No miraculous cure has succeeded in Greece but the issue splitting the EU is totally different than it was 2 or 3 months ago. Almost no one cares about the Greek finances these days; almost all the tension in Europe is about the wave of illegal immigrants flowing from the Muslim world. Half a million of migrants have crossed the external EU border since the beginning of this year.
Tens of thousands of illegals came to Germany during the last weekend. Certain politicians suddenly realized that their "welcoming" policies (the Chancellor has previously said that every Syrian is welcome in Germany, among other totally insane things) were deeply flawed and unsustainable and Germany suddenly reinstated the border checks, especially on the Austrian border. Austria and Slovakia quickly followed the suit. Czechia has only informally strengthened the Austrian border – but about 80 illegals have been caught since Sunday (the same number is a whopping 20,000 in Burgenland, a province of Austria). President Zeman and the defense minister Stropnický plan joint police-army border guards.
Yesterday, the Libertarian European lawmaker Petr Mach – whom I have successfully voted for and whom I know in person – tweeted that the border checks are a part of a blackmail strategy by Germany. I didn't quite understand how the closed borders may be used to blackmail anybody – and I still don't understand it – but the events today in the morning persuaded me to think that even though all these motives look confusing, Petr knows what he is talking about.
Czech finance minister, de facto prime minister, and the food industry mogul Andrej Babiš has pointed out that Frau Merkel is about as bright as poultry, even though less so than his Chicken of Waterville [Vodňany]. "She has invited the migrants and now she seems surprised that lots of them have arrived!" he mentioned.
Most of the EU countries belong to the Schengen area, a territory where the internal borders have been largely erased from the map. Once you get to the EU legally, you may go everywhere in the EU. Needless to say, with this generosity, the safety of the area depends on the somewhat carefully crafted laws guaranteeing the protection of the external borders of the Schengen area.
These laws have been violated – and are still being violated on a daily basis – by the whole pro-migrant lobby which includes lots of irresponsible politicians in Germany and other EU countries, as well as by several countries used as the "entrance to the EU" (Italy, Greece) whose officials and law enforcement forces are too lazy and convenient to obey the law.
The laws may have been sensible but they are not being respected by almost anyone (perhaps because there are no "sanctions" for those countries that violate the law) – Hungary is an exception that works hard to enforce the law – which has unavoidably led to the current situation in which individual EU countries start (and, to a large extent, had to start) to act individually and any consensus about what is "right" has evaporated. It is legally allowed for a Schengen country to temporarily introduce border checks. However, we have good reasons to doubt that the border checks will be temporary. The complete failure of the Schengen idea – the permanent restoration of the internal EU borders – is a rather likely outcome right now.
Hungary sometimes transports the migrants on its territory to the Austrian border where they were accepted up to recently (and sent to Bavaria). But because it knows that the "welcoming mood" in Germany (and, indirectly, Austria) is already unavoidably weakening, it has to protect its border against the inflow of new migrants. Laws are being toughened in Hungary. Illegals may be imprisoned now; since the midnight, it's been a full-fledged crime to illegally cross the Hungarian border again. The martial law is a possible option for coming days (update: 20 seconds ago, Hungary declared emergency in 2 border counties). The border with Serbia – another country in the Balkans route used to get to the rich EU countries – is the most critical one for Hungary. However, today in the afternoon, Hungary will probably declare the extension of the fence to the border with Romania, too.
The Czech-Austrian-German tripoint. I think that most readers from North America, over 50% of TRF visitors, can't even imagine that something like that may exist. ;-) But something like 3 of these points sit on the border of an average European country. Czechia has 4. Shockingly, it's the same number as the number of neighbors. Due to sharing, this effectively gives us 4/3 of a tripoint, more than the average country in the world has because there are just 176 or so tripoints in the world for the 200 countries.
Hungary and Serbia (a country that was planning to join the EU soon) probably have very similar opinions about these problems when it comes to the principles. But they're still defending different interests: you know, Hungary wants to protect Hungary against the mess while Serbia wants to protect Serbia against the mess and these two goals are not quite equivalent. For this reason, the tensions run high. The people in the Balkans are full of temperament and similar "modest controversies" have been enough for wars many times in the past. The Hungarian army is going to be located along the Serbian border to physically prevent the illegals from entering Hungary. But will they stay calm enough not to attack any Serbian forces?
Meanwhile, some EU meeting took place. It was absolutely clear that no quotas or similar non-solutions would be adopted. Nevertheless, German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere and his (less) French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve (I say "less" because de Maizieres were a French noble family belonging to the Huguenots and they still attend French-language schools) have spread the lie that an agreement about the quotas was found at night. It was probably a failed trick to create a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The truth came out soon, of course. In agreement with previously announced attitudes, the proposals were vetoed not just by the Visegrad (post-socialist Central European) Group (Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia: only Austria has become a black sheep of the Habsburg monarchy) but also by Romania, Latvia, and – to a certain extent – by the U.K.
