hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 13 November 2015

Lebanon on the Rhine

This blog was written yesterday prior to the appalling attacks on Paris. Out of respect to the victims and their families, and indeed in solidarity with France and the French people, I am re-posting this blog in the desperate hope that finally Europe's leaders will wake up and together finally meet the threat Europe is facing. JLF

Alphen, Netherlands. 13 November. Is Germany and much of Western Europe becoming Lebanon on the Rhine?  The migrant crisis will see Germany’s population of 80 million increase by over one percent in 2015 alone. Such an “avalanche” of people, as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble last night called the migrant flows, is unheralded. Far greater than any of the flows generated by the 1990s Balkan wars the migration crisis is beginning to damage the very fabric of German society. This is confirmed by reports of German police being intimidated by groups of migrants, fights between different migrant groups, and communities being overwhelmed by large numbers of migrants imposed upon them. Unless control is re-exerted and seen to be re-exerted there is the very real danger that citizens will lose faith in the leadership, not just of Chancellor Merkel in Germany, but other Western European states. Indeed, there is now the very real danger that the migration crisis will reinforce and further exacerbate Europe's multiple crises of liberalism, leadership, identity, and terrorism. 

Now, I drafted this piece prior to the terrible suicide attacks yesterday by IS in Beirut’s Shia suburbs which killed 41 and injured over 200 and I thought hard about whether to change the title. Tragically, it is precisely the import of such hatreds into Europe that concerns me, and why this piece needs to hit hard. Of course, Lebanon is very different to Germany. Lebanon has a population of some 6.5 million of whom some 2 million are Syrian refugees, together with some 500,000 Palestinians. However, there is as many as 1.2 million migrants from very different cultures and traditions likely to enter Germany this year, and according to the EU up to 3 million will enter the Union by 2017, with most of them headed towards a few Western European states.

Europe's Liberal Crisis: The current migrant crisis is not just a people crisis, it is the existential political crisis of liberal Europe. A liberal Europe of which I am very much a part.  Like many of my fellow Europeans my instincts are to do right by people in need. However, I am also a political realist and understand that the sheer scale and nature of the migration flow, both from Middle East and Africa represents a clear and present danger to the stability and indeed the cohesion of European societies.

The Western European liberal compulsion to avoid looking at any big picture that might suggest misplaced compassion could be dangerous has created a bizarre situation. Many mainstream politicians now appear to place the well-being of migrants before the security of the very citizens who elect them. Indeed, like many European citizens I am sick and tired of being lectured from on high by ivory tower, ȕber-idealist leaders telling me, “We can do this”.  What’s with the ‘we’?  It is not leaders in their posh residences and protected cars lost in a mad dream about Europe issuing vacuous statements about the need for “European solidarity” who are having to deal with the inevitable tensions and frictions caused by such an influx. It is ordinary people in ordinary neighbourhoods across Western Europe, many of whom are already reeling from the impact of seven years of austerity politics.

Europe's Leadership Crisis: Another month, another failed EU summit. Yesterday, European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday stood up in Malta following the sixth (yes, sixth!) migration-related summit this year to announce yet another EU “Action Plan”. An action plan that likely as not will see little or no ‘action’. Whilst some of the measures proposed at Malta are a step in the right direction, there was no agreement over the critical need for enforced repatriations. 

The Malta Summit did at least agree a wish-list with African leaders that included the need to address the root causes of migration, improve work on promoting and organising legal migration channels, enhance protection of migrants and asylum seekers, tackle the exploitation and trafficking of migrants, and improve co-operation on return and readmissionSadly, it was all talk as Western European leaders are simply not tough enough to protect Europeans, and not willing to take the necessary tough decisions. Indeed, the moment difficult scenes appear on television screens they will scurry back to the false idealism which is so exacerbating this crisis. Indeed, at the current rate of resettlement it will take until 2101 for the initial 160,000 refugees to be re-settled across the EU.

