Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

The EU’s inadequate response to the migration crisis in the Mediterranean threaten the Schengen zone and the Union’s identity. Prevailing opinion among Czech elites is based on substantive errors, questionable political analysis and morally indefensible positions. Czech Republic and the rest of the V4 need an alternative approach if we are to prevent migrant deaths and prevent the idea of Europe from getting lost at sea.

by Benjamin Tallis, Michal Šimečka and Jan Daniel,
Centre for European Security, Institute of International Relations, Prague  

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European governments are struggling to find an adequate response to tragedies in the Mediterranean and the rise in irregular immigration from and through the conflict-torn Southern Neighbourhood. As members of the Schengen zone, the Czech Republic and other post-communist EU members can no longer pretend it is someone else’s problem. A serious debate on migration is long overdue at the European level and in the EU’s member states.

In this context, last week’s commentary by Radko Hokovský and Jakub Janda is significant, not least because it reflects the prevailing consensus among Czech political elites. While welcome in that it could kick-start the necessary debate, the position they outline contradicts the European values they purport to defend.

The authors loosely align themselves with the meagre package of measures adopted by the Council (inter alia additional money for Triton operation, police/military action against smuggling networks, addressing root-causes etc.). However, they warn against any moves toward a more cohesive and Communitarian migration/asylum policy, lest this would trigger an even greater influx of refugees/migrants and invite an anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic populist backlash that could threaten the EU’s very existence.

Acknowledging that it may sound “cynical and too pragmatic”, they argue against EU-wide burden-sharing of asylum claimants, resettlement of migrants, externalized offshore asylum processing of asylum application etc., insisting that decision-making on granting of residency and asylum must remain in the hands of national governments. Hokovský and Janda write that, in the absence of popularly endorsed political Union, transferring more competences to European Commission would be grist to the mill of anti-immigration populist forces. “Creation of a common asylum and migration policy would be the last decision of the EU before it disintegrated.”

This is a position espoused by the current government and PM Sobotka, which is unfortunate because it is wrong on substance, unconvincing in its political analysis, and morally more disturbing than its authors care to admit. 


Substantial Errors: Simplification, Conflation & Obfuscation

First, in substantive terms, the position advanced by Hokovský and Janda makes a series of untenable simplifications and straw man arguments: it reduces the present challenge to a choice between a Brussels power-grab and maintaining national sovereignty; it ignores the distinction between regular and irregular migration, as well as between refugees and economic migrants; and, crucially, it buys into the fiction that migration is exclusively negative – a threat to be guarded against rather than an opportunity to be embraced.

The migration situation that the EU and its member states face is much complex than that and, in fact, borders, asylum and migration are already semi-Europeanized policies – a patchy framework that, as the latest spate of tragedies show, simply doesn’t work: for migrants, border guards or Europeans. This means that while Schengen states share the benefits of common borders they do not share the burdens equally, leaving states such as Italy and Greece unable to cope. This puts migrants in unnecessary danger and threatens the continued existence of the Schengen zone, which relies on the integrity of its frontiers to facilitate regular, rather than irregular mobility.

However, an effective response would not require full Europeanisation of migration policy. Coalitions of willing states could establish offshore migration processing facilities and launch a naval operation to conduct SAR and prevent migrant boats reaching the high seas. These steps would reduce migrant deaths while meeting legal commitments to asylum seekers, while the Frontex Triton mission would provide border protection and guard against irregular migration. While Hokovský and Janda concede that member states could do this, they argue, in effect, that they should not as it would provoke a Eurosceptic backlash that would threaten the EU itself.

However, this worst-case scenario again ignores the complexity of border and migration policy. Member states would remain in control of decisions over asylum-seekers who arrive directly on their territory (as opposed to being re-settled) and they would also remain in charge of the entry and stay of economic migrants to whom, unlike to refugees, they have no obligation. It is unfortunately indicative of the prevailing climate that the focus is on the threats and burdens, rather than the opportunities and contributions, of migration – a distortion that the conflation of refugees with economic migrants compounds.