Thomas de Maiziere later (in the morning) supported an idea – he claims that the unelected EU Commission's chieftain Juncker was the mastermind behind the idea – that the countries that disagree with the dysfunctional and illegal concept of the quotas should be "punished" by getting fewer (or no) EU structural funds. You know, these are pretty strong words, especially if it is us, not them, who is compatible with the EU law. His Czech counterpart, interior minister Milan Chovanec (former local politician in Pilsen, social democracy) urged de Maiziere to "stop flexing his muscles", especially because the "main reason causing the problems is the incoherent behavior of the German authorities". After this article was written, Slovak PM Fico said that the penalties would end the EU, the very same claim that I made and picked as the title of this blog post. Fico also repeated that Slovakia will veto quotas under any circumstances and even if it were the only country to do so.
(In a later video interview, Chovanec told us that the negotiations have been unpleasant. The idea to restrict the cohesion funds cannot be realized – because it would require a change of the laws which could only take place after an agreement of all 28 member states – and de Maiziere has just suffered from a temporary mental breakdown when he voiced this "idea" but the heads will calm down soon. Chovanec also found it unfortunate that his Belgian colleague was framing the disagreement as a West-vs-East issue. It is a conflict between common sense and some irrational preconceived comprehensive schemes that will obviously have to be changed.)
I don't have to tell you that blackmail isn't a new tool in the Czech-German relationships. On March 14th, 1939, the president of the castrated (post-Munich-Treaty) country now called Czecho-Slovakia, Emil Hácha (a lawyer who also translated "Three Men In a Boat" to Czech), was invited to Berlin. Herr Hitler told him that the Munich Treaty was dead and Germany no longer liked the messy, non-German life on the Czech territory. Hácha got two options: Either he will immediately surrender and turn the rest of the Czech lands to the Protectorate that is ultimately controlled by the German overlords (he would remain the "state president") and has no army and foreign policy; or Prague will be instantly flattened and most of the Czech nation exterminated in a Blitzkrieg (which would be totally hopeless for the Czechs, unlike the situation half a year earlier, because the Czech lands minus the Sudetenland territory were largely indefensible).
Hácha suffered two strokes during the meeting and signed, one of the reasons why you may still arrive to Prague and see what a crossroad of numerous architecture styles of the European history looks like. The era of the Protectorate started. For the most ordinary people who never cared about politics, it was usually OK but be sure that all kinds of sovereignty or national dignity was gone. Tens of thousands of ethnic Czech people were executed along with 300,000 Czechoslovak Jews who were murdered.
The protectorate (the Czech word is "Protektorát") was funnily nicknamed "Protentokrát" which is, as you can see, an almost identical word. It is a somewhat fancy, bookish expression for "this time". The nickname meant that its users believed that this arrangement would only last for a very short time. They probably meant a few months or a year. At the end, the Czech lands had to spend more than 6 long years in this setup – which was still much less than the 1,000 years that the "Reich" was supposed to last according to the national socialist planners.
Now, with this historical template for the German blackmailing in mind, do you really want to impress us with a reduction of the EU funds, Monsieur de Maiziere? Please, don't be silly.
The Czech politicians are sometimes slow and lacking energy. But this situation has been understood as a potentially important crisis and the government (and surely the president) realize that they simply can't afford to be irresponsible. The net financial inflows from the EU to the Czech Republic are comparable to 1% of the Czech GDP. It is not a negligible amount of money; but it is not an amount that qualitatively changes anything, either.
It is totally obvious that the unlimited freedom of the illegals to arrive to Czechia and expect some material support could quickly become far more costly – and there would be other, non-financial losses caused by such havoc. So the politicians will think rationally. There will be at least some discussion about the options.
The migrants ultimately want to Germany (and perhaps to Scandinavia and sometimes the U.K.). As long as we assume that the basic laws of the Schengen area are respected, these migrants will rather quickly move to Germany, anyway. They want it. It's where they were invited. No one has invited them e.g. to Czechia – and the Czech president has explicitly and loudly emphasized this fact. So if we knew that they will be allowed to move anywhere in the EU, like all legal resident in the EU according to the Schengen rules, we could even agree with the quota if the blackmail were serious.
However, the reinstated border checks on the German border suggest that we cannot trust Germany that when the bad weather takes over, it will respect even the most basic laws of the Schengen area. It means that thousands (or later, tens of thousands if not more) of these illegal immigrants could turn out to be stuck on the Czech territory, indeed. And that would be an unacceptable outcome for something like 95% of the Czech public.
