylum claims ... are at their lowest for years, thanks in part to deals struck with Turkey and Libya. But the politics of migration operate on a delayed cycle. The refugee crisis boosted anti-immigration parties across Europe, and the results are only now becoming apparent. In Italy the populists are attempting to deliver on their election promises from within government. In Germany they are increasingly calling the shots from outside.The European debate therefore follows its own political logic, ever-more detached from the root causes of migratory flows. Discussions over wars in the Middle East, failed states in north Africa or poverty in sub-Saharan Africa will have to wait for another day. They always do.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Listen to the others first

The EU member states really need to get their act together now, Göteborgs-Posten warns:

“The situation in Italy and Germany, but also in Sweden, with the [right-wing] SD topping the polls, shows just how explosive the migration issue is. ... If the dissatisfaction of European voters is ignored the parties that want a tougher policy on refugees will start questioning European cooperation. Europe needs a long-term, effective and systematic migration policy. Prime Minister Löfven should listen to what his European colleagues, Macron included, have to say at the summit. The Swedish prime minister should not simply reject the proposals for setting up a processing centre for asylum seekers in Africa a priori.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Refugee crisis as opportunity

Europe's salvation lies in finding a joint approach to resolving the refugee crisis, Avvenire stresses:

“At a time when the public are calling for effective political action to protect them from the consequences of globalisation, the lack of a shared approach to such a sensitive issue calls the entire European project into question. The quest for the common good is some rhetorical flourish but a concrete political exercise. ... The only intelligent thing for Europe to do is to turn the problem into an opportunity for everyone. This is possible provided the common good is not reduced to a parody of itself. ... The true common good in this case is a shared vision of an asset that doesn't yet exist. And it requires all parties - the institutions, the economy, society and the citizens - to get a move on.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Compromise still possible

Gabriel Grésillon, Brussels correspondent for Les Echos, outlines what a common solution to the EU refugee policy might look like:

“The emerging compromise would essentially be based on the fundamental difference between economic migrants and refugees. The former could be more effectively deterred by limiting their movements within the EU, sending them back home more quickly, tightening border controls considerably and carrying out more ambitious measures in the countries of emigration and transit. As for refugees, the compromise would allow European solidarity to decide differently in specific cases. But here Rome and Athens would need to receive solid compensation. And Angela Merkel would have to officially renounce her original idea [of refugee quotas].”

Times of Malta (MT) /

Please don't create reception centres in Africa!

The Times of Malta warns against creating reception centres outside the EU, as advocated by Tusk:

“We're told, of course, that these centres would need to meet strict human rights standards that respect people's dignity. But such standards aren't even being met at European reception centres currently. There's overcrowding, huge stress on both migrants and personnel, and social problems created by the very presence of the centres. Why should anyone believe that, in Libya and Niger, Europe can meet standards that it is unable to meet in Malta, Italy, Greece and elsewhere? It sounds much more like outsourcing dangers - out of sight, out of mind - than taking responsibility for reducing them.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Athens must put up moral resistance

Athens must drive a hard bargain at this summit, which addresses whether to send migrants back to the country where they first arrived, warns Kathimerini:

“Greece is facing great danger because it serves as an access point to Europe and also runs the risk of having to take in migrants and refugees who are sent back from other EU member states. ... The fact that there is a lack of solidarity and the necessary will on the part of Greece's partners to solve the problem in as humane a way as possible is making the situation worse. The government has a moral duty to reject any 'proposal' that would turn Greece into a massive camp for poor souls.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Italy and Greece are letting down the EU

The Wiener Zeitung has a very different view on Greece and Italy:

“It is not the EU that has let the Italians and Greeks down but they that - unlike the Hungarians for example - have let the EU down by failing to do what they are legally obliged to do. If Italy and Greece continue to refuse or to be unable to fulfil their obligations, and a quick and efficient system for protecting the outer borders isn't created, the question will be whether these states can actually remain in the Schengen Area.”

Népszava (HU) /

Orbán is working on Merkel's downfall

In the quest for a European solution Chancellor Merkel has invited Hungary's Prime Minister Orbán - probably her toughest opponent - to Berlin. This will not bring her any closer to a European solution, Népszava finds:

“Orbán roundly rejects all the European Union's proposals and is speculating that Angela Merkel will be toppled, because the chancellor is groaning under the political burden of Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union and Germany's interior minister. If Orbán had a political conscience he would admit that he betrayed the chancellor in 2015 when he made her believe that there was a humanitarian crisis in Budapest - and prompted her to open the German borders. Meanwhile Orbán is quite blatantly trying to block any kind of pan-European solution on the refugee issue.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

Salvini closer to Orbán than Merkel

Huffington Post Italia describes the current rift within the EU:

“Less than ten days before the European Council meeting the EU is clearly divided. On the one side the sovereigntists of the Visegrád Group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary). This group, along with the Austrians, is convening [this Thursday] at Viktor Orbán's 'court' in Budapest, where they will sharpen their weapons for the EU summit. On the other side, the EU's historical leader, Germany, who together with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has convened an informal meeting for Sunday in Brussels. ... Although Italy will attend the latter meeting rather than the one in Hungary, politically it is closer to the sovereigntist bloc, or in other words closer to Orbán than Merkel. Thanks to Salvini.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Should shooters guard fortress Europe?

