Due to its peninsular nature, Europe has always been the terminus point of mass migrations coming from the South and East. Whether they brought culture and civilization, or death and destruction, migration remained a constant, ready to enforce change and threaten the old structures.
As the refugee crisis shows no signs of coming to an end, and as it overlaps with internal problems, the European Union of today seems under siege, forced to either reform or break apart. Similar build-ups of pressure happened in the past, and the outcomes were rarely predictable.
Two main forces undermine the impressive post-war efforts of keeping Europe united. Terrorism feels increasingly comfortable in open societies that grant their citizens extended freedom. Attacks that occur randomly and make use of the simplest of methods not only claim innocent lives and provoke gratuitous destruction, but also cultivate a climate of insecurity and fear. There is a legitimate concern that the European Union strives too much to become a melting pot, a multi ethnic “empire.” Countries that barely celebrated a century of independence see themselves reabsorbed by new entities, somehow similar to the ones they once fought against.
Why share the paternity of all problems existing on the continent when you would do much better by focusing solely on your own? Why accept the refugee quota when their route towards the West leads them thousands of miles away from your territory? For Europe, the topic of open borders is hotter than ever. This was, after all, one of the premises on which the European Union was founded – to create a climate of trust between countries that adhere to a common set of rules. The fact that Schengen still does not overlap the contour of the EU proves that security issues still have not been addressed properly by the member states.
The biggest lesson derived from history is that migrations are natural outcomes of failing societies or of destabilizing factors affecting certain regions. No walls and no borders of the past were able to deal with a large flux of immigrants in a gracious manner. Large displacements of populations always lead to social unrest and war and put to the test even the sturdiest political entities. The European Union faces similar challenges with those of the Roman Empire. “Barbarians” are at the gates and they want inside. Obviously, events will not unfold as dramaticly as they did when the entire Western civilization briefly entered a period of darkness. The assimilation of newcomers in a society often goes on smoothly and conflict free when they are open towards accepting the local culture.
A Europe extended beyond its current reach is not a wild geopolitical dream. In order to contain the main sources of disturbance, the European project needs to account for the problems and dilemmas of North Africa and the Middle East, as uncomfortable as they are. A Europe that will continue to treat the symptoms instead of focusing on the causes is sentenced not to collapse, but to experience something equally menacing in the long term – a bankruptcy of motivation, of values, a burden of small inner cracks that appear as crevasses when looked upon with the magnifying glass of skepticism and rumination.
The European Union was born as a direct effect of globalization. Even the most mature and functional economies of the continent understand that the only way to stay competitive in a global market is by putting aside all differences and working towards a common goal. Europe is a conglomerate assembled on very short notice, and the lack of uniformity cannot be denied. The common market and the unique currency seem stable enough for the moment.
National economies evolve at different speeds, and it is easy to see friction and rifts occurring everywhere and enlarging enough to threaten the edifice itself. The European Union exists in a form that is poised to create discord. Small countries receive financial support to catch up, in exchange for allowing corporations to penetrate their economies, taking hold of key sectors and going as far as to create monopolies. The theme has become a favorite amongst populist and nationalist political parties of the eastern flank, often used throughout campaigns to create discomfort regarding the European project.
Drawing a line, Europe has to devise new ways of dealing with its most pressing issues to avoid future suffering. Closing borders will not stop illegal immigration, the same way in which further restricting personal freedoms will put an end to terrorism. Ignoring the complaints of the member states and the ever-increasing skepticism towards the EU project is also not desirable. As it happened before, Europe is face to face with change, and change is never comfortable.
Angela Merkel, who encouraged the migrants to come and pushed the European member countries to take their quota, is seeking re-election and most likely, she will win a fourth term as Germany’s chancellor. The Germans like their motherly predictable figure and the fact she portraits herself as Europe’s political leader, but for the first time after WW2 a far right party will enter parliament, maybe because of her political strategy.
Donald Trump received a very warm welcome in France, from Emmanuel Macron and in Poland tens of thousands of people came out to hear one of his memorable speeches.
There are many questions that may arise in Europe’s future, how far will the compassion stretch, will there be another Brexit, or secretly are the Europeans going back to value God, their countries and their borders.