For years now, Europe has been unable to answer two major questions that fundamentally shape the world around us. The first one is the relations with authoritarian leaders and their regimes, the second one is the migration issue. Europe has been experiencing the increasingly serious consequences of doing nothing but crisis management instead of developing a consistent concept and strategy. More clearly than ever, the migrant crisis unfolding at the Poland-Belarus border shows the EU’s indecision in both these issues.
The European Union is an interesting organization: although it has become much more than a loose alliance by now, whenever it comes to taking a common stance, it immediately proves to be much less than a real federation. However, the challenges just never seem to be waiting patiently until the European integration gets ready to meet them. As a result, the EU is still basically stumbling through the obstacles in its way, with little to no chance to affect or shape the surrounding world, unfortunately.
The last years brought two major challenges where a common stance and a consistent policy was more sorely needed than ever before.
The first question was: how should Europe relate to the authoritarian regimes of the world? Should it try to weaken or even topple them, and undertake the economic and security risks involved? Or should we perhaps overlook the differences between our political systems and aim to maintain good relations with them for business profit and momentary security, while giving up Europe’s projected image as the defender of democracy and human rights? There are plenty of arguments for both options but, in lack of a consensus, the EU has so far failed to stand for either of them. Instead, it just stuck with the embarrassing indecision. The EU-Minsk relations are a clear example of that. After the fraudulent Belarusian elections in the summer of 2020, the European Union made all sorts of promises to Lukashenka’s opposition – only to lie idly by while the Belarusian dictator methodically and literally destroyed the protests. By imposing anti-Lukashenka sanctions and minimizing EU-Belarus relations however, we lost any remaining influence and managed to push Lukashenka over to Moscow’s side for good, while the members of the Belarusian opposition still at large have every reason to feel completely let down by the EU.
No other scenario could have been worse than this one.
The other major issue was migration, where we have not been able to lay the foundations for a real strategy, either. Hesitating between the two dominant ideas, i.e., “let everyone in the EU for humanitarian reasons” vs. “seal the borders and manage the issue as a security and policing affair”, the European Union was unable to find its own position. The current system, where we generally refuse to let anyone in, but if they still get across the border somehow, then we give them asylum and take care of them, is good for no other purpose than to create insecurity and incite political unrest.
What we see at the Poland-Belarus border stems from these two problems: the EU has been trying to shirk its responsibility and get away with putting off decisions for so long that it finally got stuck in the web of its own indecisiveness.
That’s exactly what Lukashenka is leveraging on right now. This crisis was actually created by us, Europeans. If Europe decided to generally let in the migrants waiting at the border, Lukashenka would hardly find it profitable to spend money and energy on facilitating a process that’s already going on without him anyway. If he nonetheless decided to do so, everybody could still just walk across the EU’s border. On the other hand, if Europe decided to put an end to illegal migration once and for all and protect its borders no matter what, so that it could preserve its security and social peace, Lukashenka would no longer be interested in allowing migrants to crowd the Polish border.
If he did, he would only harm his own country, because those thousands of people would remain stranded in Belarus until they could return home.
This situation is truly a crisis – the crisis of indecision.
Unfortunately, the only ones who profit from situations like these are the populists. For example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has just flown to Ankara to talk about migration with the Turkish government…
Source: Jobbik – press release