Holding the borders, holding the centre: the EU and the refugee crisis
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What has come to be called the ‘refugee crisis’ is the latest in a series of crises bedevilling the European Union – the four-fold monetary,budgetary, economic and financial ‘Euro-crisis’; a geopolitical security challenge posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,the war in Syria and incursions into NATO airspace, and a looming Brexit, combined with the possible fragmentation of old EU member states like the United Kingdom and Spain. The ‘refugee crisis’ is the most serious of all. It encapsulates the EU’s failings and failures that other crises laid bare: the lack of long-term prevision and strategy, an overburdened decision-making system, and an outmoded conception of sovereignty. It goes to the very heart of the EU, for three reasons: Firstly, the cleavages it creates between member states add to those that have been dividing the EU since the early days of the Euro-crisis; secondly, the massive displacement of populations gives rise to complex problems, sparking controversies that weaken the social and political fabric of individual member states and feed into populism and enophobia; and, thirdly, the German Chancellor, who has played a crucial role in alleviating, if not solving, other crises, is facing domestic and European rebellions for her handling of the refugee issue. Will the agreement that the EU and Turkey concluded on 18 March 2016 manage to limit the influx of refugees, patch up differences, and re-establish Angela Merkel’s authority in Germany and in the Union?