Europe’s meltdown in the face of its biggest post-1945 immigration emergency is generating the worst East-West split since the Iraq war, when then-US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld divided it into “new Europe and old Europe” — his supporters and opponents.
On Thursday, Germany and France ordered the European Commission to come up with a new “permanent” and binding regime for spreading the refugee load across all of the 28 nations in the EU. British Prime Minister David Cameron and British Home Secretary Theresa May want nothing to do with the scheme and have absented themselves from the policymaking.
On Friday, the prime ministers of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic told Paris and Berlin to go to hell, arguing that Western European-style multiculturalism is nothing but trouble and that they have no intention of repeating the same mistakes.
The commission has already done what Berlin is demanding. On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to unveil proposals obliging at least 22 nations with a combined population of nearly 400 million to absorb 160,000 people from Italy, Greece and Hungary, which are struggling with influxes from the Middle East and Africa.
The seven nations of central Europe and the Baltic are being asked to take fewer than 30,000. It should not be a problem for big international cities such as Warsaw, Prague and Budapest.
However, the eastern Europeans are retreating into parochialism, digging into their national bunkers while nursing resentment at what they perceive to be German bullying.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the cheerleader of the “Europe is useless” chorus, but Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Czech President Milos Zeman are not far behind. Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz sounds more moderate, but she looks likely to lose an election next month to the nationalist right. Her hands are tied.
There is no “European” immigration policy or regime. There is a mish-mash of national policies which are contradictory, incoherent and fragmented. National governments guard these prerogatives jealously.
Europe in the form of the EU authorities in Brussels has minimal say over policymaking. Almost all power lies with heads of national governments and interior ministries.
However, in this crisis, Brussels-bashing has become routine, the cheap and easy option for shameless national leaders acting unilaterally, blocking every suggestion that comes out of Brussels and then blaming it for the ensuing chaos.
Orban proved the point in Brussels last week. “Europe” had failed, its leaders had irresponsibly created this mess, their response was “madness,” he said.
He has put up a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia and announced he was fast-tracking legislation to establish a zero immigration regime within 10 days, with the army deployed on the border.
Brussels cannot stop him because these powers are national. If necessary, Orban said he would put up another fence on the border with Croatia, a barrier between two EU countries. On Friday, Brussels shrugged and said it did not like it, but it could do nothing about it.
Brussels’ “all-powerful” bureaucrats are relatively impotent when it comes to immigration. For months the Italians, French, Austrians and Germans have been quietly re-establishing controls on the internal national borders of the open Schengen travel zone, which are supposed to be proscribed. Brussels cannot stop them.
A commission spokeswoman said Italian police controls on the border with Austria were not border controls.
The commission is charged with policing the regime governing Schengen, but Germany unilaterally waived the rules regulating how immigrants entering the EU are handled. It did not tell Brussels, nor neighboring governments.
Berlin is winning plaudits everywhere for its exemplary generosity and its open-door policy toward Syrians fleeing war, but Syrians can only get to Germany through other EU nations who were not told about the policy flip-flop. That contributed to the wretched scenes in Hungary and Austria.
Uniquely in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seized the moral high ground on Syrian refugees.
However, this is the same leader who, a few years ago, said that “multikulti has absolutely failed.”
She is known to be acutely risk-averse, with a close eye on the polls which have shown her ratings slip over recent weeks. For more than a year the Germans have been complaining bitterly that people entering Italy and Greece were deliberately not being registered by the national authorities, but simply encouraged to board trains and buses for Germany.
Then they shifted and declared unilaterally that Syrians could come anyway.
The commission can propose a panoply of measures aimed at creating more joined-up policies. It did so in May and is to extend the effort this week. However, they are instantly shot down by national police ministries.
As European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said on Friday “asylum policies in Europe are not aligned.”
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
Former US vice president Joe Biden on Friday said he “should not have been so cavalier” after he told a radio host that African Americans who back US President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.” Biden faced criticism after his comments earlier on Friday on The Breakfast Club, a