Shutting the door on such migrants is not only morally questionable, but also risks missing out on an economic windfall. Research has repeatedly shown that migrants bring benefit rather than cost, many are ‘exceptional people’ willing to risk everything for a better life and the majority are young, driven and willing to work. Managing such migration through regular channels, allied to political engagement with – rather than pandering to – discontented groups, also holds out the possibility of exactly the people-to-people contacts that mitigate the xenophobia that Hokovský and Janda lament – as it has within the EU.


Political Consequences: Falling Out or Falling Together?

Second, Hokovský and Janda’s article presents a flawed analysis of the potential political fallout of a more progressive response. The threat of populist backlash is wildly inflated and there are far more states that would be willing to partake in the type of common action to solve this common problem (as outlined above) than the authors allow for.

Those states that face the greatest burden in dealing with the high and ongoing migratory pressure driven by the need of those facing war and other catastrophes and the desires of those who seek a better life have expressed their desire for such common action. From Italy on the front line to Germany and Sweden who take the highest number of asylum seekers, have seen no surge in populist anti-European forces. Indeed, the attitude of those at the sharp end of migrant capsizes has been a welcome silver lining in this humanitarian crisis. In Germany, Pegida is in disarray and effective burden sharing would help blunt the attacks of parties such as Alternative fuer Deutschland. Both Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer (neither known for being soft-touch, liberal idealists) support common action. Hakovsky and Janda claim that Europeanising asylum policy would be a ‘rash’ move that would threaten the EU. Merkel in particular is noted for avoiding such hasty or politically inconsidered moves.

In countries with the highest migrant intake (Italy, Greece, Malta, but also France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden), increased EU solidarity and burden sharing would actually lend ammunition to pro-EU centrist governments against anti-immigrant anti-EU parties (insofar as “Europe” would be seen as a helping alleviate voters’ concerns over immigration). This leaves the Visegrad countries – who rightly revel in the benefits of Schengen for practical purposes as well as for reasons of belonging[1] – along with Denmark and Finland as potential objectors. In the case of the Visegrad group, such hostility is particularly problematic. 


European Values: Moral and Legal Responsibilities

In Czech Republic, the argument against common action on the migration crisis seems to be because it could actually work, leading to increased immigration and creating a new ‘pull factor’. It should be noted that similarly faulty logic was behind the decision to cancel and fail to replace the Mare Nostrum SAR operation. Disguised as a defence of Europe, this position effectively argues that letting people drown is warranted because it provides a powerful deterrent, although given the push factors driving the migration surge this is questionable.

Underlying this premise, which has thus far been illusory, is a worrying assumption about the innate xenophobia of the public. Tellingly, in many cases it is those communities least exposed to migrant populations who tend to be more hostile to them. If such xenophobia exists then, in accordance with European values and the history of the EU, should be challenged rather than simply accepted or, worse, instrumentalised to ignoble purpose. The Visegrad countries, which have themselves been on the receiving end of such prejudice and have been able to challenge it through the mobility that EU membership allows, know this all too well.

Hokovský and Janda’s analysis fails to account for EU member states’ legal commitments to allow potential refugees to claim asylum. More depressingly, it betrays willingness to free-ride in Schengen and to pander to the nastier sides of domestic populism. This is a morally indefensible and hypocritical position that contradicts the Union’s fundamental values and legal commitments. Should more EU Member States pursue this cynical strategy, it would indeed be the end of the EU as we know it.

[1] Like much of the analysis in this piece, this claim is based on the findings of the ESRC-funded research project conducted by Benjamin Tallis from 2011-2015 – publication of findings is forthcoming.

BEYOND BORDERS?

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Creative Mornings invited to me to talk at the July instalment of their monthly breakfast lecture series. The month global CM theme for july was space and I spoke about borders, drawing on my research to discuss the ongoing relevance of borders, despite claims that we are moving towards a borderless world. Asking questions inspired by research into geopolitical borders allows us to consider borders more generally, as metaphor, heuristic or lens on the world and the ways we can live in it – apart and together.

The beautiful setting of the Piazetta courtyard at the National Theatre, the coffee and snacks laid on by the CM team and the glorious morning sunshine all helped things go with a swing. There were some really good comments and questions afterwards and met a lots of nice and interesting people. It was inspiring for me to see how many other people are interested in borders and how and why we make and break them.

