Thursday, December 14, 2017

The EU Issue of Refugee Intake and East Europe

"The national situations are different but the overall trend is the same."
"It's everywhere, but the east is more exposed or weaker because democracy began or was renewed only 25 years ago."
Milan Nic, German Council on Foreign Relations

"[The election of Mr. Babis] is of course part of a trend, but at the same time there are variations to the theme."
"[What ties the populists together is that they] ride the wave of anxiety -- about globalization, migration and new phenomena -- and appeal to those looking for some protection."
"The Slovaks used the divorce in a positive way, proving themselves to the world as a new nation, while the Czechs were left with nostalgia and regret."
"[That lack of clear identity] plays a role in the crisis [as threats such as migration or further integration reinforces anxiety]."
Jiri Pehe, Czech scholar

Clearly, the authoritarian impulses and instincts of the European Union, dictating to its member-countries from the mundane to the truly serious, the manner in which they should comport themselves is not favoured by many of its members. The irritating interference on the scale of deference to its dictates creates friction and the kind of dissident reaction not favoured by the EU authorities. Britain's decision to leave the EU is one manifestation of that dissatisfaction taken to an extreme, since it is one of the wealthier countries, not like the Visigrad countries whose membership benefits them hugely in EU financial support.

Quite apart from the fact that countries like Poland, now pushing back against the EU dictate of taking in their 'share' of migrants and refugees values the open borders part of membership, where Polish workers flock to the United Kingdom for well-remunerated jobs and Poland further benefits by its nationals sending back the hard cash it badly needs. There is solidarity between the four Visegrad countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia who formed an alliance with this motto: "The Visegrad countries have always been part of a single civilization, sharing cultural and intellectual values and common roots in diverse religious traditions, which they wish to preserve and further strengthen".

And what they most certainly agree on is that they have no patience for a future which would promise to dilute their national identities, diminish their heritage and values and culture, and overtake their religious traditions. They balk at, refuse and are adamant that they will not be forced into accepting the refugees and migrants filtering out of the Middle East and North Africa, overrunning Europe and transforming it to the point where it is barely recognizable. If Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway enjoy being strangers in their own land, that is their choice; the Visegrad countries will have none of it.

Which has given them rather a bad name, with Germany and France, the two countries in Europe with the largest number of Muslim immigrants and migrants, looking askance and scandalized at this exhibition of non-cooperation within a group whose mandate is obviously cooperation. The concept of punishing the recalcitrant countries by withholding benefits is being discussed, but lacking a total consensus will not pass. In the meanwhile, all four of the Visegrad countries are adamant and not about to back down any time soon; they will accept no Muslim migrants or refugees.

Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are seen to be led by populist politicians, expressing the will of the people, but it also of course reflects a deeper nationalism and a fierce determination to conserve and honour the past and the values that reflect the past moved into the present. Andrej Babis is an oligarch who took advantage of popular rage against the corruption of conventional politicians, who won an overwhelmingly supported election in the Czech Republic in October. 

Hungary's Viktor Orban is considered to be "a right-wing nationalist", who made it clear from the outset when the migration began to overwhelm Europe that the flood of refugees will not make their home in Hungary, earning himself the outraged opprobrium of Western European leaders. In the same token the Polish leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski "is an idealogue" whose fear and obsession with Russia is acknowledged, while Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia is recognized as "a left-wing populist". They all have much in common, not only that they share similar regional experiences and values and heritage, but are held in low esteem by their Western Europe counterparts.

What is recognized, however, is that they are also bound together by their 20th Century history of Soviet hegemony, their dreary subjugation absent the dignity of sovereignty, now restored and held dear. While they all wish to remain part of the European Union, part of that appeal lies in the protection they feel it affords them from Russia's continued background threats, alongside the regional financial aid and enhanced employment opportunities for their nationals through the Schengen convention.
"[No one in the EU's east misses communism, but] they do resent the way the new order was founded and where the benefits went, mostly to a narrow elite."
"[They also believe] that they are surrounded by enemies, either from without -- usually Germany or Russia -- or from within".
"There is no single virus, and I don't think there is a lot of staying power."
Norman Davies, region historian, Pembroke College, Cambridge
So are the Visegrad countries doing a grave disservice to the values of the European Union by their unwillingness to open their borders to refugees and migrants? Facts speak otherwise. There are other avenues open to those with the intelligence to recognize them and to act on them for the greater good of all concerned. And here are some of the initiatives undertaken by the East that the West has much to be grateful for, rather than to deplore the refusal to accept refugees:
View: Visegrad nations protect the EU. It's time to say 'Thanks'
Reuters    Visegrad nations protect the EU

From the beginning, the PM of Hungary Viktor Orban and the leaders of Visegrad offered sound solutions to the migrant crisis including:
  1. Securing the borders first in order to separate the true war refugees from the economic migrants. They have consistently offered troops and equipment to both Italy and Greece to help them secure the external borders, but their requests have been rebuffed.
  2. Providing secure “safe camps” for the refugees outside of the EU in order to protect them from all the risks and mayhem associated with open borders and to provide a shield of safety for Europeans to protect them from the dangers of unknown roaming migrants.
  3. Offering assistance and funding to organizations which help the refugees in their homelands or close to them. Assisting true war refugees closer to their homes can help a greater number of refugees and is often the most efficient, productive and humane way to help those in need.
For instance, a Syrian Bishop has personally thanked Poland for its support and successful projects, adding “The Polish government is the only one that helps us to stay in Syria.”
Bill Ravoti, EuroNews

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia announced Thursday that they plan to spend around 35 million euros ($41 million) to beef up European Union borders as they come under pressure for refusing to accept refugee quotas.
The countries — known as the Visegrad Four — have been criticized for failing to show solidarity with Greece and Italy, where tens of thousands of migrants have landed after crossing the Mediterranean or Aegean Seas.
The issue of migrants and refugees was high on the agenda of a two-day EU summit in Brussels that started Thursday — and some saw the border funding move by the four nations as a cynical ploy to avoid accepting refugee quotas.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said their contribution will help save European funds and that "if we will see good projects in the future, first of all projects that are effective, we are ready to spend even more money because we really want to show solidarity."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has taken in the largest number of refugees, said the move was welcome but not enough.
"We need solidarity not just in regulating and steering migration ... on the external borders. That is good and important, but we also need internal solidarity," Merkel said. "In my opinion, there cannot be selective solidarity among European member states."
Hungary saw tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and other pass through its territory in 2015, looking for shelter in richer northern European nations. Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered the construction of a border fence to keep the migrants out.
The Canadian Press

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