Monday, June 25, 2018

It's 2018 and Merkel et al. are still incoherent on migration

Some leaders of the EU member countries (16 countries) gathered in Brussels yesterday in the afternoon. Four days before a more official summit, they were debating how to improve the policies towards exotic migrants that keep on arriving to Europe – although the rates are low these days, about 1/2 of those recorded a year ago.

No leader of the Visegrád (V4) countries has attended (and neither have the British islands, Baltic states, Cyprus, and Portugal). The spokesman for Macron said that the V4 leaders were "boycotting", in order to make things sound more dramatic. But there's no real justification for such a dramatic language. The leaders just agreed not to attend because the presence was in no way mandatory and folks in V4 generally expected that the summit was designed to promote some "solutions" that V4 considers unacceptable – like the quotas for the whole EU. So the costs exceeded the benefits and they just didn't think it was a good idea to attend the not really standard event. Why would one call it a "boycott"? If you just turn down the offer to sleep with a homeless man on the street, do you call it a "boycott"?

Moreover, the summit was likely meant as a tool for Merkel to save her career domestically – in a few weeks, Seehofer's Bavarian CSU may leave her coalition unless she does something against the continuing influx of migrants to Germany from its neighbors. And the countries that didn't attend don't find the salvation of Ms Merkel to be a priority.

On Saturday, the French leader issued a threat to all European countries. If they won't satisfy him on migration, he will take the money from them. I think that for them not to look like ludicrous clowns, French leaders should avoid similar megalomaniac claims and threats, especially when they're standing 10 miles from Waterloo (which is where Brussels is). Do you know what happened in Waterloo, Mr Macron?

The new Italian government is composed of some anti-immigration Euroskeptics. However, due to the specific national interests, they tend to support some solutions that are unacceptable to similar political forces in most of the other European countries – such as the Europe-wide redistribution of the migrants. That could be good for Italy that has gotten a lots of migrants. But it's bad for everyone else.

The Italian leader proposes a setup in which each country invents its own quotas. It sounds great. We will probably choose the number zero. Meanwhile, there has been a war of words between France and Italy. Macron has said that he was the superior person because he had the respect for the folks of all races and ethnicities – unlike the Italians who are dirty gypsies who suffer from "leprosy", a disease that has "spread across lots of other stinky nations in Europe". ;-) You're a real Gentleman, Mr Macron, indeed.

As I have emphasized in similar situations several times, there's this tendency of politicians to cherry-pick advantages of their geography and other things. You know, is it good for a country to have beaches of the Mediterranean Sea? Italian, Greek, and other leaders may paint it as a terrible disadvantage and a liability because the migrants from Africa and the Middle East may get there through the sea.

But you know, having the sea is a great thing, too. Millions of people in landlocked countries such as Austria, Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary would love to own some of these beaches. So if the Italians are so devastated by the Mediterranean Sea, why don't they offer e.g. the Italian Riviera to Czechia? Czechia would deal with the ships as well. That would be a fair deal. But for Italy to get rid of the disadvantages of the sea, while keeping all the advantages, is just unjustifiable and unacceptable for the other countries if those remain sensible.

It might often be useful for a country to pick the positive things and throw away the negative ones – and force the other countries to do the opposite thing. But it just can't work because everyone would like to keep the positive parts and throw away the negative ones.

Angela Merkel has presented two main theses yesterday:
The inflow of migrants can't be left to the individual countries where they arrive.

Migrants cannot choose the country where they end.
Both principles are painfully irrational. Even three years after the most serious political blunders of her career, she still doesn't have the slightest idea what was wrong.

Can the inflow be left to the individual countries such as Greece and Italy? There is some business-as-usual in the protection of the borders – and despite the sea, Italy and Malta clearly don't have any problem to say "no" to the ships (while left-wing governments in Greece and Italy have been telling us for years that it was physically impossible to say "no"). And as I said, the current rate of the influx is unspectacular and a state that isn't failed should be capable of dealing with such things easily.

There may hypothetically be mechanisms for the European Union to "solve" certain things as a whole, to take the responsibility for some events. But you know, here's a very universal principle that is actually true and important:
Countries may only be collectively responsible (i.e. EU-like entities may be responsible) for something that they collectively brought upon the bloc by their collective decisions.
Why? Again, if someone (or some country) may do certain things individually, without the approval by others, but others will have to share the responsibility for the (negative) consequences, then all the countries will abuse such inconsistent rules all the time! Once again, it's an example of the cherry-picking of the positive features from a package that should be kept intact.

In particular, it's Angela Merkel personally and/or the Germans whom she represents (because she was elected there) that invited the millions of migrants "here". But she's not an elected leader of Europe, she didn't get the political capital from the electorates in other European nations, so she simply couldn't have spoken on behalf of Europe. Consequently, she could only invite these people to Germany – and that's why only Germany should be responsible for the difficult consequences of her mistake.