EU President Donald Tusk has put forward a plan to build refugee camps beyond the EU’s external borders. Europe must not transgress its moral boundaries, De Morgen warns:

“Many questions remain open: Which state will be willing to pledge itself for an EU camp and for what price? What will be the rules of the game: ours or those of Libyan mercenaries? ... Ethics is not just a detail here. Italian Interior Minister Salvini is currently demonstrating that a bunch of right-wing extremists remains a bunch of right-wing extremists even after being sworn in. Just like Trump, Salvini reminds us that we need to guard not just our physical borders but our moral ones too. If Europe builds a wall around itself, will it also be prepared to install guards on watchtowers? The Salvinis of this world no doubt would. But would we?”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Merkel's sentimental humanism is no good

A bad immigration policy has fatal consequences, Andrzej Talaga of the think tank WEI (Warsaw Enterprise Institute) writes in Rzeczpospolita:

“The cultural cohesion of society is being destroyed, immigrant enclaves are turning into hotbeds of criminality, Muslim migrant ghettos are becoming refuges for terrorists. ... But because our society is shrinking and ageing we need new citizens. However, we can select these citizens so as to avoid the negative consequences described above. The sentimental humanism displayed by Chancellor Angela Merkel when she opened the borders to everyone in 2014 [sic] is a poor counsellor in this process. We need immigrants who resemble us ethnically and culturally and can quickly assimilate.”

Novi list (HR) /

We must not lose our empathy

What kind of world will we leave behind for our children? asks Novi list in view of the recent developments in immigration policy:

“In the US children are being systematically taken away from migrants and incarcerated, babies and 15-year-old teenagers alike. It's unbelievable that something like this can happen in 2018. ... But here in Europe too, the calls for a stronger hand are growing louder. Empathy towards migrants is being declared a utopia that must be given up in the face of the real situation. But what kind of people will we become if we kill off the feeling that the suffering of others provokes in us? What kind of Europe will we create for our children if we show them that empathy is naive, dumb, impractical and too expensive, and simply goes against our interests?”

Origo (HU) /

Merkel and Macron want to dictate everything

The goal of the German-French migration policy is to develop Frontex into a European border protection force and establish a European authority for migration, the pro-government website Origo explains, and criticises the plans:

“Such a system would mean that the member states - contrary to the European treaties - would be deprived of spheres of competence. Their national sovereignty would be reduced because it would no longer be us who decide whom we live with, but Brussels. Then it will be child's play to push through the quotas, which could then also be forced on those states that have repeatedly made it clear that they don't want to become immigration countries.”

Causeur (FR) /

Mediterranean countries should join forces

Macron will have to follow Conte's lead, Causeur believes:

“It's high time France prioritised the Mediterranean over the Rhine and gave new impetus to the Mediterranean Union (which Angela Merkel has sabotaged). The first joint undertaking must be the one foisted on us by Conte: setting up 'European migrant processing centres in countries of origin and transit'. As the countries of the north don't feel concerned (or in the case of Britain, no longer feel concerned), it's the countries of the Mediterranean that must tackle the problem. ... The 15 countries concerned in Southern and Eastern Europe, working together in a formation that Brussels would have no choice but to support, will have to invent a strategy for minimal humanitarian interference.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

The crisis is bad for Russia too

The lack of consensus on immigration policy threatens to plunge Europe into a profound crisis, Radio Kommersant FM fears:

“Clearly there is only one way to solve the problem: to make it clear to the migrants that they will be sent back and not to promise them any money. But because of their obvious weakness the EU states will probably never take such a decision. That leaves the prospect of further disintegration of the EU and the right coming into power. For Russia all this is not good news: the supporters of the country 'going its own separate way' and adopting a non-European orientation are gaining steam. Either way we live in a European edifice - and if the walls are shaky and the roof is leaking it affects us all.”

Aamulehti (FI) /

Humanity must be the first priority

Notwithstanding all the difficulties in the migration debate, one principle should never be given up, Aamulehti warns:

“There are two opposed poles in the debate: the responsibility to help people under threat and in need on the one side, and concerns about costs and the integration of the newcomers on the other. The migrants are not a homogenous group of people and cannot be simply all lumped together in the discussion. This means that different and diversified solutions are needed and that the debate quickly turns into a dreadful cacophony. ... But no matter how difficult the solutions may be or how great the concern about one's own state, this doesn't justify forgetting to treat people humanely.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Australia not a good example to follow

Europe's politicians should be wary of trying to adopt a hard line according to the Australian model, the Financial Times warns:

