Global Independent Analytics
Ioannis Mantzikos
Ioannis Mantzikos

Location: Greece

Specialization: Jihadist Groups, Islamic Terrorism, Global Security

Refugee Crisis and Jihadism: Point of No Return for Europe

The EU must learn how to make the key geopolitical linkages resolve the migrant crisis.

Even before the Paris and Brussels attacks, political, economic and social fractures existed within the EU. In fact, they existed long before the migration crisis. The creation of the Euro also created three separate EU zones with differentiated speeds of integration: The Eurozone, a North-Western zone of Eurosceptics, and a poor Eastern zone. The economic crisis, and, in particular, the crisis in the Eurozone, accentuated the differences. The migration crisis presses hard into these fractures, further undermining EU solidarity as Schengen provisions are suspended, borders closed and border fences built. The inability of the EU to effectively deal with the crisis has increased the chances of the British voting to leave. Unless the EU countries, collectively and individually, are better able to respond to the crisis, they risk the existence of the EU itself.EU leaders and citizens have thought and acted as if the EU was isolated from the rest of the world. Events in North Africa, the Middle East and Eurasia could be interesting, even slightly frightening, but at the end of the day would not impact the EU. So it was thought.

The refugee crisis, with millions of poor, non-Western immigrants from an alien culture flooding into Europe, often with the intent of settling there permanently but not assimilating, represents a fundamental transformation of Europe.Let’s be clear: Some of them may be fleeing war and persecution, but most are not. In fact, only about 10 percent of the new arrivals are from Syria; the other 90 percent are from elsewhere in the Middle East, North Africa and from countries like Pakistan and Indonesia who are using the European Union’s open doors-open borders policy to reach the West for social welfare and for the longer-term goal of spreading Islam.Contrary to the narrative that most of the “refugees” are families escaping the march of ISIS, most are, in fact, young men. In fact, 80 percent of the “refugees” are men. Many of them say that once they get asylum, they will take advantage of EU policy to bring in the rest of their families.

At this point, it appears that there is no going back.

It could even get worse as estimates suggest that around one in every 120 or so people on the planet is now considered a refugee or an internally displaced person by the United Nations. Millions of those are hoping to settle in the West. The wave of terrorist attacks was still a shock, of course, but should not have been — the warning signs were everywhere.

Paris had just come under a similar jihadist attack earlier in 2015, when Islamist gunmen massacred employees at a vulgar magazine infamous for ridiculing religion, God, and Muslims. Before that, Islamist militants had slaughtered a rabbi and several Jewish children in southern France. And authorities had long realized that they had a major problem that spanned across borders. In part this reflected attitudes left over from the Cold War, and in part due to the false sense of security following the period of US hegemony in the 90s. But both the migration crisis and jihadist terrorism demonstrate the degree of EU’s integration into the wider region. It can no longer hope to shut itself off from the consequences of its policy decisions. The Islamic State and other jihadist groups have long been bragging about sneaking in terrorists into Europe amid the waves of refugees and migrants. Many of those jihadists are likely still in camps and centers established for new arrivals — camps where the tiny number of Christians and other minorities often face brutal violence, persecution, and terror — and so have not yet settled in Islamic areas in the outskirts of the major cities.

Muslim criminality across Europe is high. Consequently, the percentage of Muslims in prisons in Europe is high. In France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, the prison population is 70% Muslim. Many European prisons have become recruitment centers for future jihadis. Muslim riots can occur for any reason: police upholding the law, a Soccer League celebration, or support of a cause. That more terrorist attacks will eventually be perpetrated by individuals entering Europe amid the ongoing migration tsunamiis virtually a certainty. The real questions, then, are not whether more Europeans will die at the hands of radicalized refugees — that is unavoidable — but how much more will die, in what manner, and when. 

Europe has renounced force; to many, it therefore appears as weak, vulnerable and as inviting a takeover. Welfare states have created a government-dependent class in Europe of many people who live permanently on social benefits. These people are often Muslim. Most of the time, they are not assimilated – and often show signs of not wanting to assimilate. Many reside in virtually autonomous, in so-called no-go zones (e.g. France, the UK, and Germany). It is no wonder then that populations of Western Europe increasingly think that the dream society that has been promised has turned into a nightmare. The sudden and often brutal arrival of hundreds of thousands more Muslims may prompt Europeans to think that the nightmare will get worse. They watch how their leaders speak and act as if they have no awareness of what is happening. They are powerless.

Europe no longer does strategy, or geopolitics. European leaders leap from one issue to another or from one aspect to another, without seeing the linkages. Without a guiding narrative, too often they are knocked off course by events. Politicians’ logic (“something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done”) too often substitutes for a considerate policy formulation. Tackling the migrant crisis requires a multidimensional approach operating at multiple levels and strategically across the board. This must include tackling the underlying causes (e.g., civil war in Syria, instability in Libya). European publics will show compassion for a time-limited humanitarian crisis. The compassion quickly wears thin if confronted by the prospect of an endless, and growing, stream of migrants over the next decade.

The EU must learn how to make the key geopolitical linkages resolve the migrant crisis. Iraq and Syria must be seen as one issue, and the defeat of ISIS as central in both countries. In as far as Putin has made himself the “indispensable man” in Syria, the West must deal with him. He alone can deliver Assad for a post-regime-change Syria. He is key in delivering Iran. Russia is also willing to deploy the military force in Syria that the West is not. But in as far as the West has to deal with Putin over Syria, it will have to deal with him over the Ukraine. Putin sees the linkages; the West does not. The EU must re-engage with Turkey, who will be the great loser in any settlement in Syria and Iraq, but do so seriously. 

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