The migrants have made a plan. They have to get to the EU through a country such as Greece and Italy – and it's up to Greece and Italy whether they can make it through this stage – and then, assuming the intra-European borders remain open, they will continue to Germany. The countries in between could close their border or something like that. But only the countries like Greece and Italy; and Germany are involved in these events (and perhaps the countries in between, on the migrant route). Everyone else is just a spectator.

Alternatively, the European countries may act as a whole – as the EU, a de facto superstate – but it's only possible if the decisions about the "problem" were made by the EU as a whole, too. It just wasn't the case. You may say that the EU countries have unresolved disputes about certain political affairs from the past that intensely affect the present – e.g. questions where the migrants belong and who is responsible – which is why they simply cannot become a single bloc on this issue.

For centuries, such decisions were made by nation states or countries of a similar size. That's the recipe that mostly works and it can't be replaced by a pan-European one at this moment when the countries are simply incompatible and have a deep disagreement about the status of all the people and particular nations', people's responsibility for them, as well as the rough plan for the future.

So the ultimate decisions about the migrants must be made by individual nation states, just like it has been the case for a long time, simply because there can't be any different, more pan-European solution that works. Such a pan-European solution cannot work because the countries disagree about their responsibility for existing problems and other things.

The second thesis by Merkel is that the migrants shouldn't be allowed to pick their European country. So a migrant is supposed to go to Europe and have some probability to end up in Romania instead of Germany. This rule is absurd at many levels.

First, it is really inconsistent because by embracing the migrants, we're really in the process of turning them into Europeans. And Europeans basically can choose where they move within Europe. Even if you questioned the legal right for them to move from one place to another, they still have the physical power to move because the intra-European borders are open. Once they're released from a detention facility, they may move within Europe. When she says that they can't choose, it means that they will be permanently detained and/or permanently second-class citizens who can't do things that the first-class European citizens can. What is so human about these matters? Back in the Middle East or Africa, they could live outside the detention facilities.

Second, it's just plain nonsense that most of the people who want to move somewhere would be OK if someone else randomly picked where they are placed. The places are so different. Some committee decides that Mohammed #1 goes to the Rhineland while Mohammed #2 goes to Romania. Assume that Rhineland is a better place to live than Romania for a while. ;-) OK, where's the justice behind the outcome that places one of these two Mohammeds in the better place, and the other one in the worse place? Also, the apparatchiks who decide "where the given Mohammed belongs" could be massively bribed all the time.

Third, it's not just unjust, it's also heavily ineffective to assign random countries to the individual migrants. A migrant may speak Italian or Portuguese and he may have a good idea to move to Italy or Portugal for that reason. And there may be dozens of other reasons that make one country more sensible than others. Why should he end in Finland? How could it be good for European bureaucrats to make a decision about an event he doesn't really understand?

Most (surely over 50%) of these folks just want to Germany. According to the mythology in the Islamic countries, it's the only country that works well, it's also where they were invited by the leader (by Merkel), and that's where they were going. For Merkel or anybody else, it's just pure demagogy to try to obfuscate this point and pretend that the migrants are going to a "random European country" or something like that.

The European Union is constantly trying to act as a collection of sovereign states and a superstate at the same moment. Or something "in between". But such hybrids simply don't work exactly because they encourage the individual countries and politicians to cherry-pick the positive things while getting rid of the negative ones. Czechoslovakia was playing with the possibility of becoming a "true hybrid" of one country and two countries in 1991-1992. It just didn't work – the arguments about details were unstoppable. There were good reasons why the Klaus-led Czech political elites simply said: Now decide: One country or two? We – mainly Slovaks – chose two.

When it comes to problems such as the asylum policies, there are only two possible choices: Either the countries act separately, or they merge into a full-blown superstate. In both cases, there is some well-defined state with some well-defined border that has the sovereignty over such decisions as well as the responsibility for the consequences of such decisions. There is nothing in between that works.

And needless to say, the European superstate is just impossible now because different nations within the EU dramatically disagree about what the basic policies of such a superstate should look like. So please don't try to invent things that simply cannot possibly represent any improvement. Individual countries are responsible for the closure of their border, for the asylum process, and for other things. They are supposed to respect the rules of the Schengen and Dublin III. But if any of these EU-wide treaties imply some existential problems, it's clear how the legal conditions have to change. They will be reverted back to the Europe "without the EU structures" because that's the only system that has worked well enough and that may be acceptable for a reasonable majority of the Europeans.

Every government of a European nation state could prefer its principles to "win all over Europe". But it's just not possible. Maybe Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron may get away with their approach to migration in their own nations – and earn something close to a majority support. But in other parts of Europe, they're considered unhinged psychopaths. It's just silly for them to pretend that they are "European leaders" who speak on behalf of the inhabitants of a whole continent. That's surely untrue. You shouldn't pretend that your wishful thinking about the continental domination is the same thing as the reality!

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