Many thanks to Lenka, Lada & Jiri from Creative Mornings and to the excellent photographers who captured such interesting images of the event – Jakub Sodomka and Everbay Photography

Here is the link to the full video – beautifully produced by Jiri, Lenka, Lada & the crew … http://vimeo.com/71563085

You can watch the second half of the talk (on the more general/ conceptual aspects of bordering) here. The outline of the talks is included below

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Creative Mornings: Prague – Talk Outline

  • Space & Borders
    • Many thanks for the introduction and many thanks to Lenka, Lada and Jiri for inviting me to address this interesting – and, to me I have to say largely new – audience about a topic that is very close to my heart and which has changed the way that I look at the world, how we might go about being in it and indeed how we can change it …

 

  • As you know, the CM theme for this week is Space – so why borders?

 

  • They are one of the ways in which we divide space and make spaces into places  – which, as a brief definition are spaces that have acquired a particular or dominant meaning, although this is not uncontestable – On the other hand, spaces are yet to become places; other than in the sense that their very openness and lack of specific meaning makes them a particular kind of place – a space. Spaces, therefore, are (as yet unrealised) potential places, whereas places are the potential of a space exhausted – for now – in a particular set of meanings
  • In effect, they are one of the ways we make space meaningful
  • While space is open and full of possibility and potential, borders and the place or meaning making that they imply often seem to shut things down, to close things off, but I hope to be able to persuade you that that is not always the case & that understanding borders  – and why we need them – is an interesting and important way to understand how we live. Moreover, I will argue that these processes are actually necessary and desirable .
  • So, today, I will start by talking about borders as they are commonly understood – state borders – and particularly how they have changed over the last 25 years … and then go on to discuss how the research that I have been doing on this topic prompted me to think about borders more widely. I hope that in doing so, I will challenge some of your borders and prompt you to do likewise …

 

