Global Independent Analytics

Europe’s patience finally runs off

With more and more migrant encampments appearing in Greece, a European Union leader issued a stark warning Thursday to millions in search of economic opportunity: Stay away

James Kanter and Sewell Chan reporting for The New York Times: “Do not come to Europe,” said the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, nominal representative and the voice of the bloc’s 28 leaders. “Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing. Greece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country.”

The speech, which he gave at a news conference in Greece, clearly showed how desperate and anxious Europe has become over the past couple of months. Once again, a plea to Turkey was heard, asking it to help Europe by keeping refugees away.

These, some may say blunt, remarks supported Europe’s new way of dealing with migrants: direct blocking of a passage from Greece further inland. This approach has left many thousands of people trapped inside a country that suffers from severe economic problems and has practically no capacity to deal with the problem on its own, and without any possibility of going back, since there’s nothing to return to.

As of now, nearly 10,000 have settled in camps near small village of Idomeni, on Greece’s border with Macedonia, where violent clashes with local police have erupted.

Undoubtedly, Mr. Tusk was addressing so called economic migrants, but the underlining of his words couldn’t be more transparent. He was effectively arguing for Europe’s determined turn away from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s more open approach to welcoming migrants. The German chancellor has stood by her policy of accepting legitimate refugees at the cost of her ratings, while much of the rest of Europe is increasingly resisting.

“The refugee flows still remain far too high,” Mr. Tusk said. “To many in Europe the most promising method seems to be a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants arriving in Greece — it would effectively break the business model of the smugglers.”

Over the past few days, Tusk has made a sort of reverse pilgrimage along the so-called Western Balkans migration route, visiting Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia and Greece before reaching Turkey. “Greece and the Greek people are paying a very high price for the problem they themselves did not create,” Mr. Tusk said. “I want to state here very clearly that the European Union will not leave Greece alone.”

By Stefan Paraber for GIA

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

In an interview with Bild am Sonntag from Saturday, March 5, 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Greece needs to work harder to accept more refugees. “Originally, Greece should have created 50,000 accommodation places for refugees by the end of 2015,” Merkel said in a translation provided by Reuters. "The backlog must be resolved now at lightning speed because the Greek government has to guarantee decent accommodation," Merkel added. She also said that “I know from my talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that he wants to do this.”

But two days earlier, on March 3, 2016, European Council President Donald Tusk, actually met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens and asked refugees not to come to Greece. As the New York Times reported, Tusk sent a message to migrants: “Do not come to Europe. Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing. Greece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country.”

Needless to say, Greece is not in a terrific financial situation and cannot even provide for its own citizens at the moment. Merkel who has shown zero flexibility with Greece’s economic demands in the past, now wants more migration and is issuing orders for Greece to work faster. Tusk is now arguing otherwise after he actually went to Greece, but Merkel on Saturday had the final say. 

Read more

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