It is also clear that the entire edifice of free movement within the EU is now under threat from the migration crisis.  Indeed, even as Tusk was speaking Sweden was ‘temporarily’ closing its borders as the pressure of 200,000 2015 migrant arrivals began to bite. Denmark looks likely to follow suit.   Instead of action too many Western European leaders simply retreat ever deeper into their politically-correct trenches.  The simple truth is that many of Europe’s mainstream leaders have all but abandoned political common sense these past few months, and it is this retreat from realism that is opening the door to political opportunists. 

Europe's Identity Crisis: The migration crisis is also generating a crisis of identity. The other day I watched an interview with Col (Retd.) Bob Stewart MP, a British politician whom I hold in high regard. The issue under debate was why the British armed forces are finding it so hard to recruit in London and the south-east of England. For ten minutes Stewart danced on the head of a pin as he endeavoured to avoid saying the politically inconvenient, but blindingly obvious; London has a huge population of recently-arrived Commonwealth citizens and new British citizens who enjoy multiple identities and who cannot be expected to be as loyal to the British state as the bulk of the indigenous population. I don’t blame them. Indeed, I am an immigrant myself in the Netherlands.  And, whilst I am respectful of both the laws and indeed the Dutch state, I have absolutely no intention of joining the Dutch armed forces, even if I could and even though I also hold them in high regard. Typically, Mark Rutte, the smiley Dutch prime minister, has been notable for not just a complete absence of leadership during this crisis, but a complete absence.
Liberal democracies cannot function if large numbers of the population – be they citizens or residents - have no sense of loyalty to, or no longer believe in, the state. Therefore, if the current migration flows are not brought under proper management (migration will never end nor should it) and quickly then not only will European states like Germany find themselves full of people who have little connection to, or investment in the German state, Western European states will also lose the trust and confidence of huge numbers of their own citizens.  
Europe's Terrorism Crisis: The worst and most dangerous failing of Western European leaders is their wilful ignoring of the clear link between uncontrolled migration and terrorism.  Instead, they mask an abject failure of political leadership by instead trying to convince Europeans that the influx is also a good thing. Europe needs young people, they say, and that many of the migrants are highly-educated. This is nonsense. Whilst not a few Syrian refugees have skills to offer that will in time be desperately needed back in Syria, some 70% are young men, with only 30% or so of whom can be described as true refugees. In other words, Germany and Europe is letting in the most dangerous demographic, and there can be no question that ordinary Europeans will pay a price for this. Yesterday the Americans killed ‘Jihadi John’, a ‘British’ IS fighter who became infamous for beheading innocent people.  Mohammed Elwazi moved to Britain in the 1990s from Kuwait. Yesterday arrests were also being made across six European countries to break up a gang directly linked to IS terrorism and led by an Iman who had come to Europe from Iraq in 1991.

Therefore, in addition to Tusk’s five proposals I want to add six more: immediate re-establishment of control over Europe’s borders; registration of people at point of entry into the EU; European authorities not migrants to control the movement of migrants; those with a genuine right to stay given the right to stay; economic migrants identified and repatriated quickly, with humane, enforced deportation if needs be; and EU and European state aid withheld from those countries that refuse to take back those who do not qualify for resettlement in Europe.

If such action means European leaders appearing tough then so be it, for such toughness will itself act as a deterrent and help re-establish order.  There is one other proposal I would add; mainstream politicians must stop being intimidated into taking the easy ‘PC’ way out over difficult issues, and/or stop putting even the most mildly controversial issues into the politically too difficult to deal with file.         

Western Europe today is fast becoming a dangerous mix of imported frictions and profound uncertainties and insecurities, with citizens fast losing faith in both their national political leaderships and the EU. It is a toxic combination that is fast rendering both the European state and by extension the EU dysfunctional. That is why unless decisive action is taken to re-establish control Germany, and indeed other Western European states, are in danger of becoming Lebanons on the Rhine. 

Europe’s political centre is failing and this can only benefit political radicals and Europe’s adversaries, and no good-thinking person could possibly wish that. As Donald Tusk said yesterday, “It is a race against time”.

Julian Lindley-French

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