  • Post Cold War – Towards a Borderless World?
    • Much talk of a borderless world, a global village,
    • End of Superpower Conflict – Fall of Berlin Wall
    • Economic Globalisation
    • The internet and the comms revolution
    • Political Integration – such as the EU
    • The rise of global NGOs – the zeitgeistb seemed very much one of a world trying to become sans frontiers?
  • Specific Example – European Integration as Breaking Down Old Borders
    • Deepening – breaking down internal borders
      • Towards political union rather than old conflict or frozen fear
      • Completion of Single Market
      • Creation of Schengen Zone  (Area of Freedom, Justice & Security)
      • 4 Freedoms of Movement (Goods; Services; Capital; Labour)
  • Widening – extending the zone of this interior, this inside …
    • EU Eastern Enlargement (2004 & 2007)
    • European Neighbourhood Policy (2003)
    • Eastern Partnership (2009)
  • But … De-bordering or Re-bordering
    • Schengen: Trans European Networks of Control (Walters)
      • Roving Border Guard Teams – Irregular Migration
      • Mobile Customs Patrols – Smuggling & Trade Violations
      • Police Actions in Cities – Persistent Internal Control
      • Strengthen the Perimeter – Increased External Control
  • Enlargement: Exclusive Inclusion
    • Ostensible Widening – A Europe Whole & Free?
    • ‘Return to Europe’ or Creation of ‘Non-Core’ Europe-  derrida, habermas
    • Accession and Learning to be European – teachers and pupils – new rules, new borders …
    • Defining European-ness Through Membership & Conduct
      • Behaving like someone eles’s idea of what a European is
      • But with the potential to shape this in future
    • The End of Enlargement & The Limits of Europe?
  • ENP & EaP: Inclusive Exclusions
    • Ameliorating the Effects of the New Curtain – not iron, but paper and glass – the visa curtain – seems inclusive but to what extent?
    • Neighbours, Partners but not (Future) Members – borders again …
    • Is it about a Ring of Friends or a new Buffer Zone in which the EU Exports and outsources its Borders?
    • Desire for Closer Ties – Need for Labour & Access to Markets +
    • Fear of the East – Inward Migration & Cross Border Crime
    • But where is the east and how do we know – how has this changed over time – where is Eastern Europe – why do we here in Prague call ourselves central Europeans?
  • Borders as Geopolitical Phenomenon
    • Borders still exist just not (only) at the borders we used to know
    • Borders as Intersection of Security and Mobility
      • Security of what from what?
      • Mobility of what type for who?
        • is this chosen or forced? Is it the same for everyone – mob egs
    • What do they mandate, encourage, discourage or prevent?
    • What does this tell us about who and how we can be?
  • Leads to Wider Questions about Borders as Heuristic or Metaphor
    • Where are our borders?
      • As citizens, as men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, law abiders, criminals, entrepreneurs, conformists and creatives?
      • What are borders and what do they do?
        • Are all our borders about security and mobility
        • Perhaps they are also to do with probability and possibility, action and dream ..
        • How are borders created, confirmed or challenged?
          • Formal borders –legal, state, etc; informal borders – norms, conventions, habits, limits of imagination & creativity
          • All borders are artificial in the sense that they are social constructs
          • Doesn’t make them any less real but does mean that they can be contested and challenged,
          • How are borders policed or transgressed?
            • How are they enforced? How do we police ourselves in this regard?
            • How do they change over time?
            • Why do borders exist?
              • Why might we want them to?
  • Borders, Imposition and Desire
    • How and why are borders imposed?
      • Which borders can we think of as being imposed on us?
      • When do we want to be secure?
      • How and why is this accepted or resisted?
        • Do we accept all the borders that are imposed on us?
        • When do we want to be open or mobile?
        • How and why do we actually desire borders?
          • What borders do you desire or want to maintain?
          • Would you open the borders to your home? Your bedroom? Your body? Under what circumstances and how much ctrl do you have or want over this?
          • Who gets to make your borders?
            • You? Other people? Some combination of the two?
            • If we were to transgress the borders of language, we would struggle to make ourselves understood, but, over time words change their meaning in different context, become acceptable or unacceptable, but all of this relies on common understandings of them …
  • How do your borders relate to your identity and your horizons of possibility?
    • Your borders to a certain extent give you an idea of who you are
    • Repeated interaction with your borders gives you a sense of yuour current possibilities and limits
  • Borders, Identities, Orders
    • Identity – Your Borderscape
      • Access to different places and spaces
        • Nightclub example –
    • Belonging within a particular place (bounded by borders
    • Who gets to be there who doesn’t?
    • Who is in place and who is ‘out of place’
    • So, who gets to do what and who does not …
    • If borders relate to Identity then do we carry the border with us?
      • We trigger some of the borders that seem to spring up …
      • Zafer senocak – the border runs, right through my tongue
  • Orders – How we live with Others
    • What is a particular place for?
    • What are the activities that are supposed to take place there?
    • Where does that place stop and a new place start?
    • Who gets to decide that and how is it enforced?
    • Who gets to participate? Who is that place for
    • Spatial, Temporal and Social
      • How we can be in and make places
      • How we can change them or how we want to keep them as they are
      • What does it mean when borders are not just at the edge?
      • What is the history of a place, how has it changed over time?
      • How do power relations work in these contexts
      • How do borders and this access/ denial/ freedom/ oppression matrix work to make us who we are?
  • Bordering as Self & World Knowledge
    • How the world sees you
      • You know retty quickly if you are welcome or not
      • 1st/ 2nd class at the border – waiting or passing… at home or out of place?
      • How you see the world and yourself in it
        • Where can you go, what can you do, who can you be?
        • Is it where you would like to be …
        • Volker Braun – I’m still here but my country’s gone west …
        • How we can live and who we want to live with
          • Whose in and whose out?
          • How we can dream and imagine as well as how we stay grounded and practical
            • Possibility and durability – are we ready for total flux?
            • Borders as social and political
              • We do this together and so we have to rtecognise how power relations work, how we can ifluence or compel others and how they can do the same to us ..
              • How does going to palladium influence the situation of the homeless person
              • Borders connect us as well as divide us – relations of exclusion are still relations …
  • Beyond Borders?
    • Making Borders
      • Which borders do you help make
      • For creative types? Who is in, who is out?
      • Breaking Down Borders
        • How do you challenge your borders
        • How do you help other people challenge theirs’?
        • Knowing Borders
          • How do we know our borders?
          • How do we go about finding out?
          • This is the key to challenging those we want to challenges and to maintaining the bodrers that we want to keep.