“…it is a matter of plain common sense that we cannot totally abolish frontier controls if we are to protect our citizens from crime and the movement of drugs, of terrorists, and of illegal immigrants”.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Bruges Speech, 20 September, 1988.
Alphen, Netherlands. 17 March. Is security and humanitarianism compatible in 2016 Europe? Listen to European leaders and the answer would appear to be no. Yesterday Dick Schoof, the Dutch Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator, said that security was the first imperative and that open borders and mass irregular migration were undermining security. However, the night before Bert Koenders, the Dutch foreign minister, speaking from Brussels as part of the current Dutch EU presidency, told a BBC current affairs programme that the humanitarian imperative must come first. Sadly, both irregular migrants and European citizens are now trapped in the muddy wasteland of elite European ‘thinking’ about the balance to be struck between security and humanitarianism that this week’s double Dutch has revealed.
Schoof also drew a direct link between the massed irregular migration Europe is facing and the growing threat posed by IS/Daesh which he said was preparing mass casualty terrorist attacks in European capitals. He also warned of the growing instability of European societies caused by the increased influence of extreme leftist and rightist groups emboldened by the current crisis.
The evidence of crisis is clear. On Tuesday Belgian police shot dead an Algerian illegally in Brussels who was a member of an IS/Daesh cell. Yesterday, French police arrested four Islamists believed to be preparing further attacks in France, the latest of 74 such arrests since the November 2015 massacre. On 8 March, a leaked German police report predicted “…a surge in drug and sex-related crimes by migrants and an increase in radicalisation against the state”.
And yet, in the wake of the political drubbing she received in last Sunday’s German regional elections Chancellor Merkel refuses to change course remaining committed to her ‘she can do this’ open door policy. This morning I listened to a migrant on the BBC saying precisely that he had been given the ‘right’ to come to Europe by Chancellor Merkel. The rest of Europe’s elite demurely and meekly follow Queen Angela towards disaster like the tragic children in the Pied-Piper of Hamelin.
In a desperate effort to extricate themselves from the mud of their own desperate thinking Europe’s leaders are instead placing their faith in a desperate deal with an increasingly authoritarian Turkey. Not surprisingly, as European leaders sit down today for yet another desperate EU summit it is a deal which this morning is unravelling…desperately.
In fact, the deal was a non-starter from the outset, not even coming close to passing the Thatcher ‘common sense’ test. Naturally, Turkey would be happy to take €6bn of my Dutch taxpayer’s money by pretending to take migrants back. However, in reality there is little incentive for the Erdogan regime in Ankara to retain such people given the 2.5m migrants and refugees already in their country, and the threats to its own security Turkey faces. Moreover, hopes that Ankara could leverage visa-free travel across Schengen for its citizens, or engineer a fast-track to EU membership, are fast disappearing. In any case Cyprus is about the veto the deal for internal reasons.
The sad truth is that Europe’s leaders are simply too wedded to ideals and preserving structures that belong to another age. Therefore, Europe’s leaders will go on pretending to take action that gives the appearance that Schengen has an external border. For example, by sending large NATO warships to the Aegean to ‘monitor’ human trafficking, but in effect do nothing. They will continue to try and hide the extent of their collective failure from citizens by hoping that intelligence services and law enforcement agencies can continue to prevent the many attacks IS/Daesh and their cohorts are planning in Europe. However, whatever the élan of such services they can never hope to protect European citizens from a failure of policy and leadership. And, Europe’s leaders will continue to justify a lack of effective action through excessive legalism. However, neither UN humanitarian law and/or Council of Europe/EU human rights legislation were designed to cope with the society-bending influxes Europe is facing.
Therefore, increasingly detached from the reality of the voters who elected them leaders will continue to put pretend humanitarianism before actual security. It is not as if Europe's leaders are doing muh if anything to help the desperate people stuck on the Greek-Macedonian border. Above all, Europe’s leaders will continue to place maintaining the dangerous façade, the Potemkin village that is Schengen, before the security of their citizens, even as the idea' of 'Europe' collapses under the weight of leader inertia.
Can Europe’s leaders escape from the policy vacuum in which they are trapped? Yes, by being tough enough to apply the existing rules rigorously, and be seen to do so by their exasperated citizens. Syrian refugees must be helped, but they must also be properly-controlled and monitored. Moreover, all of those with no right to protection must be returned to their home countries and quickly. Above all, asylum policy must mean again what it was originally meant to mean; a temporary refuge. Not, as it has become, an open door to society-bending permanent resettlement.
Through their collective failure and inaction European leaders are setting a time-bomb a-ticking particularly in Western Europe. They are wilfully importing criminality from the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, as German police confirm. They are also importing huge numbers of people many of whom reject Europe’s liberal culture of tolerance. Most dangerously, they are importing into European society the many wars and hatreds that make the Middle East the dangerous place it is, with dangerous implications for the future stability of European societies.
Therefore, ‘plain common sense’ today in Brussels European suggest leaders need to urgently answer a critical question; how many European citizens have to die before they understand that their first duty is the security of the people who elected them? Do you understand that Meneer Koenders?
Is security and humanitarianism compatible in 2016 Europe? Not at the moment.