By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Jean-Claude Juncker was smirking and talking tough at the European Parliament in response to the British referendum to leave the EU. The usually humorless Juncker, who even had to remind people “I am not a robot,” at one point, castigated Nigel Farage and mocked him, asking “I am surprised you are here,” noting that the “British people” had voted to leave.
Everyone is so tough and efficient now at the European Parliament. Belgian member Guy Verhofstadt claimed Farage had used “Nazi propaganda” and others laid into Boris Johnson. A block calling itself the “European People’s Party” attacked the British, saying “appeasement is over” and they want to “stand up for the European project.” They shouted “shame” at Farage. France has urged “quick” negotiations to get the British to leave, as soon as possible so as not to roil financial markets.
It’s amazing to see how quickly, and with such bravado, the EU can act now when it feels injured, spurned, by one of its own. Where was this Europe before the Brexit vote?
I mean, really, where were you?
Everyone so quick to shout “nazi” and shout “urgent” and with such vibrant demands to “end appeasement” and “save Europe”, where have you been for 20 years? Where were these voices to tackle the immigration crises as millions have entered Europe informally in the last years, mostly by ship. Stock markets lost $2 trillion in trading after Brexit, while Frontex, the joint European border agency, received a paltry $157 million last year.
If the EU had invested just a fraction of the money that evaporated due to Brexit in having real border controls and processing people one by one and issuing documents, perhaps Brexit would not have happened.
I was in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary last year covering the European border migration crises. What was the EU doing in Greece? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. A million people came to the shores of Greece and they were housing in tent camps, squatting in fields. No one was keep track of them, or giving them new, real I.Ds. No one fingerprinted them, or photographed them. What did the EU do? It threw up its hands and let Greece, one of the poorest states in the EU, deal with the crises. And what did Greece do? It passed the buck to Macedonia, literally lining up Syrian immigrants and Afghans and sending them across a dry riverbed illegally into the hands of Macedonian policy.
I’ve never seen anything like that. Jordan has border controls. Egypt. India. Senegal. But Greece’s decision was just to funnel people onward, with legal illegality. This was the “welcome” to the EU. Line of police pushing you into Macedonia. And the EU has 500 million citizens and billions of dollars, but it can’t create an Ellis Island style immigration system that states in the 19th century did. There was more competence in 15th century Europe probably than 2016 Europe at just registering people. Even Domesday, an 11th century census, was more competent and efficient.
I was in Hungary in the tent camps of migrants, in the squalor and mud. There was no EU coordination. There was no Frontex. There was no one to bother to interview the new immigrants and grant them some temporary I.D. It was total chaos. It was controlled illegal immigration, which in a sense is thus legal. Europe allowed a million people to arrive and just said, “go where you please.”
It’s like the rest of Europe when it comes to “informal” issues. Trafficking in women and slavery? No one to bother investigating it. Gun control? Why bother.
It’s a continent in which the leaders talk tough and talk like there are ruled but at the lower level there are few rules and little enforcement. And instead of trying to fix that, and invest billions of dollars necessary in dealing with refugees and migrants, the concept of the EU is to shout “nazi nazi” at the UK, but of course not at ISIS. No, no, never ISIS. In fact 5,000 ISIS members volunteered from the EU, and went to Syria and Iraq, genocided and then came back and some went again. And that’s how the EU “fights terror”, it just exports it.
There is no pretense of having any kind of efficient counting of migrants and providing levels of aid and citizenship necessary to integrate them. Instead the idea is “here’s an open continent, come live where you want, want to live in tents in a park, we don’t mind, just don’t burden us with complaints, and we’ll leave you alone.”
Europe is a bifurcated world, of the poor, the migrants, and the ultra rich who run the EU and are so zealous in hating the UK, but are not so zealous in doing anything else.