Can the European Union be still defined a community of values? As regards the multitudes of refugees ceaselessly immigrating to EU Countries over the past months, we are still experiencing Member States’ inability to reach an agreement on wise policies, based on the sharing of responsibilities, corresponding to the basic tenets of humanity and solidarity. The governments of some Member countries refuse to offer solidarity to the refugees and to their neighbouring countries, thereby dumping on the latters’ shoulders all the problems regarding reception and care to desperate people and asylum-seekers. This is questionably done in the name of the right to national sovereignty.
The above-mentioned issues will be debated in the summit scheduled to take place today and tomorrow – November 11-12 – in La Valletta, the Maltese capital.
Now, the Hungarian government has built a barrier to block migrants and redirect them to bordering Countries. Other governments are considering the same measure. In Serbia, incoming migrants were channelled to Croatia, and from there, to Slovenia, from Slovenia to Austria and then to Germany, which is the only place offering organised reception and registration – with increasing difficulties, owing to inexhaustible inflows and to high numbers of new arrivals. In Germany, over 800 thousand asylum-seekers arrived in the period from January to October 2015; in addition to several thousands arriving every month.
A preliminary agreement between EU Member Countries for a partial solution – according to which some of the refugees who were temporarily accommodated in Italy and Greece should be redistributed (there was talk of 160 thousand people) – is met with hesitation. Many government leaders fail to keep the public promises made in Brussels.
Where is the solidarity between the States? Where is the solidarity towards the refugees? Where is justice? Where is the responsibility towards other human beings? What ever happened to humanitarian obligations?
In addition to national institutions, there exist other organisms that feel responsible for the protection and care of refugees, notably large numbers of volunteers devote much effort through private initiatives or as members of charity organizations, many of which are supported by the Catholic Church and by other religions. Charity organizations and volunteers, wherever they are, highlight a want of public services – in the Greek islands, in southern Italy, in the main sites of transit countries on the Balkan routes, in the sea channel linking France and the United Kingdom, as well as in hosting countries – the friendly face of Europe, marked by fundamental Community values.
Does this mean that certain governments are right when they say that the unification project based on common values has failed? Often the detractors of European integration and Euro-skeptics are those who slander the European Union, for a nationalist reflex, denying its quality as a “community of values” and unfortunately finding their arguments in the ways in which the EU addresses the refugee crisis. Hence it is important to insist in seeing and recognizing the European Union as a community of values, it means reaffirming a point of reference that guides the EU and on whose grounds its policies should be developed. This claim should not be trampled on as a result of disappointment for the bad conduct of certain governments, since it would mean renouncing ambition, which is a fundamental driving force for European integration and for the achievement of its connate values.
Indeed, it’s the selfish face of Europe that comes to the fore, fixated with nation-States, the negative face of this crisis, distant from the project of a European Union – a large part of which has been already accomplished. The Europe of walls is unrelated to the Europe envisaged by its founding fathers, Schuman, De Gasperi, Adenauer, with a vision to the future. Over the past decades, thanks to solidarity initiatives and inclusive policies, supported by financial funds and development aids, Europe has grown into a value-based community: it’s the European Union.
Remarkably, in addition to the United Kingdom, that has always played a particular role and has rejected the idea of a “community” (as over the past days, with the positions conveyed by Premier Cameron ahead of the Brexit referendum), also central and east-European countries that joined the EU now find it hard to act in solidarity. Their membership is based on the mistaken belief that the European Union is an insurance company, whose resources are obtained in exchange for a modest contribution, in order to solve problems of a purely material nature.
If the disagreements over the ongoing humanitarian crisis should cause a rift inside the EU, that rupture would separate those member countries open to solidarity and to the community from those that prefer defending their sovereignty without future prospects.