Clémentine d‘Oultremont (Egmont – the Royal Institute for European Policy)
Europe is going through the biggest migration crisis since the end of the World War II, which brings along immense challenges not only for its security but this crisis is also confronting the moral values that constitute the EU’s very foundation. Despite the efforts of the European Commission to reform the EU immigration policy, Member States have not yet been able to implement sufficient mechanisms, except for short-term measures, which have, however, only highlighted the lack of solidarity and the absence of long-term vision needed to deal with this serious situation. EU members should, first and foremost, focus on the basic recommendation: put greater emphasis on the principles of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, provide refugees and economic migrants with the possibility of a legal entry and integration programs as well as assistance to solve the “external” reasons for migration.
The last and likely the most important recommendation concerns the creation of a positive view of the European society towards immigrants, since the EU nationals seems to be overwhelmed by fear rather than the call for solidarity and empathy. As more walls and fences are being erected that depict Europe as an impregnable fortress, it seems that any kind of empathy for human suffering is being lost and the principles of human dignity, democracy and equal treatment are being abandoned. Therefore, it is necessary to tear down these obstacles at least in our minds and start acting jointly within the EU because only a common effort will result into an effective response to this crisis.
Based on the recent special Eurobarometer survey run by the European Commission in July 2015, Europeans are most afraid precisely of immigration, and this is even when compared with economic crisis and unemployment. This attitude is a result of the fear of refugees, which is being continuously exploited by populist parties. Therefore, creating a positive view is indispensable for making EU citizens accept this new reality. Media should play a key role in this effort, notably by describing the real situation on the ground and by publishing real stories of people with the aim of refuting simplified statements spread by populist politicians. It is key for people to realize that everyone can benefit from managed migration – the EU, immigrants themselves and also the country of their origin.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://www.egmontinstitute.be/publication_article/the-migration-crisis-a-stress-test-for-european-values/)