The problem cannot be solved within the EU, yet the EU can make a significant contribution to solving it
In addition to the influx of economic migrants, which is a persistent phenomenon, Europe is faced with difficulties and frustration with a large influx of refugees from the areas captured by war, conflict and the ISIS terrorism for over a year. On 14 September 2015 an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers will be convened, where they shall agree on a more uniform approach to the problem and adopt measures to solve the problem and not just to alleviate it.
Below I make a proposal of concrete measures, which in my opinion the EU should partly adopt and implement and partly propose to the partners in the UN framework. Long-term, strategic actions by the international community are needed. Merely coming to terms with the fact that refugees will largely come to Europe in the upcoming years and that we need to show solidarity will not solve the problem, but it will only increase it. The EU has neither the living nor the social room for 50 million potential refugees from the Middle East and Africa. The problem therefore cannot be solved within the EU. The more this fact will be neglected, the greater the illusion of desperate people, the bigger the refugee wave and consequently the problems it will cause to the EU will be. However, the EU can make a significant contribution to solving the refugee crisis, but with a well-thought approach.
- Saving lives of refugees, especially those who are already on the run as the whole family, must remain a priority. The European solidarity is needed here. At the same time a close cooperation between all the EU member states is needed in preventing disguised entering of ISIS members.
- Quotas, specified by the European Commission for each member state are a step in the right direction. The burden should be fairly distributed. At the same time the sum of the quotas should represent a definite number of refugees that EU is still able to accept on its territory. This should be very clearly stated and known well in the environments where the causes of the problem are originating.
- The number of potential refugees whose lives are in danger is significantly higher than the EU can accept. They need help, but on the territory as close to their home as possible. The EU must attain the adoption of a binding UN resolution, with which the safe zones for refugees on Syria and Iraq territory will be created. Members of the UN Security Council and friendly Arab countries have sufficient military capacity to adequately protect those zones. International humanitarian assistance is to be directed there. In this way it is, with the same amount of money, possible to help significantly more people than by increasing the number and size of costly asylums in the EU.
- The EU must achieve the adoption of a binding UN resolution, with which a comprehensive legal basis for a wide-ranging and thorough international military action against the ISIS will be created. Merely air attacks are not effective. Syria and Iraq have to be stabilized, otherwise the price of the collapse will reach additional hundreds of thousands of victims and refugees in particular.
- Countries that are most burdened by refugees should be substantially helped. For several years and mostly on its own, Turkey has been facing hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria who waited in refugee camps on its territory and hoped for the end of the war in their country. Since there was no effective intervention and the international community was not able to provide a better alternative to Assad, hundreds of thousands gave up and headed towards the EU. Through this wave we are now receiving a costly bill for burying our heads in the sand over the past years.
- Problem of economic migration must be strictly distinguished from the refugee issue. Even in this case, the EU cannot accept all the economic migrants that would like to enter the EU. All those, who do not individually qualify for legal migration, must be strictly rejected, while enhancing the international development assistance to countries that are the source of illegal immigration. Above all, the European Union must ensure the effective use of the international development assistance through direct distribution and control.
- The European Union has to refine and harmonise its asylum and migration policy. This applies particularly to the countries within the Schengen area. Members of the Schengen area which are drastically violating the rules need to be warned about the possibility of their temporary or permanent exclusion.
I am not making illusions that above mentioned proposals can be implemented very easily. Some of them were already presented to the public and later forgotten. Apart from the objective difficulties, different interests of individual Middle-Eastern countries and the interests of all that like the fact that the political power of the European Union in the international space does not meet its economic weight, are in the way. Those interests are not only in Moscow and Islamic world. However, the refugee problem is so big and obvious, that suggested solutions must be adopted and implemented, as none of the serious international factors cannot ignore or even deny it anymore.
Slovenia was facing a large wave of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina especially in 1992 and 1993. At the time, our Ministry of Defence along with the Administration for Civil Protection and Rescuing was taking care of almost 70.000 refugees from that country. Even more, in early 1993, we made a plan for international engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would help people and restrain the refugee crisis. Part of this plan was the establishment of secure zone under the aegis of the United Nations. In May 1993 I have personally introduced the plan to the US State Department, to the Pentagon and to the Senate, while former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lojze Peterle introduced the plan in Brussels. Despite some sceptical reactions at the beginning, some delay and unfortunately inadequate protection of Srebrenica, the plan was realized. The plan later contributed to the formation of the Dayton Agreement.
In 1993, Slovenia was not even a candidate for EU or NATO, and yet, the international environment generally listened us carefully and has at least partially taken us into account. Where is our (Slovenian) desire for true solidarity which is actually solving problems today? Where are our abilities and ambitions today, when Slovenia is a member of all internationally relevant forums and has at least the theoretical access to all the international deciding factors? Let us hope that these ambitions do not end at the failing arbitration agreement.