Will the migration crisis break Europe?

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cremonaMarise Cremona is Professor of European Law and co-Director of the Academy of European Law at the EUI.

The refugee crisis is a moral crisis for the European Union as well as a humanitarian emergency. There is a sense not only that the decision-making processes are breaking down but that the Union has failed to meet the moral challenge. To this extent it calls to mind the sense of failure experienced at the time of Srebrenica. That experience, twenty years ago, provided an impetus for real progress in developing the Union’s crisis management capacity, but it is not easy to see today’s crisis having a positive catalytic effect. Turning those seeking refuge in the Union into an external security threat has not served to create unity or stimulate solidarity. On the contrary the result has been to encourage a retreat behind national boundaries and the illusion of a safe internal space behind ever higher external walls, as all those deemed outsiders – wherever they are from and wherever they are – become symptomatic of disorder.

laffan_bBrigid Laffan is Director and Professor at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, and Director of the Global Governance Programme at the EUI.

The refugee crisis unfolds in the shadow of the acute crisis of the Eurozone which divided the member states and sapped political energy in Europe. The refugee crisis is a fissure in a second core EU regime, Schengen. Again the member states are divided and are engaging in a ritual of blame attribution. The crisis requires a collective European response and burden sharing. Although the Union is ill equipped to deliver this, the costs of failure are very high. Although the Union’s governing capacity is being severely tested, it must find a way of muddling through as it has in the past.

romero-edFederico Romero is Professor of History of Post-War European Cooperation and Integration and Director of the ERC project Looking West: The European Socialist Regimes Facing Pan-European Cooperation and the European Community (PanEur1970s) and Co-Director of the Alcide De Gasperi Research Centre of the History of European Integration at the EUI.

It certainly has the potential to do so, as we see by the fragmentation it produced in public reactions, national self-perceptions, policy responses. It exposes the historical fault line between views of Europe based on separation and homogeneity on the one hand, and on rights and pluralist openness on the other. It projects a schizophrenic image of Europe as upholder and violator of human rights. More crucially, it makes clear that a European order geared to a low-growth regime, with substantial sectors of the population growing poorer and more insecure, will not withstand, much less overcome, the many challenges coming its way.

roy-editorialOlivier Roy is is Joint Chair Professor in Mediterranean Studies at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS)/Department of Political and Social Sciences and Director of the recently concluded ERC Project Religiowest.

Europe has welcomed far bigger waves of refugees than the present one (the boat people for instance in the late 1970s). Most of the Syrian refugees are middle class and educated, they will not conflate with the precedent “Muslim” labour migrations of the sixties and seventies, who came on a misunderstanding (to find work, not to integrate): the current refugees are culturally, socially and intellectualy very different. They will integrate precisely because they have technical and professional skills and because they chose Europe instead of other countries in the Middle East (contrary to the bulk of less educated refugees who are staying in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan).

triandafyllidou_annaAnna Triandafyllidou is Robert Schuman Chair Professor at the RSCAS and Director of the Global Governance Programme’s Research Strand on Cultural Pluralism.

The refugee crisis of today is large and dramatic but is not unprecedented (see the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s) and surely Europe can deal with it. The crisis is most likely to have a mild positive economic effect (through increased consumption, plentiful and cheap labour force, increased funding/employment for reception and emergency aid) and a positive demographic effect (refugees are young people).  However, these will be largely offset by the costs (for supporting and integrating the newcomers) and job competition (between the newcomers and the disadvantaged natives). All in all the crisis won’t change nor break Europe. The more we manage to govern it, though, the better its outcome will be.