“Brexit” and “CIP”
(British exit of the EU and Common Immigration Policy)
Two inextricably linked challenges!
No Member State having made acceptable proposals concerning the uncontrolled influx of refugees on their soil, a consensus has developed – by default – suggesting that the problem should be handled at EU level. This commodious positioning allows Member States to designate “Europe” (to whom adequate budgetary resources is also being denied) as an ideal scapegoat as well as allowing them to enforce so called “safeguard measures” to justify decisions or proposals that are as many flagrant violations of the undertakings imbedded in the Treaty.
Such a situation is hardly surprising because the efficient short, medium and long term handling of the problem by the EU would constitute an important step towards constructing a “federal Europe” considered by some as an unacceptable outcome.
It is clear that harmonising within the EU the conditions concerning the entrance and the processing of refugees together with a commensurate EU budgetary financing, would be wholly incompatible with the demands of the U.K., in particular their request to be exonerated from their treaty obligation to strive for “an ever closer Union”. One can then easily understand the priority given to a bilateral negotiation with France concerning Calais accompanied by a generous financial grant rather than – beyond addressing the immediate urgency – integrating the approach within a yet to be developed “CIP”.
The significant increase in the number of immigrants reaching Europe over the last several months will undoubtedly bear on British public opinion and on the result of the in/out Referendum on EU membership. “Brexit” supporters will exploit the situation to derail the public debate and appeal – however unsavoury it may be – to the lowest instincts of a population already profoundly shaped by its insularity. They will argue that accepting a “European” treatment of the matter opens the door to the further “federalisation” of large swathes of national sovereignty.
Europeans are themselves divided on the subject: some will support the British position so as to justify the unilateral measures that they may be contemplating. Others will find in this shallow consensus of a European approach to immigration, the opportunity to further their aspirations of pushing “federalisation”, be it in relation to deepening EMU or developing a common foreign affairs and defence policy. In such a context, it appears very difficult to conclude successfully the negotiations that are about to start between the UK and disunited EU Members.
I have already drawn attention to the close ties (largely ignored) between the handling of the Greek rescue package and immigration; similarly, it is clear that immigration and Brexit are also inextricably bound together. We are coming here up against one of the fundamental challenges that the EU must face squarely: replacing the current “intergovernmental” structure controlling the exercise sovereignty which limits the effective implementation of the much vaunted “principle of subsidiarity”, by a new “supranational” architecture in which a clear hierarchy of norms is instituted allowing a coherent implementation of subsidiarity between the different levels of power.
It is fortunate that the problem of immigration arises today with such intensity and brings with it the demonstration of the extent of its imbrication at the heart of many of the most pressing challenges facing the Union. By its breadth and urgency, will the refugee crisis be capable of focussing minds on the real stakes involved, overcoming national egoisms and political infighting that stifle the necessary structural reforms from being implemented?
Chancellor Merkel, with the support of the majority of Germans, has assumed over the last few days an uncontested leadership role. Will she be able to galvanise European public opinion to move the necessary European integration process decisively forward? Or must one wait for the crisis to deepen further to wake up the conscience of the gravity of the situation? By then it may well be too late!
Is it necessary to recall the abysmal failure of the Evian Conference in 1938 on a related problem which was a further step towards WWII? Short of a common approach, immigration could well become the catalyser of the EU’s implosion, of the breakup of the single currency and of the resurgence of the national-populist demons that were the bane of the XXth century.
It is time to stop opposing Europe because it does not provide all the answers in every domain because when considered separately, there will always be valid criticisms. However, there is no doubt that, with all its imperfections, the EU offers the great majority of its citizens a more secure and better future than what is promised – but undeliverable - by those advocating a return to Nation-States on the Westphalian model.
This message is addressed both to British and continental citizens who will only find lasting solutions to their geopolitical, economic, financial and social problems in an enhanced cooperation within a Europe that speaks with a single voice on the world stage.
Paul N. Goldschmidt
Director, European Commission (ret.); Member of the Steering Committee of the Thomas More Institute.
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