By Dragana Trifkovic
The beginning of the migrant crisis
The previous year was marked in particular by the migrant crisis, i.e., the migrations of peoples on a scale unprecedented in recent history, or more precisely since the end of the Second World War. In considering the causes and consequences of this crisis, it is necessary to recall that the waves of refugees from the Middle East were preceded by the migration of Albanians from the territory of Serbia, Kosovo and Metohija to the EU and Germany in particular at the end of December 2014 and the beginning of 2015. In that case, however, there were not enough emergency bus lines to take all interested Albanians from Pristina to Subotica, i.e., the Hungarian border. According to some data, within three months 30,000 Albanians migrated from the southern province of Serbia to the countries of the EU.
What Serbian and foreign media interested in finding out what prompted Albanians to move en mass to the EU is of interest at this point. According to migrants who answered questions posed by journalists while waiting for buses at Pristina station, poverty and the uncertain future of Kosovo and Metohija were the main causes for migration. These Albanians told journalists that they had heard that good conditions were being offered for asylum seekers in Germany, France, and Switzerland.
The southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija is under the control of international forces, i.e., NATO (the Kosovo Force) supported by the US and EU which have installed para-state institutions including terrorist structures of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). The state of human rights in Kosovo and Metohija following the deployment of international forces can be compared to that of Saudi Arabia in terms of torture, persecution, and murder (especially against Serbs). The economic situation is completely hopeless since all the state-owned companies that previously made up the economic base of this area have been destroyed. Such a situation, however, lasted more than a decade and a half before there was any organized exodus of the population. This case has remained more or less obscured, but it can be compared to the second case of the much larger population migrations from the Middle East.
The causes of the migrant crisis
From the onset it can be said that the migration of Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija and the migrations of peoples from the Middle East have been caused by the intervention of the US and EU, i.e., their interference in the internal politics of other states. The Arab Spring is the name assigned to the number of protests in the Middle East beginning in 2010 which led to many regime changes as well as wars. These protests were encouraged by the methods of color revolutions as defined in the book by Gene Sharp, the specialist on “non-violent” overthrow of “non-democratic” regimes. As a result of these upheavals, today the Middle East is in a deep and long-term state of destabilization. Many countries, such as Syria, Libya, and Iraq, suffered and continue to suffer from this destruction.
The peoples of the Middle East paid high prices for having insufficiently democratic or dictatorial regimes and for having the precious resources that exist on their territories. We can recall that, before the wars, Libya and Syria were countries with significant state and social regulations. After the collapse of the USSR at the end of the 20th century, the Western countries led by the US went on a crusade for the resources [that these countries possessed]. The statement of the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright is well known: “It is unfair that Russia has so much space and natural resources while other countries lack this.” In addition to the US and EU who pursue their own policies, a special role in the Middle East is played by American allies in the area such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, particularly in Syria. These countries openly went to war against the Syrian government and sought to tailor Syria to their own needs.
Since the conflict began, the largest number of refugees from Syria have been settled in neighboring Turkey or Lebanon. According to some reports, Turkey has received almost two and a half million refugees from Syria. The refugee crisis as cultivated to such a point that waves of migrants are heading for Europe, especially the countries of Western Europe which are unprepared for this development. In this situation, the question remains if their trip to Europe has been spontaneous or organized. As in the case of Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija, for more than ten years wars have created similar conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq and are ongoing.
The EU without a unified policy
Since March 2015, the Balkans have been a transit zone for refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands go refugees have crossed the borders of Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia and continued their way towards Hungary and the countries of the EU. In Serbia, society showed goodwill in relation to the refugees, seeking by all means to help them with food, clothing, medicines, etc. In the recent past, Serbia went through great suffering, wars, and NATO aggression, and therefore has sympathy for people who have also experienced the suffering of war. In this sense, Serbia took more responsibility for the handling the problem of the migrant crisis than can be said of many other EU members.
The migrant crisis has showed that the member countries of the EU do not have a single, unitary policy on the matter and that the EU is being subject to more destabilization. It is in no state to make any constructive decisions while the Brussels bureaucracy behaves extremely irresponsibly. Just a few months ago, the basic principles upon which the union is founded, including unity, freedom of movement, and human rights were brought into question.
Let us take Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orban as an extreme example. Although he won the sympathy of many nationalists in standing for the national interests of his country rather than going along with migrants’ wishes, such an appraisal is more superficial than anything. Let us recall that Hungary reacted quite strongly to migrants and was one of the first to put up barbed-wire fences and use tear gas and force to prevent migrants from entering the country. We can also recall how Hungary is a member of the NATO alliance and invested a huge portion if its budget on bombs. Or we can recall that Hungary is an EU member which imposed sanctions on Syria while at the same time arming Syrian rebels. Then the question arises: how can one state that is participating in the destabilization of other countries in the Middle East, when it has to face the consequences of its action, announce that it will defend its national interests and send soldiers against families with children?
