“Our gates are open. The refugees will go as far as they can,” — Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey, March 2020
A broken system
6 billion euros. This is the price for keeping asylum seekers in Turkey and have them not cross to the EU, as per the EU-Turkey deal of March 2016. This money, in my humble opinion, would’ve been smarter and enough to relocate at least 1 million refugees throughout the Union — especially to countries such as Germany and Sweden who actually want the refugees to settle in their respective countries.
Four years after the deal was struck, Turkey — in a schizophrenic outburst — said that it will not only stop being ‘Europe’s police dog’ but also encouraged the asylum seekers, most of whom are Afghans and Pakistanis with a few Syrians, to cross the border to Greece/the EU. Greece, thus, rightfully so, decided to stop all asylum applications for the month of March, and has said that it will take the initiative to deport the asylum seekers who were able to cross, to their respective countries.
Greece’s declaration, though accepted by the EU, has been heavily criticized by Human Rights groups such as Amnesty International. As an active member of Amnesty International when I was in Paris and Prague (and a not-so-active member of the society in Exeter) since 2016, I was (and still am) an advocate of the “Refugees welcome” initiative. I believe in the fundamental right to claim asylum when you feel that your life and that of your family are threatened — for reasons of war, persecution, discrimination or others. But the EU’s migration and asylum system, unfortunately, is broken. It’s not something that can be solved on its own. There must be a process, an action plan. With the following steps, I will suggest policies to try and fix this:
Sovereignty must be passed to a Federal European Government (what is today the European Commission), because nation-states are a construct and nationalism is a vice. We need to be united in our diversity, but realize that we have more in common than what is being dismissed by extreme right- and left-wing populists. This Government will be accountable to the European Parliament. We need more integration in the decision making process for the implementation of policies to be democratic, effective and efficient. Hence, with 27 countries (after Brexit) with different demands and priorities, the unanimity system and veto rights of these different EU states must be overcome (a nice word to mean, ‘abolished’). The federalization initiative though, can be postponed for two-three years; but it is the ultimate goal.
– Freedom of movement of people must be enshrined as a fundamental right.
– Absolutely no borders amongst the different member states can be put up, for whatever reason. No borders inside, but a strong unified border outside. No fences, no border guards, no checkpoint, no passport control, no nothing — at airports and train stations. People are also free to cross ‘borders’ between the member states by foot, car, bike or bus, as they please.
A common policy on defense and security
– A Ministry of Defense must be established.
– The European Parliament oversees this Ministry.
– One pan-European military with a common defense policy for the EU’s external borders is vital for security.
– Protect the EU’s external borders against all threats, including any possible agression or ‘invasion’ (eg. Russia, Turkey…).
– The military must also be allowed to intervene in any conflict outside of the EU, upon the decision of the European Parliament.
– The military might also be responsible for advancing humanitarian aid to people in need.
– Establishing a competent and strong European intelligence agency is very very important for security, counter-terrorism and the sharing of sensitive information among the current different states.
A common policy on foreign affairs and diplomacy
– It is important to have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs with an aim to have one unified voice in the global arena. Europe must stand strong and firm to counter the influence of the US, China and Russia among others.
– There should be an EU diplomatic mission in every country in the world; it would replace the diplomatic missions of each member state, as soon as a federal European state is established.
– Establish free trade agreements with neighboring states.
– Establish a visa-free regime with those who qualify, especially neighboring states (on a case by case basis, as to avoid overstaying one’s visa).
– Advocate for Human Rights, peace initiatives and anti-corruption efforts around the world to counter the need for people to seek asylum.
– Stop selling arms to autocratic regimes who cause wars and subsequently create refugee crises.
– Create jobs in, and offer aid to, developing countries whose people are susceptible to being economic or environmental migrants to the EU.
– Halt any current EU enlargement process for at least 3 to 5 years.
– Have France give up its seat at the UN Security Council, to establish a ‘European Union’ seat.
A common policy on immigration
– Establish identical laws on immigration throughout the EU.
– Introduce an EU-wide points-based immigration system, whereby foreigners can come to the EU to work, based on qualifications, education, language skills, and if there is a demand for the skills that they have (among others).
– Foreigners can apply for immigration from their home countries.
– There must be a unified naturalization process where a foreigner living in any EU state can have her/his residency count for the citizenship of the country they lived in last (or most). Such a process would be less complicated in a pan-European federation, as there will only be one European nationality.
– Establish common family reunification laws
– The same 5 to 6 years residence requirement for foreigners who seek to be naturalized European citizens throughout the Union must be implemented.
– Abolish dual/multiple citizenship.
A common policy on asylum seeking
– There must be a simplified program for asylum seekers from around the world to apply for refugee status in the EU.
– People can apply for asylum or refugee status from their home countries or anywhere outside the EU.
– They can seek asylum at the EU diplomatic missions abroad.
– They can apply for asylum when they’re anywhere inside the EU as well.
– There must be an asylum seekers’ system/program in place, whereby it is the EU’s responsibility to safeguard the arrival of those who have been given refugee status to Europe (eg. A Syrian asylum seeking family can apply for refugee status at the EU mission in Lebanon and be taken to Europe, on a plane, with full dignity, and be settled in the EU).
– Legalize and simplify efforts for deportation of asylum seekers whose applications have been denied.
To conclude, my advocacy for a federal ‘United States of Europe’ can wait a few years, as to create more awareness for its necessity; but the measures above (among other measures, such as economic, monetary, on taxation, on trade, etc.) are a roadmap to solving the migrant crisis or at least to ease it, and eventually create this grand pan-European federation. Europe is threatened not by economic migrants or refugees, among others, but by those who seek to exploit them, using and abusing the current broken system (eg. Turkey). We must embrace peace efforts and diplomacy but not be afraid to use force when necessary. We must also lend a hand to neighboring countries through agreements on free-trade and visa-free movement. Regardless, only through unity can we achieve great things.
For a prosperous, united, strong and determined Europe, I say: more integration !