FIRST of all, we must set the proper premise and remind ourselves of a fact that is vital to us and the rest of Asean. This is the fact that the well-being of the European Union, its economic, social and political stability, in fact its very existence, is a boon for the Philippines and all of us in Asean.
So we must, as individuals and as a people, pray that Europe surmounts the crisis that threatens its existence as the European Union.
An Agence France-Presse report by Lachlan Carmichael quotes major EU politicians who warn that the “migrant crisis poses possibly the most serious threat to the European Union’s existence since the bloc’s foundation as the ghosts of nationalism increasingly haunt the post-war dream of unity.”
“While the EU has previously weathered storms ranging from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the eurozone debt crisis, they believe the huge influx of refugees and migrants taps into more dangerous currents that could yet sink the bloc.”
What will save the EU from dissolving, with the threat of some of the 28 EU member states to leave the Union if they are forced to accept migrants and refugees, is for all of them to realize that it is better to stand united than to disband. In fact, no single EU country will remain secure and prosperous on its own.
“I really believe it’s the most serious crisis in many years the European Union is facing, probably even the most serious since the beginning of the process of European integration,” Jose Manuel Barroso, who headed the European Commission from 2004 to 2014, told AFP’s Carmichael. He warned against the “old demons of xenophobia and intolerance” in Europe, and reminded that “the migration crisis goes beyond economic issues and is causing splits over whether to admit foreigners of a different religion or race.”
It threatens the very concept of European solidarity, said Barroso, and “has an existential nature because it is polarizing.”
No less than 1.25 million asylum seekers have poured into Europe since the start of 2015. These are people, and entire families, fleeing war, poverty and homelessness in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. Many became homeless when the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) armies invaded their communities and drove away those they had not killed.
AFP says, “In terms of sheer numbers it is the biggest migration crisis to face the continent since 1945, but political veterans warn that the real danger is the rifts it is causing between the 28 EU member states.”
A former revolutionary activist in his youth who progressed into becoming a member of the European Parliament, Franco-German Daniel Cohn-Bendit, not an ex-MP, worries that Europe “might not be able to forge the kind of joint solution it crafted recently for the divisive eurozone debt crisis.” He says, “Today, we have the impression there is an unbelievable insensitivity and that it is everyone for himself. That’s very dangerous for the European idea.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened up Germany’s borders to more than a million migrants last year. She won praise from Barroso, Cohn-Bendit and others for setting an example for other Europeans. But, Cohn-Bendit rues the situation in which “only Merkel has a European stature. The rest are political dwarves.”
He means the several European heads of state and government, like the hardline Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who will not make an exception and will stick to the EU law in treating the flood of migrants.
Meanwhile, one week after the first meeting of a summit in Brussels, in which the EU has been trying to persuade Turkey to take back thousands of migrants and do more to stop others leaving for Europe, no agreement has been reached.
The latest report says Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has demanded action by EU on Turkey’s long delayed EU membership. And it wants more funds from Europe so it can afford to make the difficult moves it must make to bar millions of mostly fellow Muslims from the Arab world from reaching Europe. Turkey is also demanding that EU relax its visa rules.