Another problem is the Islamophobia embraced by many politicians in Europe. Indeed, the migration of peoples from the Middle East is changing the social architecture of Europe, but once again we must return to the roots of the problem and not the consequences. Tensions in Europe have increased as it has not resolved its colonialist heritage and there are prohibited zones in many major European cities where migrants have lived for many years without any opportunities of integrating into society.
To this should be added the fact that the EU has never recovered from the economic crisis that has lasted since 2008. Some EU countries and indebted and others are at the edge of bankruptcy. New problems, especially of such a magnitude as the migrant crisis, have repeatedly reinforced the EU’s instability, including the appearance of terrorist attacks (Paris) and other forms of violence (Cologne, Vienna) involving migrants from the Middle East. Moreover, migration is expected to continue in 2016 when conditions will improve. Hundreds of thousands of refugees will once again head for Western Europe as they’ve heard that peace and security can be found there. The EU is not ready for further development as it has previously proven to be incapable of formulating positive policies. A European Union strategic policy for solving the migrant crisis does not exist. Raising fences, abolition rights of free movement, or redistributing migrants (although the EU cannot even agree to which countries) cannot be parts of the solution. In the end, such behavior not only destroying the principles upon which the EU itself is founded but also violates international law enshrined in the the UN Convention on Refugees, European Convention on Human Rights, and the Convention on Refugee Status, under which countries are obliged to accept everyone fleeing from a danger zone. In addition, there are constitutional provisions relating to persons seeking asylum in the member states of the EU. For example, Germany has an open door policy for refugees, but it increasingly faces German citizens’ resistance to this policy. It is certain that what will follow will be a pushing of the problems caused by the migrant crisis under the carpet and the passing of the ball between EU member states. This will lead to a radicalization of the situation in the EU, increased tension, social unrest, and rising xenophobia and intolerance which the Brussels bureaucracy is not ready for. In such an atmosphere, growing unrest can easiley develop into something bigger. Where is the solution?
Taking responsibility and solving problems
First and foremost, the Brussels bureaucracy should take responsibility for the policy of blindly following American interests. Such a policy is not sovereign and does not meet the interests of Europe, only those exclusively of the USA. This implies radical moves and distancing from the US, but only together by means of European policies can possible consequences be prevented. The second possibility is growing dissatisfaction with the political elite, bringing about a change of politicians in the EU before the situation escalates. In such a scenario, new political elites would have to be ready to take the fight against a number of problems. As regards relations between the EU and the US, in any case they should be revised. It has become clear that the EU pays the price, not the US, even though it is only partly their fault. The EU should define strategic policies in connection to resolving the migrant crises. The problem of migrants can be solved quite positively in Europe’s favor only if conditions are created which allow refugees to return to their countries, i.e., if the situation in the Middle East is stabilized. We must bear in mind that the solution to this problem is urgent because of the culminating danger of the crises in Europe. Such a situation inevitably points Europe towards Russia which took the first steps in helping Syria cope with the terrorists.
If the situation in Syria is stabilized, and there is a chance hat this will happen in the near future, then the EU should redirect the resources allocated for arming the “moderate opposition” to help the Syrian state and resources for caring for refugees should be used to fund the reconstruction of Syria. The same formula should be applied to Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, although the biggest obstacle to the stabilization of the Middle East is the United States and its allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, etc. It is clear that if world peace is put up for question, America will refuse to accept a loss of its position as the greatest political, economic , and military power.
Finally, within the context of redefining relations with the United States, Europe should pose the question of the US’ responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East as a result of its policies of interventionism.
As regards Serbia, it will continue to be a transit area bearing in mind that migrants are not interested in seeking asylum in Serbia. Serbia is a very poor country and is unable of providing a normal life even for its citizens. Moreover, Serbia has not solved the problem of Serbian refugees from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo and Metohija who still today live in collective centers in inhuman living conditions. Meanwhile, the EU insists that Serbia, as a candidate for EU membership, should accept liability and provide for a certain number of refugees. Such a request is extremely arrogant bearing in mind that the EU has in no way helped Serbia in taking care of Serbian refugees from the former Yugoslav space or Kosovo an Metohija. Additionally, the EU should be conscious of the fact that Serbia did not contribute in any way to the destabilization of the Middle East and holds no responsibility for the misfortune of these people, unlike the EU and NATO members. The danger remains that the Serbian government headed by Alexander Vucic will accept these arrogant proposals from the EU to the detriment of Serbia just as it has done many times in courting the bureaucrats in Brussels. Serbia should ensure the the rapid transit of refugees and provide basic medical care and deal with those on Serbian territory in a humanitarian way. Other actions and accountability for political decisions remain solely up to the EU.
Translated from Serbian by J. Arnoldski
1. March 2016.