“Australia's policy has largely achieved its objective: to 'stop the boats'. European leaders are drawn to the humanitarian defence for this hardline approach: that stopping the boats means fewer drownings. They should resist. Australia's refugee policy has become notorious for its brutality. The Nauru detention centre has seen hunger strikes, suicides and hundreds of accusations of abuse. A separate centre on Manus Island last year had its water and power cut off.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Europe not to blame for refugee crisis

Europe has no moral responsibility to help refugees from Africa, writes Le Figaro's long-time war and foreign correspondent Renaud Girard:

“Why should the Europeans be responsible for the fact that young African men risk perilous journeys to flee their country? It's been sixty years now, two generations, since the European powers stopped administrating in Africa, since they left to the great joy of the elites and the African masses driven by the idea of achieving independence, and cheered on by the good consciences of the left of those times. Is it the Europeans who instigated this shameful trafficking, or the new pirates of the Barbary Coast?”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Merkel's path leads nowhere

There is little hope of a solution to the refugee issue, the Tages-Anzeiger believes:

“As in Berlin, the authority of the once strong Angela Merkel is also fading fast in the EU. Her opponents can feel this weakness, and sense an opportunity. In Germany, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is Merkel's adversary. On the European stage Hungary's Viktor Orbán has received reinforcement and is spearheading the movement of those who back a purely isolationist policy. In Vienna and Rome too, politicians seem to be betting that Merkel's days are numbered. Weakened and beleaguered, Angela Merkel has tied her political fate to a joint European solution in the refugee crisis. But in the row over solidarity and burden-sharing, it seems there is no more common ground left. ... The scope for a pragmatic middle course between the ideological extremes is dwindling fast.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Rome must choose its friends carefully

Italy's new government must take care to avoid ending up as the loser of the asylum row, diplomat Michele Valensise warns in La Stampa:

“The Bavarian recipe reflects the scepticism towards any kind of multilateral approach. The Austrians and the Visegrád countries take exactly the same view. But in practice automatically deporting asylum seekers to the first country where they set foot in Europe would increase the number of migrants we would have to take in, because it's probable that at least some of them made their way across Italy. So to declare solidarity with the sovereigntist course won't protect our legitimate interests but will in fact harm them. It would therefore be advisable for us to state clearly in Brussels where we stand. Any ambiguity, whether or not intentional, should be avoided.”

Delfi (LT) /

The know-alls just make things worse

The hostility towards refugees displayed by some citizens will only grow if they feel they are just helpless onlookers in this debate, Delfi explains:

“The political system is not democratic if the institutions don't ensure that the will of the people expressed in elections and referendums is implemented. ... This limits the power of the parliaments, of the presidents and of the people. Decisions are instead made by technocratic institutions. You try opposing the European Commission! ... Then there's the alienation between the elites and the normal citizens. The elites think they're better informed and more advanced and therefore have the right to do politics even against the opinions of the majority.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Sánchez or Salvini

The EU summit at the end of June will see a showdown over migration policy, editor-in-chief Enric Hernàndez writes in El Periódico de Catalunya:

“The arrival of the Aquarius [in Valencia] is neither just a 'picture of the spirit of solidarity' of the Spaniards, as Vice President Carmen Calvo put it, nor an opportunist act of political symbolism, as Pedro Sánchez's detractors are saying. ... The offer is the first sign of humanitarianism Europe has shown since Angela Merkel opened Germany's doors to a million refugees, for which she paid a high price in the elections. ... Salvini's Europe or that of Sánchez? This is the question that should be clarified at the upcoming EU summit, with Merkel to tip the scales. The doubting Macron, who is now offering to take in some of the refugees from the Aquarius, will have to choose which side he wants to be on.”

wPolityce.pl (PL) /

Warsaw and Budapest are owed an apology

The position adopted by Hungary and Poland on the migration issue is finally getting the support it deserves, wPolityce.pl writes in delight:

“One sees clearly opening Europe's doors to the needy has changed nothing. Millions were allowed in, but additional millions are still waiting in line for a better life. ... [People in Europe] are starting to see the Hungarian and Polish concept as a smart alternative: help in the countries of origin, protecting the EU's external borders and respect for the coherence and identity of nation states. ... For that reason there are also politicians and journalists - here as well as in Berlin and Brussels - who can only do one thing today: apologise to Poland and Hungary. They've said a lot of things, including many insults, that they should now take back. They were brutal in their lecturing and moralising on a subject about which they were simply wrong.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Fear-mongers must not win out

Italy's new prime minister is fanning fear of immigrants with incorrect figures, Le Monde criticises:

“If you believe Salvini, immigration is still at the peak it reached in 2015. ... But it's wrong to entertain such illusions. ... Italy's former centre-left government managed to drastically reduce the number of people leaving Libya by signing more or less official agreements with the Libyan authorites and rebel groups. The minister of the interior at the time, Marco Minitti, was able to pull the rug out from under the feet of the extremist parties, including Salvini's Lega Nord. That wasn't enough, but it's no reason to fall into the trap set by the European far right, who intend to capitalise on such fears in the 2019 European elections.”