Europe has been paralyzed by the upsurge in migrants and refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa, with countries within the EU sending mixed signals for months as the crisis deepened. The late-night deal reached Wednesday night was delivered as a show of solidarity, but it quickly emerged there were cracks behind the scenes.
Euro Summit: we need to make sure that we all understand each other's positions & the consequences of our decisions. http://t.co/DszfHjUmYK— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) June 19, 2015
Donald Tuck, President of the European council took a clear swipe at European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, when he said, following the announcement of the deal:
"The greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come. We need to correct the policy of open doors and windows."
This was a clear rebuke to the German leader who had said Germany would open its doors to refugees and migrants and was prepared to take in 800,000 this year alone. Juncker too has been vocal in encouraging people to move out of refugee camps and make the dangerous journey to Europe.
"Today we are talking about millions of potential refugees trying to reach Europe, not thousands. It is likely that more refugees will flow towards Europe. Especially as almost all of them feel invited to Europe," he said, in a clear reference to Merkel.
End of Schengen?
The news that Germany was open for business spread like wildfire on social media and many left the refugee camps in places such as Lebanon and Jordan. The mass influx created chaos in Greece and Italy which could not cope with the numbers and became quickly overwhelmed.
Proper management & control of our external borders is our common responsibility; unfair to put all the burden on Italy or Greece. #EUCO— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) September 23, 2015
Other routes opened up across the Balkans forcing Hungary to erect a razor wire fence, Austria to introduce border controls with Hungary and Germany to introduce controls with its border with Austria. There followed clashes on the Croatia-Hungary border and unrest in other major cities as railways and roads were temporarily closed.
The Schengen agreement of freedom of movement within most of Europe was broken, leaving countries arguing over what action to take, with Merkel and Juncker demanding refugees be re-settled with a binding quote system.
"Without changing the current paradigm the Schengen area will only exist in theory," said Tusk.
Meanwhile, the Dublin rules — which require asylum seekers to be processed at the country of entry and that any found deeper in Europe be sent back to that point of entry — were being broken by Germany.
Spilling a Billion
The deal finally agreed after weeks of disarray means the EU will pay US$1.11 billion to international agencies to support refugee camps and more money and aid for Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which have become safe havens for the 4 million Syrians who fled the civil war.
The deal also involves beefing up Frontex, the border management agency and setting up 'hotspots' to help create reception centers in the countries most exposed to arriving asylum seekers.
However, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, warned that the measures taken so far were not enough. Ahead of the leaders' summit Wednesday night, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said:
"This is a crisis of political will combined with lack of European unity that is resulting in management mayhem."
In a sign of the seriousness of the deep divisions within Europe, Tusk warned: "The most urgent question we should ask ourselves tonight is how to regain control of our external borders.
"Otherwise it doesn't make any sense to even speak about common migration policy. What is at stake is also the future of Schengen, the sense of order in Europe and the common European spirit."