‘At this very moment, the European Union is its own worst enemy’
Ernst Labruyère – February 2016
Last week the world saw an extremely rare and unheard of event within the European Union: Greece withdrew its Austrian ambassador.
This happened when the country learned that Austria, together with Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, had organized a ‘private’ meeting to discuss stricter border controls with respect to the Greek borders. Greece had NOT been invited for this meeting and was extremely angry about this insult.
Such expulsion politics within Europe can act as a fission fungus inside the EU, as it acted as a knife in the back of Greece and its struggle with the large influx of refugees. As a matter of fact, it was a knife in the back of the European Union itself and therefore it should be stopped immediately.
It must have been a very interesting view: the look upon the face of Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, when he learned about the private meeting that Austria held with Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.
This meeting was organized by Austria and this ‘Balkan Bunch’, in order to discuss the influx of refugees from Greece into their countries and – even more important – to find ways to diminish or stop this influx. And oh yeah... Greece was NOT invited to it... and neither was the European Commission, or The Netherlands as chairman of the EU.
I think that we can safely summarize the events with respect to Greece by stating that Alexis Tsipras was ‘not amused’. In fact, he was so little amused that Greece withdrew its ambassador from Austria, as main organizer of the event. Tsipras did so to express his heartfelt anger and dismay about this blunt shutting out of Greece from a meeting that dealt with Greece’s main concern at this moment: the refugee crisis. The NOS wrote the following about this event:
The Balkan countries will possibly close their borders with Greece. The Greeks are outraged about the plans and call it a ‘hostile’ action. PM Tsipras stated that he will obstruct every European decision until there is a ‘decent and fair’ redistribution of refugees in Europe. Today [Thursday, February 26 – EL] the European leaders will discuss the refugee issue.
The Greek minister of Foreign affairs Nikos Kotzias, states that Europe cannot solve these big issues with a “mentality, originating from the Nineteenth Century”.
There was not a single unclear word within this Greek statement. And Het Financieele Dagblad also wrote a few must-read statements about this issue:
The impotence of the EU, regarding the refugee crisis, got a new chapter with the decision of the Austrian government to invite countries from the Balkan region, in order to search for solutions on a smaller scale. The European Commission, the advocate of all EU countries was not invited. Greece, in fact the country of first arrival for the vast majority of the refugees, was also not welcome at the party. This led to a fierce diplomatic conflict, in which Greece withdrew its ambassador in Vienna and accused Austria and the Balkan countries to not act in the spirit of the European cooperation of the last decades.
The refugee crisis deals with a fierce problem, uncomparable with the financial crisis that has lasted for eight years. ‘Migration hits the identity of society’, according to a European diplomat once.’This is about something that changes the villages, the neighbourhoods and the streets...”
European countries will increasingly seek refuge in national limitation measures to control the influx of refugees. With as a major blow for the Pan-European refugee issue, that German has become fed up with the lack of European cooperation and plans to abolish its culture of ‘welcoming the refugees’. When Germany closes its borders just as Greece’s neighbours intend to do, Greece will become the victim of this. And then the European Commission can do little more than facilitating the aid for refugees on Greek shores at the islands or the mainland.
This statement in this excellent article by Jeroen Segenhout is so true.
Greece was right to withdraw its ambassador from Austria, as very a powerful signal of discomfort and malcontentedness.
This “conspiracy” of the Balkan Bunch and Austria was not ‘just about something unimportant’, but about one of the main challenges that the European Union is currently dealing with: the refugee crisis. By shutting out Greece – and as a matter of fact, the European Commission – this reckless group of countries has cornered, offended and (even) betrayed both Greece and the European Commission.
By doing so, the Balkan Bunch has planted a fission fungus into the heart of the European Union: an action so reckless and blunt that it could have been inspired by ‘the capo di tutti capi’ – President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
There is no way in hell in which a structural solution can be found for the refugee crisis without the help and involvement of Greece, as the following Google Maps Chart shows:
|Greece, as the pivotal country in the refugee crisis and the |
country of choice for refugees from Libya, Egypt, Syria and Turkey
Picture courtesy of: Google Maps
Click to enlarge
Greece exists of over 6000 islands, of which more than 227 are inhabited, and it lies at a pivotal position between Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Libya. This means that Greece is the natural gateway to the “Schengen zone” of Europe. This circumstance, as well as the fact that the borders of all these islands can hardly be controlled by one country, makes it the landing point of choice for refugees from all these four aforementioned countries.
To make things worse, Greece is struck hardest by the enduring economic crisis that emerged in 2008 and the country is only removed from defaulting by a whisker.
What Austria and the Balkan Bunch now express, is that they don’t give a rat’s behind about the fact that Greece is flooded by refugees. And that Greece does not know what to do about them and where to go with them, stuck as it is with nearly endless, wide open borders with Africa, the Middle-East and Turkey and – at the same time – more and more closing borders in the north of their country.
Or according to Austria and the Balkan Bunch, in words that they could have expressed: ‘It’s their problem and we don’t want to be involved in that. Therefore we are developing a scheme to close our borders with Greece, so that they stay behind with their own misery, instead of bothering us with it’.
This is not only betrayal of Greece, but also a betrayal to the ideas and the ‘raison d’etre’ of the European Union. Instead of European countries helping other countries to solve their problems for the benefit of the whole Union, the Balkan countries and Austria sought refuge in the most narrow-minded reflexes of nationalism and mutual national egoism: ‘Everybody for themselves and God for us all’.
The only thing that Greece could do, is express their discontent about these events in the strongest words and act as they indeed did. This is something that the European Commission and the leadership of the European Union should also do.
Unfortunately, we know that PM Mark Rutte of The Netherlands – currently chairman of the European Union – is not the man he needs to be to send such a strong signal to the Balkan Bunch and Austria. And now these countries all hope that the refugee problem will vanish from the face of the earth, when they close their borders and put their heads in the sand together.