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Brussels-London rifts add to EU migration crisis

February 19, 2016, 21:11 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. The EU leaders’ attempts to persuade Britain to follow the common rules have been unsuccessful so far, which adds a lot to the negative migration crisis trends in Europe, polled experts have told TASS.

London’s special stance was the key theme at Friday morning's first session of the EU summit in Brussels. British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded the EU should grant a number of privileges to the United Kingdom, including the cancellation of migrants' social benefits during the first four years following the moment they set foot on British soil. Also, London is pressing for giving wider powers to national parliaments that would enable them to cancel decisions adopted at the European Union’s level, and also for excluding Britain from all further integration processes within the EU.

The EU summit produced no immediate decisions regarding Britain’s demands. In his election platform Cameron promises to call a referendum on the United Kingdom’s secession from the European Union by 2017. The original plan is the voting may take place as early as next summer, on June 23. A number of European leaders have already criticized Britain’s stance as dishonest towards the other EU members. The head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has said the talks between Brussels and London will proceed in the bilateral format.

Russian State Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov believes that the Brussels summit has witnessed nothing irreversible. "Over the past decade the EU edifice developed quite a few cracks, but all of them were gradually patched. It would be wrong to say that the European Union’s split is an accomplished fact," said Nikonov, the president of the Polity foundation. "There still is enough time for talks between Brussels and London before Britain holds a referendum on whether it should leave the EU. All member-countries realize pretty well the cost of the walkout. The cost is great indeed: figuratively speaking, the admission fee is one euro, and the walkout fee, 100 euros."

Nikonov believes that London’s stance may change considerably when US President Barack Obama visits Britain in the spring. The visit will be devoted mostly to the theme of Britain’s EU membership. "Britain is the United States’ main and most loyal ally in the world. Washington is surely interested in having a certain force, as represented by London, inside the European Union, which would ensure transatlantic discipline in Europe," Nikonov told TASS.

The dean of the world economy and world politics department at the Higher School of Economics, Sergey Karaganov, has recalled that the United States was one of the European Union’s architects from the very outset. "The United States furnished major assistance to the European Union in overcoming its internal disputes, for instance, Franco-German ones, and it was very successful in that respect," Karaganov, a member of the OSCE Council of Wise Men, told TASS. "Against the backdrop of current disagreements within the EU Washington has its own concerns. If the European Union begins to fall apart, both Russia and China will gain a firmer foothold in Europe. That’s something the US elite cannot afford to let happen."

Karaganov believes that Brussels and London will eventually iron out all wrinkles, though.

"They will come to terms and declare they have achieved a great victory," he predicts, adding that the newly-developed crack would accelerate the negative dynamics of the migrant crisis.

The EU-Turkey plan for overcoming the migrant crisis was on the EU summit’s agenda, too. A final decision was not made, though, because Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu postponed his visit to Brussels due to the latest terrorist attacks. It had been expected that Ankara would come out with a demand for increasing to five billion euros from three billion the amount of aid it would like to get from Europe in exchange for controlling migration.

"The three billion euros the EU intends to extend to Turkey in exchange for its efforts to reduce the flow of migrants from Syria and North Africa is a laughable sum. Even if one imagines that the current measures, such as financial assistance to Turkey and tighter control on the European borders, will help plug one hole, another one will promptly emerge next to it. Several million people in Libya and Black Africa are prepared to head for Europe. And what if Algeria falls apart, God forbid? The European Union’s attempts to ease the crisis by patching holes are nothing but an illusion of strenuous efforts. In reality there are none. The migrant crisis is a world problem. We are in the same boat," Karaganov said.

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