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European Union unable to shape common migration policy

February 26, 18:47 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Migrants awaiting entry into Macedonia on the Greek side of the border

Migrants awaiting entry into Macedonia on the Greek side of the border

© AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu

MOSCOW, February 26. /TASS/. Hungary’s intention to follow in Britain’s footsteps in order to keep crowds of migrants away is a sure sign the European Union is unable to retain unity and deliver a common solution to the migrant crisis problem, polled analysts have told TASS.

At the February 19-20 summit of the EU London persuaded Brussels to grant it a special status. Britain will not pay any social benefits to migrants over the first four years following their arrival in the country. Nor will it participate in any further integration processes inside the European Union. The British Parliament was empowered to overturn decisions adopted at the EU level. Lastly, in June Britain will hold a referendum on whether it should quit the European Union altogether.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday declared that his government had made a decision to hold a referendum on the issue of mandatory quotas of migrants each EU member-country was obliged to accommodate. The question to be put to the vote is this: "Are you prepared to empower the European Union to resettle non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without approval from the National Council (parliament)?

The EU interior and justice ministers on Thursday gathered in Brussels to discuss whether the anti-migration measures Austria, Macedonia and Serbia had already begun to take were legal. The three countries have been reinforcing their borders with barbed wire entanglements, introducing additional police control measures, fingerprinting all migrants and denying entry to all those unable to present a passport. Greece has recalled its ambassador from Vienna in protest against Austria’s decision to close its borders, which has forced many migrants to settle down in Athens.

The first deputy dean of the world economy and world politics department at the Higher School of Economics, Igor Kovalyov, believes that what is permissible for Britain is not permissible for Hungary.

"London has obtained from Brussels permission to pay no social benefits to migrants from the EU’s East European countries, first and foremost to Poles and Hungarians. Britain is one of the European Union’s engines, whose economy is second largest after Germany. The United Kingdom is capable of blocking any decision made by Brussels. Besides, Britain has the United States’ weight behind. London’s voice is not the voice of tiny Hungary, which has no political or moral right to dictate conditions to the European Union," Kovalyov told TASS.

A colleague of his, deputy dean of the world economy and world politics department at the Higher School of Economics, Andrey Suzdaltsev, believes that Hungary’s demarche that has alerted Brussels and the "mutiny" staged by other EU members are clear evidence the European Union may split up into eastern and western factions.

"Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and also eastern Germany take the hardest line against migrants. The elites of a number of East European counties are unprepared to obey the European bureaucracy. One can observe a very special phenomenon: these countries received from the European Union all they had wished, many of their citizens have settled down all over Europe and now they have taken an infantile attitude. Britain alone has accommodated 500,000 Poles. In other words, the European countries have resolved their own problems at the European Union’s expense. Now Brussels’ policies disagree with their plans. This explains why they are so keen to halt migration flows and close their borders," Suzdaltsev said.

Nevertheless, he believes that the special status Brussels has agreed to grant Britain will not trigger a chain reaction that will let them obtain various preferences in terms of accommodating refugees and paying social benefits: "Britain is a special country with a highly industrialized economy. It is Europe’s equivalent of the United States. Back in the 1960s and 1970s Britain even tried to create under its auspices some sort of a European Union that would incorporate the Nordic countries. This explains why Brussels has to turn an attentive ear to London. As for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s demarche, Brussels will do its utmost to play it down. Orban is considered the EU’s ‘bad guy’. A backstage deal will be clinched with him."

The migrant crisis-related negative trends indicate that the European Union is getting ever looser as an organization. "The European Union has so far managed to cope with fast-tracked integration. But no further development or mobilization for the achievement of new goals is in sight. When a cyclist stops turning the pedals fast enough, he slows down and problems develop at once. This explains why the EU is now in such confusion," Suzdaltsev said.

Assistant professor Kirill Koktysh, of the political theory department at the institute of international relations MGIMO, has pointed to the competition that has developed within the EU: who will outpace the others in shaping a policy regarding the migrant crisis? "This process is being conducted from ‘above,’ from Brussels, and from ‘below,’ from individual members of the EU, which de facto refuse to accept refugees. There is every sign the process from ‘below’ is much faster. It is already turning some EU member-states into enclaves and causes their alienation from the solution of common European problems," Koktysh told TASS.

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