The Future of EU
European Union faces substantial challenges. Crisis after crisis, issues became so threatening, that they start to threaten the very basic of the union – its integrity.
The most important topics to be discussed are:
- Migration crisis and its consequences, integration of migrants
- Rise of Anti-EU or “Euroskeptic” Political Parties resulting in BREXIT and consequent threats
Questions to be discussed within the clubs:
- What should be the future of migration policy of EU?
- How should be immigrants integrated in our society to ensure peaceful and stable future of EU?
- How to cope with the rise of nationalism, Anti-EU political movements, BREXIT to avoid the destruction of EU in the future?
Recommended project structure:
- The topic is really “HEAVY” – containing a lot of facts and interconnected issues. It would be useful to select club members interested in the topic to study it properly and then explain it to the others during a meeting. Some of the topics were discussed in ZAMUN and other conferences – students from committees dealing with the topic can be involved.
- In the meeting the topics should be discussed by the club. In the debate, answers for the 3 questions should be formed.
- A report from the debate should describe the discussion and its outcomes (including pictures).
- Club should manage an activity related to the topic (involving the club members, or also the school, city, region – based on the club possibilities). It can be an information campaign, survey, debate for public, video project, … whatever you come up with together.
- A report from the activity should sum it up (including pictures).
Immigration Crisis and Intergration of Immigrants
Over the last year and a half, Europe has experienced a significant migration and refugee crisis as increasing numbers of people have fled conflict and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere. According to the United Nations, more than 1 million refugees and migrants sought to enter the EU in 2015, and over 90% were from the world’s top 10 refugeeproducing countries.11 Greece was the major arrival and transit point for individuals crossing the Mediterranean Sea, although Italy also saw a significant number of migrant and refugee arrivals. Many people arriving in Greece subsequently attempted to cross the Western Balkans in an effort to reach Schengen “gateway” countries, such as Hungary and Slovenia. From there, they sought to travel onward to northern EU members, such as Germany and Sweden, where they believed they were more likely to receive asylum and better welfare benefits.
During the course of 2015, various EU initiatives to manage the crisis proved largely unsuccessful. The EU came under criticism for lacking coherent and effective migration and asylum policies, which have long been difficult to forge because of national sovereignty concerns and sensitivities about minorities, integration, and identity. The crisis created deep divisions within the EU. Frontline states Greece and Italy and key destination countries farther north expressed dismay at a lack of European solidarity, while others charged that traditionally generous asylum policies in countries such as Germany and Sweden were serving as “pull” factors and exacerbating the flows. Some EU governments reportedly viewed Germany’s announcement in August 2015 that it would no longer apply the EU’s “Dublin regulation” (which usually deems the first EU country an asylum-seeker enters as responsible for examining that individual’s application) as unilaterally upending agreed EU asylum procedures and failing to consider the implications for the wider EU.
Efforts to establish EU redistribution and resettlement programs, in which each EU member state would accept a certain number of asylum-seekers and refugees (in part to relieve the burdens on Greece and Italy), were extremely controversial. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe were particularly vocal opponents, fearing that the newly arrived migrants and refugees, many of whom are Muslim, could alter the primarily Christian identities of their countries and of Europe. Although the EU approved a limited but mandatory plan to relocate some asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy in September 2015, this outcome was achieved using the EU’s qualified majority voting system rather than consensus (Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania voted against the plan, and Finland abstained). Adopting a proposal on such a sensitive issue directly related to a state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by qualified majority is largely unprecedented in the EU, and many observers viewed the need to hold the vote as further indication of the profound cleavages within the bloc.
As the uptick in refugees and migrants arriving in Europe continued unabated in early 2016 (roughly 150,000 individuals crossed the Mediterranean, mostly to Greece, in the first three months), the EU began to focus on discouraging people from undertaking the journey in an effort to stem the flows. In March 2016, EU leaders agreed to end the “wave-through approach” that was allowing individuals to transit the Western Balkans to seek asylum in other EU countries and announced a new deal with Turkey. The main provisions of the EU’s accord with Turkey centered on Turkey taking back all new “irregular migrants” crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands in exchange for EU resettlement of one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian returned. The EU also pledged to speed up the disbursement of a previously allocated €3 billion in aid to Turkey and to provide an additional €3 billion in assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Since these measures took effect, the number of migrants and refugees reaching Europe has decreased substantially. Nevertheless, the EU’s deal with Turkey remains controversial and potentially fragile. While most EU leaders maintain that the return measures agreed upon with Turkey are crucial to breaking the business model of migrant smuggling and saving lives, some Members of the European Parliament and many human rights advocates are concerned that the agreement violates international law and the rights of refugees. They also worry that other parts of the accord—in which the EU pledged to lift EU visa requirements for Turkish citizens and to reenergize Turkish accession negotiations—could be seen as rewarding a Turkish government that they view as increasingly authoritarian.
The crisis continues to have significant repercussions for European governments and the EU. Perhaps most notably, it has severely strained the Schengen system, which largely depends on confidence in the security of the bloc’s external borders. This concept has been tested not only by the magnitude of the migration and refugee flows but also by concerns that some terrorists may have been able to exploit the chaos to slip into Europe (see “European Security Concerns,” below, for more information). Several Schengen countries (including Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Sweden) have instituted temporary border controls in response to the migratory pressures. Some experts worry these measures could become permanent, at least on a de facto basis.
EU officials assert that they remain committed to Schengen and are working to strengthen EU border controls. In December 2015, the European Commission proposed measures aimed at tightening the rules for mandatory checks at the EU’s external borders and establishing a new joint European Border and Coast Guard to reinforce national border control capacities (although this measure must still be approved by member states and the European Parliament). The Commission has also been working with Greece to improve the country’s border control management and remedy problems in its asylum registration procedures. The Commission aims for all temporary border controls within the Schengen area to be lifted by the end of 2016.
The migration and refugee flows have renewed questions about the ability of European countries to integrate minorities into European culture and society. Such anxieties have become more pronounced amid reports of criminal activity and sexual assaults allegedly committed by some migrants and asylum-seekers and by revelations that many of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe were carried out by extremists of Muslim background born and/or raised in Europe. At the same time, concerns exist about increasing societal tensions and xenophobia in Europe. Germany, Sweden, and other EU countries have seen an increase in the number of violent incidents against migrants and refugees over the past few months.
Debate has also arisen over the economic impact of the migration and refugee flows. Some leaders and analysts contend that the influxes could be economically beneficial and help to offset unfavorable demographic developments (such as aging populations and shrinking workforces), thus strengthening EU fiscal sustainability in the longer term. Many experts point out, however, that much will depend on how well migrants and refugees are integrated into the labor market.15 Others worry that the newcomers could take jobs away or reduce wages, especially in the short term. Some suggest that such fears have helped to further increase support in many EU countries for far-right, anti-immigrant, euroskeptic political parties.