In fact, two days ago, Monsieur de Maiziere openly said that the refugees must accept that they can't choose which EU country they will live in. This is totally illegal and absurd. Every legal resident of the EU may choose where to live. This is the basic idea behind the whole Schengen area. And of course, they choose Germany – where they have invited and which promises them lots of money and luxury for doing nothing except for mess. Frau Merkel has invited them – which means that she invited them to Germany. She couldn't have invited them e.g. to Czechia (or other parts of the EU) because she is not the Czech queen, only a former Czech visiting postdoc. And, as Slovakia's interior minister Robert Kaliňák mentioned, those are real people with fates and personal wishes, not tons of rice, so you just can't ration them.
So if this blackmail is officially announced, I suspect that the Czech politicians will agree with a cut to the EU funds. Would it be a big event? Well, it wouldn't be a stunningly big event. In many recent years, Czechia was extremely inefficient and slow in extracting these funds, anyway. Incidentally, it just managed to fill all the paperwork that should have been completed years ago – and the extra construction caused by the "delayed" EU funds has actually contributed to the fact that Czechia leads the EU in the GDP growth rate these days (safely above 4%).
But if someone wanted to cancel the EU subsidies for Czechia altogether (it would be nothing else than Monsieur de Maiziere's personal theft of billions of dollars because no EU laws allow these pre-agreed flows to be cancelled by referring to some illegal and murky excuses), it would probably have significant consequences for our desire to stay in the EU. You know, even before this friction about the illegals began, the Czech public's support for the EU membership was very low – lower than 50 percent according to many polls. I am pretty confident that if the "new EU membership" meant to be receiving no money, the support for the EU membership would become so low that any politician who cares about his or her career would probably have to do some work on the possible EU exit. I would probably "prefer" to leave the EU myself and believe me, I am a pretty average Czech in these views. The financial compensation is an important issue deciding about the value of our EU membership, whether someone wants to admit this mundane fact or not. Our main reason to stay in the EU is not the ban that prevents us from calling domestic rum a "rum" or butter spread a "butter" spread.
Some other nations would probably be much more emotional and fast about the EU exit than the calm and slow Czechs.
So if Monsieur de Maiziere or Mr Juncker seriously think about similar heavy weapons in their efforts to mock the existing immigration laws of the European Union, they should try to understand that they will not only become criminals according to the EU law but they are also rather likely to cause the breakup of the EU, and probably not quite a velvet one. Such a breakup would have numerous consequences that I am afraid of and I don't really want, despite my being "mostly" a Euroskeptic.
The EU breakup would also change the geopolitical equilibrium pretty dramatically. It would move most of the post-socialist countries closer to Russia again. Poland and some or all Baltic countries would try to avoid this outcome – but others wouldn't. Because of this restructuring of the alliances, the case for a Ukraine that exists independently of Russia would probably weaken – Ukraine would be surrounded from both sides by countries that don't consider its independence to be such a great success – and Ukraine may be reincorporated into the country with the capital in Russia. Russia may suddenly feel more self-confident to reduce the amazing (and mostly U.S.-caused) new mess in the Middle East.
I doubt that the politicians such as Monsieur de Maiziere or Mr Juncker fully realize what evolution they are supporting by their tough rhetoric. People like Frau Merkel should acknowledge that they have completely misevaluated pretty much everything concerning the migrant wave – and about the European immigration and border policies – and they should exploit their unprecedented opportunity to shut their mouth. The "solutions" they may be proposing may sound politically correct which may be enough for a certain fraction of the brainwashed Western European public (I don't think that a majority of the Western European citizens agree with this stupid PC stuff). But what's more important is that these proposed "solutions" are illegal as well as unacceptable for a huge part of the (legal) citizens of European countries and their elected representatives. Pretending that their rights and opinions don't matter is an extremely risky endeavor.
The migrant wave is a problem and we must solve its root causes – or make sure that the problems are relocated back outside the EU territory. Trying to surrender, tolerate the inflow and cope with it, would lead to a catastrophe for the European civilization.
So I urge Frau Merkel, Monsieur de Maiziere, Mr Juncker, and others: Admit that you have been proven fundamentally wrong, apologize, shut your mouth, and allow the people who have the record of having acted more sensibly and sustainably – including Viktor Orbán – to influence the foreign policies not only in their countries but in the whole EU.
Thank you very much.
If you want to stop the speedy deterioration of the political situation in the EU, you simply have to admit your mistakes, pay for them (pay for the invitations you have sent around the world) and stop asking others to pay for them (you may perhaps offer greater subsidies for the post-socialist countries, but you simply can't blackmail them by their reduction and you don't have the credentials to demand that a single other nation accepts a single migrant), and start to search for genuine solutions of the root causes and the restoration of the rule of law in Europe and on its borders. No matter how much political correctness you pump into your words and acts, no solution based on the complete disrespect to the currently valid international treaties and other countries' interests may lead to a peaceful resolution of the hassles. To suggest something else may be lethally irresponsible.
And because Obama's government has greatly contributed to this current mess in Europe, it would be appropriate for his administration to offer at least some $10 billion to soften the problems with the migrants who are already here.