The EU is witnessing the 21st century’s first large migration wave moving towards its borders. This influx of people has forced countries on its Balkan route to manage hundreds of thousands of desperate, destitute people. Not yet EU members, these countries met the task with humanity and relative efficiency – only to find out that some EU countries had suspended the principles of human rights and other basic values that the Union is built upon. The image of the EU as a community of values with high standards of human rights protection is seriously undermined.
It has become evident that the EU has no comprehensive policy for dealing with migration challenges of this scale, or institutions or rules for member countries to meet similar trials in the future. To make things worse, it is evident that some EU members would like to share the benefits of membership without participating in problem solving, which was made abundantly clear in their refusal to accept the refugee quota.
This refusal, done by countries that share neither the colonial past nor the interventionist present of some others, is backed by explicable arguments. It is also understandable that many EU citizens fear a massive influx of refugees, who would potentially increase the pressure on job markets in times of recession and overburden the remnants of the welfare state in times of harsh austerity measures. However, we fear that this situation is to be misused by populist politicians and xenophobic political forces gaining compelling election arguments, which would result in a further rise of right-wing and anti-European political elites.
The EU must now develop effective institutions and adopt rules for dealing with future waves of immigration. First, it needs to significantly step up humanitarian assistance and treat ongoing migration influx as an international humanitarian crisis. Second, a new system for integration of refugees and migrants should be based on realistic assessment of the EU’s members’ absorption capacity and do not endanger national identities, cultures, the labor market or the basic principles of the welfare system.
Simultaneously, the EU and its trans-Atlantic partners, together with Russia, China and other powerful countries, should do everything possible to end the ongoing violent conflicts and prevent the root causes of others that are on the brink of emerging. The EU and its partners should also make significant efforts to support the economic revival of emigrant countries through well-crafted economic programs, transfer of know-how, assistance in fighting corruption and political extremism, as well as development of democratic institutions without violation of national traditions. Since future migrations can be expected as a result of climate change, decisive efforts must also be made to mitigate global warming.
As the most successful peace and political project in human history, the EU has the obligation towards the entire world to initiate a genuine shift of paradigm. This paradigm must be guided by empathy and solidarity; otherwise we shall not survive the hardships the entire planet is faced with. Very soon, at the climate summit in Paris, the EU will have a chance to distinguish itself as a community of values once again.
In defining a comprehensive policy toward migrations, the Balkan countries that have earned their right to be part of the problem-solving community must be treated as partners. Finally, the Balkan countries should develop a regional approach and become part of a joint regional and European response.
Belgrade Appeal: FOR EUROPEAN SOLUTION OF REFUGEE AND MIGRATION CRISIS
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