Migrant crisis challenging EU identity

Kimberly Adams Sep 1, 2015
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Migrant crisis challenging EU identity

Kimberly Adams Sep 1, 2015
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The European Union is threatening legal action against several of its member states. The branch of that economic bloc which deals with migration says at least 10 countries — they won’t say which ones — are being served a final warning. Why? The EU says these countries are not properly following procedures for dealing with asylum seekers.

More than 2,600 migrants and refugees have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. An unknown number of others have died as they make their way across land, often at the mercy of smugglers.

The hundreds of thousands of people who’ve survived — flooding into Europe fleeing wars and poverty — are straining the ties of the European Union, a grand economic experiment that was supposed to unify the continent. A big part of that was the open-border policy, which is now being challenged.

“It has prompted Europeans to do a lot of soul-searching,” says Kostas Kourtikakis,  a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign.

He says Europeans have been able to move around Europe to live and to work “with very few restrictions for the last 20 or 30 years. So I think this principal is so much deeply enshrined, if you like, in European Union consciousness.”

Kourtikakis worries the migrant and refugee crisis is making many countries want to limit that movement.

Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says Germany is warning it might reinstate border control if the EU doesn’t act as a whole to deal with the problem. He says there’s a disconnect in Europe “because you have these supranational open borders inside the Euro area that allows people to physically move around freely, but then you have national rules for asylum.”

Heather Conley, the director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says people who land in Greece might prefer Germany, which has more generous asylum policies.

“Because the external borders have not been able to be secured,” she says, “what’s happening is that the problem is being passed along — country by country.”

And those countries are struggling to find a unified response to the growing problem, she says.

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