Yesterday at the European Parliament Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his first “State of the Union” speech since he took office as President of the European Commission.
There is too little Europe, and there is too little Union, he said.
Very true. And very good sound-bite. But the problem is that Juncker, while he is certainly aware of the serious problems the EU finds is facing, does not seem to have any solutions for them.
Take, for example, the Greek crisis. Juncker quotes it as one of the occasions in which the EU has demonstrated its ability to find viable compromises. In reality, however, the adoption of the third rescue package in July 2015 means that the Eurozone has bought itself some time, this time at the cost of 86 billion Euro. But how is this time going to be used? There is nothing in the package to actually tackle the root causes of the crises, which means that in one year at the latest we will be where we were – and another package will be needed. But predictably the tensions within the Eurogroup will until then continue to increase than decrease, so that the next rescue package will be even more difficult to agree upon than the current one. How is this conducive to a real solution of the problem, which is rooted in Greece’s lack of competitiveness?
The dominant theme of Juncker’s speech was however the refugee crisis. In a sense it is linked to the Greek situation: sometime during the first months of this year, in order to create pressure in the negotiations on the debt crisis, the Greek government threatened that, by ceasing any attempt to prevent them from entering the EU, it would inundate Germany with asylum seekers. This is precisely what is happening now. Refugees are quickly transported to the Macedonian border, from where the Macedonian government brings them to Serbia, and the Serbians to Hungary. Hungary is so far the only EU Member State making serious attempts to comply with its obligations under the Schengen and Dublin II agreements, but to no avail: the refugees are absolutely un-cooperative. Neither do they want to get registered nor do they apply for asylum in Hungary, which they consider to be a mere transit country on their way to Germany and Sweden. Any attempts by Hungary to prevent them from circumventing the law are derided or denounced by the media and even the EU institutions, which teaches a clear and simple lesson to the migrants: they don’t need to respect the laws.
In the meantime the German chancellor has announced that Germany will not send back any refugees to the first EU country they have set their foot on, which conveys to the refugees that they now have an entitlement to come and be accepted as refugees in Germany. This will not encourage them to apply for asylum in any other country than Germany, or to cooperate with the authorities of any countries they are transiting. With large groups of refugees walking on motorways and railroads the situation is quickly spinning out of control in Hungary and Austria.
The wealthy Gulf monarchies in the meantime refuse to accept any of their Syrian co-religionists as asylum seekers on their territories. Instead, Saudi-Arabia is offering to finance the construction of 200 new mosques in Germany, which, as the Saudi government opines, would be conducive to a better integration of Muslim refugees…
After one week of euphoria and self-congratulation Germany is slowly beginning to realize the difficulty of integrating into German society up to 1 million of refugees with no knowledge of the German language, an (on average) rather low level of education, and a strong attachment to Islam. As it turns out, this may be a much more challenging task than the integration of 12 million Germans who had been chased from Eastern Central Europe in the immediate aftermath of WWII. The refugee crisis will trigger 3.3 billion Euros of extra public expenditure in 2016 alone, says the Federal Ministry for Social Affairs.
Juncker’s proposal to distribute 160.000 refugees among Member States on the basis of binding quotas not only looks grotesquely inadequate, but is also impossible to implement. As the Hungarian example shows, the refugees are unlikely to accept being pushed around. How except by brute force, does the Commission think it will get any refugees from Germany to, say, Estonia? And if Hungary can already be lambasted for erecting a barbed-wire fence at its border to Serbia, how can unwilling refugees be deported from one EU country to another without drawing accusations that their human rights are violated?
The resolution of the current refugee crisis would require not only a comparable level of welfare everywhere in Europe, but also an amount of co-operation between Member States that, as a result of the events of the past weeks, clearly does not exist anymore. But when everyone is trying to resolve the crisis for himself, then inevitably the crisis will lead to the break-down of the Schengen system. Yet together with the single currency the possibility to travel freely between Member States is one of the most visible and symbolic achievements the EU has brought for average citizens; its suspension would deal a terrible blow to the public image of the EU.
The declining fortunes of the EU are also reflected in the opinion polls on the upcoming referendum in Britain regarding the country’s possible exit from the Union. Just at the time when the government has taken the necessary steps to call such a referendum in the course of next years the polls for the very first time indicate an advance for the No campaign. If things stay that way, the EU will lose one of its biggest and most powerful Member States.
The root of all problems, however, is not at all mentioned in Juncker’s speech. It is the creeping process of cultural self-destruction that undermines Europe’s ability to cope with the current challenges. A society that kills more than half of its progeny before birth, rejects the correct understanding of marriage and the family, depletes its cultural and moral heritage, and is unwilling to defend its identity as a commonwealth of Christian nations, will not be able to create a sense of integration and belonging. The disintegration of what was ones intended to be an “ever closer union” of nations is the unavoidable consequence.