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Opinion: Europe’s cold heart

(London Post – DW)    Emergency summits, debates in the EU Parliament, haggling with Turkey: The EU is trying to move the refugee problem away from its borders. But humanity is falling by the wayside, says DW’s Bernd Riegert.

Germany’s veto at a special EU summit on Monday led to hours of struggling about the statement whether the Balkans route is completely closed off to refugees or not. Still spinning the yarn of a joint European solution, Chancellor Merkel pushed through a watering down of that absolute declaration. Just 24 hours later, EU member states Slovenia and Croatia created new facts by officially and completely closing their borders. No joint action.

Clearly, Angela Merkel has lost the last shred of authority in Europe. Is this still your Europe, Mrs. Merkel?

Close off and push back: in a nutshell, that’s the motto of the looming deal with Turkey. That much was evident on Wednesday in the European Parliament. The European Council – which comprises the heads of state and government – and the EU Commission sent not their top people but deputies who halfheartedly droned on. Outsourcing the refugee problem to Turkey and putting the finishing touches on the European fortress were presented as a “European solution.”

That’s bitter, and it’s inhumane: The people already stranded in Greece at Europe’s locked doors weren’t even mentioned in the official statements.

Look the other way

Left politician Gabi Zimmer was the only one to mention Idomeni, the border town that symbolizes the refugee plight, criticizing the disgusting refugee trade and mass deportations to be agreed on between the EU and Turkey.

Deutsche Welle Bernd RiegertDW’s Bernd Riegert

Greece is in no position to deal with this acute human tragedy on its border. Funds pledged by the EU will only be available a few months down the road, as Athens needs to first amend its budget legislation. The EU Commission hasn’t launched any real emergency aid for the stranded migrants in Greece – although it has the power to do so. Why?

Speaking before the Strasbourg Parliament, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees accused the European Union of planning to break the law, and choosing a path into barbarity. The EU and its Balkan accession candidates are deliberately creating a disaster for the people on the Greek-Macedonian border. What else must happen before something resembling a conscience begins to stir among the acting heads of state and government?

A moral issue?

The situation in Greece today is already much worse than conditions ever were in Hungary in September 2015. Back then, the German and Austrian chancellors showed a heart – admittedly, they went it alone – and let the refugees cross the border. No more.

To the contrary, the pictures of families mired in mud in Idomeni are expected to put off other migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Three weeks after the borders started shutting down, the Greek army is still not able to hand out bread and water. Green lawmaker Ska Keller was the only one with a valid question for the heads of state and government: “Can you really still sleep at night?”

Solution not in sight

At this point, agreement is still up in the air on the shaky plan to push uncontrolled migration to zero with the help of Turkey. Some states say Turkey is asking for too much in return, others are in principle opposed to distributing refugees across the EU.

Whatever the outcome of the EU summit next week, it won’t help the people in Idomeni with their cardboard signs asking “Mama Merkel” for help. They are the hostages of a quarreling EU that is on the brink of resigning the right to asylum in Europe to the authoritarian Turkish government. The number of hostages is steadily on the rise.

Even if this shutdown strategy works, anyone with half a mind must know that the refugees will find other routes. They will no longer cross the Aegean Sea, but turn to Bulgaria or Albania, Lampedusa or Malta. These days, any humanitarian, Christian values that EU politicians so like to stress in their Sunday speeches cease to exist in the debate about fending off the refugees. Europe is showing its cold heart.

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