Correspondent in Brussels
The European Commission seems to have learned the lessons of the past well. The presidenta Úrsula von der Leyen is determined at all costs to avoid a repeat of what happened in the Syrian refugee crisis that started in 2015 and that caused a very serious fracture between several countries and the community institutions, when their governments refused to accept the quota of asylum seekers requested by the Commission, then chaired by the Luxembourgish Jean-Claude Juncker.
The fear that a new massive influx of foreigners could in turn spur on the Eurosceptic populist parties or the governments they already control constitutes the biggest nightmare for Brussels, especially considering that this September is the general elections in Germany, the most important country in the EU, and that the issue could enter the final stretch of the campaign.
Von der Leyen has started by sending a very clear message in this regard: “Afghanistan is not a uniquely European problem, but affects the whole world,” he said last Tuesday at the end of the virtual meeting of the G-7. “The member countries are in charge of deciding what they will do with those they have brought to their respective territories with humanitarian visas” and in the meantime there is already a unit that is about to coordinate a formula for the voluntary relocation of these people, “said Von der They read, so that governments do not adopt policies so divergent that they generate conflicting reactions from neighbors.
In other words, the president completely discards the idea that was used in the previous crisis to establish mandatory quotas, even if they were, as it was accepted then, interchangeable with financial contributions destined for those who do accept to accept them. There are countries like Austria that have already formally ruled out accepting Afghans and the Chancellor Sebastian Kurz He has stated that his country “has already made a disproportionate contribution” in support of Afghanistan, but others are feeling social pressure to embrace them.
Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for the Interior, declared this week that in the EU “we have learned the lesson of 2015 so that we are not faced with a new migration crisis”, and stressed that member states should not take unilateral measures on their own and Instead, act as a united bloc before the problem reaches Europe. “We should not wait until we have Afghan refugees on our borders. We have to intervene much earlier. And that too, of course, includes investing more money. ‘
Indeed, the big difference with the problem that was created in the EU with the arrival of the Syrians is that now the Afghans have not (yet) reached the European borders, as it did happen in 2015 when the Greek islands were filled with millions of people who were fleeing the war and who only had to cross a strip of Turkey to reach the gates of Europe. The second is that the Europeans do not rule out negotiating with the Taliban, which they refused to do with the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Both Von der Leyen and the High Representative Josep Borrell they have clearly stated that the idea does not disgust them. Borrell has come to justify it by the fact that “they have won the war.”
The Turkish factor
The Turkish factor remains, which was the element that, on the one hand, allowed to alleviate the migratory pressure on the EU, on the other, turned the Ankara autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, more than a referee, into a player with the possibility of blackmail the EU by threatening to let the asylum seekers pass, already including together with the Syrians a significant proportion of Afghans who perhaps feared that what has finally ended up happening would happen. The news that Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country close to the Afghan border, has dismantled the refugee camps it had just erected to accommodate tens of thousands (there was talk of 70,000 at first) of its Afghan neighbors can also be interpreted as a strategy to wait to be asked by the Europeans, so that they can first put a price, even a political one, on the requests for aid that will most likely come from the EU.
In any case, Von der Leyen’s idea is to take advantage of this crisis to finish convincing member countries that they must work to agree on the necessary reform of the regulations on asylum and migration, a stone on which all his predecessors have repeatedly stumbled. “I am convinced that the time has come for countries to finally agree on the reform of migration and asylum legislation.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism