Judy Asks

Judy Asks: Will the refugee crisis destroy the EU?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
Rem Korteweg
23 September 2015

It could, but it does not have to. EU leaders are scrambling to respond to the crisis, but they must be clear-eyed about the bigger picture.

The quota system to which EU interior ministers agreed on September 22 for relocating 120,000 refugees across Europe is a welcome first step. But the EU must also reform its asylum policy, currently based on the principle that the member state through which an asylum seeker first enters the EU is responsible for processing that person’s claim. And the union must set up safe, secure, and humanitarian processing centers in its neighborhood and go after the networks of people smugglers.

The foreign policy dimension of this crisis has been largely neglected. Europe’s leaders are overly focused on dealing with the symptoms—the large groups of migrants and refugees coming to Europe—rather than fighting the causes. A more durable solution surely lies in helping create the conditions that stop people from fleeing to Europe in the first place. If European leaders fail to dedicate serious time and resources to help put an end to the Syrian Civil War or to bring some stability to Libya, people will continue to vote with their feet to seek security or opportunity in Europe.

If EU leaders focus only on the symptoms, Europe should prepare for the numbers of migrants and refugees to swell—soon to be followed by a toxic anti-EU and anti-migrant backlash in Europe’s politics.

Rem Korteweg is a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.