Sputnik: In your view, how realistic is this plan that’s been suggested by Sebastian Kurz?
Dimitris Rapidis: Well, first of all, we have to keep in mind that before this proposal from Chancellor Kurz there was the EU refugee relocation program that was started back in September 2015 and lasted for a couple of years. It was a good proposal by the European Commission but it didn’t manage to bring about the necessary results and after that we had the EU-Turkey Bill that curbed the number of migrants that were crossing the Aegean Sea towards the European Union. Regarding the proposal of Chancellor Kurz, we have to say that it is realistic to the extent that the European Union has no other alternative for the moment. And I’ll explain, the European Union didn’t achieve to implement a successful relocation program, there are tens of thousands of refugees stuck in the Aegean islands in Greece as well as there’s also a big part of refugees in Italy and also alongside with the so-called Visegrad States have blocked the implementation of the relocation program.
And at the same time both Germany and France haven’t proposed any other alternative to this program. So I think that this could be an option, but I would also like to stress that Libya and the Northern African states are not like Turkey. They don’t have the state capacity of Turkey. They don’t have a bureaucratic mechanism that can sustain a big number of refugees on their soil and at the same time for Frontex to operate overseas it takes a big budget and operation readiness and a big amount of human and financial resources, which is, I have to say a big problem for the majority of EU member-states so far.
Dimitris Rapidis: If we take a look at the EU budget draft that was proposed one month ago by the commission to the European Parliament, there’s a shift, there’s a transfer actually of funds from the social policy and the agricultural policy towards the new defense fund that was proposed by French President Macron. So there’s already a move toward that direction which is to increase security in the EU borders and to increase all the funds available to deal with the refugee issue. So, to some extent yes, there’s a possibility from the European Union to finance further action like for instance to increase the human resources in Frontex. But there’s also a problem because there’s also a public outburst against this proposal by the European Commission and the French president. I think that in the next couple of months the discussions in the EU institution will be intensified but I’m not sure that even if when Austria gets the rotating presidency of the EU we may have something specific on that front.
Sputnik: And then of course there are the African countries. How open are they? I mean, they have to allow the deployment of border guards on their territory. Are they happy about that or not really?
Dimitris Rapidis: As in the case of Turkey, I think that it depends on the number of the amounts and funds that the European Union will agree with each of the states of North Africa. It’s literally a financing issue. On the political level I do believe that most North African leaders will be willing to accept a generous offer by the European Union in terms of money. And I can’t see a problem from their side; the problem still remains in the core of the EU decision making because at the same time in the European Parliament the most progressive groups like the left-wing, the socialists and the greens are opposed to such a proposal which comes also from the popular party, Kurz is also a member of this party. So, to answer your question, I think that it’s mostly a European issue and not that much an issue for North Africa. Still, we do have a big problem with human trafficking but the fact is that during the last 20 years the European Union has dispatched huge amounts to tackle this issue and we have no specific positive results so far.
Dimitris Rapidis: I’m not sure that it will be more effective because I told you there’s been a lot of money sent to Africa to deal with this issue. There’s also the humanitarian fund of the European Union that has spent more than €20 billion to that cause and so far we don’t have the expected results. So, what they see from this proposal from Chancellor Kurz is more to increase its leverage within the European agenda and to create a sphere of influence in a number of member-states mostly those that are affected by the refugee issues, to bargain for other issues like for instance on the financial front or to lower the prerequisite that the European Commission is imposing on many member-states in terms of their social policy strategy. So it’s a bargaining issue between Austria and the rest of the EU.
The views and opinions expressed by Dimitris Rapidis are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.