Just before an informal meeting convened to discuss Europe’s approach to the ongoing migrant crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron advocated economic sanctions against EU member nations which refuse to admit migrants into their country in comments which drew the ire of Italian government ministers.
Macron advocates setting up closed centers to accommodate migrants at locations where they most often appear while they await for their asylum applications to be processed.
Meanwhile, a drafted document which advocates that migrants be restricted to the nations in which they initially applied for asylum has been floated about, but which Angela Merkel has assured the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, was being shelved.
Merkel is presently in a very tight spot politically as her government coalition is rapidly falling apart, threatening her post as the German Chancellor, hence her haste to at least verbally placate Conte on the issue in order to assure his participation in this weekend’s informal migration summit in Brussels.
But France’s hypocrisy on the matter was highlighted by Italian officials who pointed out that France often turns migrants back to Italy rather than assuming responsibility for admitting them.
The informal summit is being boycotted by the four Visegrad nations of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
The Associated French Press reports:
French President Emmanuel Macron came out Saturday in support of financial sanctions against EU countries which refuse to accept migrants.
“We can not have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants,” he said at a press conference in Paris alongside Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
“I am in favour of sanctions being imposed in the event of no cooperation,” he said.
Reacting to Macron’s comments, Italy’s co-deputy prime minister and head of the populist M5S party, Luigi Di Maio accused the French leader of being totally oblivious to the scale of the problem.
“Macron’s statements on the fact that there is no migration crisis in Italy show that he is completely out of touch with reality. Evidently, the previous Italian governments told him that the problem did not exist…,” he said on Facebook.
“In Italy, the immigration emergency… is also fuelled by France with its constant rejections at the border. Macron is making his country a candidate to become Italy’s number one enemy on this,” he said.
Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini also reacted furiously in remarks reported by Italian media.
“Six-hundred-and-fifty thousand landings in four years, 430,000 applications…, 170,000 apparent refugees currently housed in hotels, buildings and apartments at a cost exceeding five billion euros.
“If for the arrogant President Macron this is not a problem, we invite him to stop the insults and to demonstrate generosity by opening the many French ports and ceasing to push back women, children and men to Ventimiglia.”
On the eve of a mini-summit about the divisive migration issue, Macron and Sanchez also declared support for the creation of closed reception centres where migrants would be held while their asylum claims are considered.
The centres would be set up near to where migrants often arrive first in Europe.
“Once on European soil, we are in favour of setting up closed centres in accordance with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)… so that each country takes people who are entitled to asylum in an organised way,” Macron said.
There are currently no closed migrant centres where applications are processed, with the exception of a few cases in Greece and Italy managed by the UNHCR.
For migrants not entitled to asylum, they should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron added.
Numerous areas of the EU’s core achievements appear to be under threat, at least verbally, as EU member nations squabble amongst themselves about how to handle the migration issue, which has become a sort of political dodge ball issue in Europe. Elections have been won and lost over the matter as the European public reacts to the issue of foreign migrants popping up in their neighborhoods, altering the demographics and presenting novel economic and political concerns not just on a nation level, but on the ground level in many European states.
As long as the battle continues, and the lack of agreement persists, the likelihood of a solution coming to light in a timely manner casts a shadow over Merkel’s political prospects as her time is running out to present a solution before the hot water that she finds herself in reaches the boiling point.
For the EU, this matter presents a growing challenge to the right of unhindered passage between member states, and, with the prospect of sanctions, the economic benefit of belonging to the Union. Macron’s position, could hypothetically renew Italy’s interest in exiting the Euro, further threatening its stability. The German question also presents a growing concern as to how its relationship with the rest of the Union will appear if an amiable solution to the migrant matter is not decided, as right wing nationalist sympathies gain ground on the German political landscape.
What seems to be eluding many of these states is the root causes of the migration, in the first place. The issue would seem to be that of political instability, war, and poor economic conditions in their home countries, many of which face these issues due to crises initiated by NATO members meddling in their politics and economies for their own political gain, at the expense of the stability of the nations so affected.
The EU, presently taking the brunt of the outcome of this meddling, which includes America’s regime change wars and political meddling, has been, and continues to be, actively involved in such activities, for which reason the migration issue persists and will do so for the foreseeable future. That EU nations should stop bombing, invading, and exploiting African and Middle Eastern nations for political and economic gains, in an undemocratic fashion, I might add, appears to go over their heads like a distant cloud.
But the question is, what business do sanctions have in a politico economic bloc like the EU? What business does France have lecturing other nations on taking migrants from countries which France is presently bombing? And, will the migration issue lead to more Trump-like thinking in Europe, as walls become more popular, inter-bloc travel more regulated, and talk of sanctions thrown about in willy-nilly fashion? What are to be the short term and long term effects of migration from war torn Middle Eastern and African nations, not just domestically, but geopolitically?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.