Wither Europe?

By Defense.Info

Wither Europe is almost as busy a cottage industry assessments as anticipating the next move from President Trump.

But published today are three perspectives which suggest managing divergence rather than a steady march forward on European integration modeled on the period since German unification might be the correct narrative.

The current European summit was warned by the British Prime Minister that the EU needs to consider more carefully the nature of the post-Brexit outcome they should focus upon.

A hard Brexit is not in their interests, according to Mrs. May.

Theresa May told European leaders last night that they were putting their citizens’ lives at risk by allowing Brussels to restrict security co-operation with Britain after Brexit.

In a stark message, delivered directly to member states over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators, she accused the European Commission of putting obstacles in the way of a new security pact with the bloc.

The prime minister appealed to leaders to overrule the commission and widen their negotiating mandate to allow the unrestricted sharing of police and security information that would be “in all our interests”.

Senior government sources said that the prime minister’s appeal, made over dinner at an EU summit in Brussels, was designed to unblock stalled talks on a future security partnership.

British officials are infuriated by what they see as intransigence within the commission over allowing them access to shared real-time databases on terrorism suspects.

This appeal gets at a core aspect of the way ahead — the Commission is clearly using the Brexit talks to consolidate its hold over the member states; but the dynamics of change within Europe itself might force the member states to play a larger role in the process.

Second, the EU summit is struggling with a core question — namely how to deal with immigration.

While the US media has been busy shooting photos in the United Sates or in the case of Time Magazine publishing a photo on its cover which actually did not apply to the current US dynamics, Europe has been going through a very similar migration crisis.

And to be clear, it is not just about populist racial backlashes.

The problem has been rooted in both the US and in Europe in the migrants coming into Western societies with little interest in integration or adoption of Western values.

And during the current talks, apparently, the new Italian leader did not play by the rules and insisted on a hard line decision on migrants.

But discussions quickly took a tense turn when Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, threatened to veto the summit conclusions if his partners failed to show “concrete” signs of solidarity.

“Conte threw a bomb into the summit,” a European diplomat told EUobserver.

According to several sources, the Italian leader, who was attending his first summit, was warned about his behaviour by EU colleagues and told to follow the club rules.

But this is Europe so we are told that:

After two rounds of discussion, Conte was drawn back into fraught negotiations following pressure by Macron to create new so-called ‘controlled centres’ in EU states, billed as part of a larger “responsibility and solidarity” concept.

It remains unclear what such centres would look like, where they would be, and what exactly “responsible solidarity” entails in terms of costs and the taking in of refugees.

But one EU official close to the French government described them as beefed up hotspots, in reference to the zones set up in 2015 in Italy and Greece, from where arrivals were to be relocated to other EU states.

A second EU diplomat described the new hotspots as “controlled centres” financed by the EU.

People in need of asylum or international protection would be relocated, on a voluntary basis, to other EU states. Others would be returned home under the auspices of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

And we are then reassured by Mrs. Merkel that this will now work.

After several amendments to the draft conclusions, the staunchest opponents of mandatory relocation of refugees obtained the double guarantee that countries of first entry like Italy would remain responsible for checking and registering migrants and that relocation would become voluntary.

“I am confident that we can work together even though we have much to do to bridge differences,” said Merkel about asylum reform.

The agreements may relieve some pressure on Merkel, who is facing rebellion from her Bavarian ally and interior minister Horst Seehofer. The conclusions note that member states “should take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures” to prevent such movements.

Seehofer had threatened to clamp down on the border with Austria in an effort to stop asylum seekers from crossing into the country.

Merkel balked at the threat over fears it would trigger a chain reaction and possibly undermine the Schengen passport-free zone, which lies at the heart of EU free movement.

A justice and home affairs ministerial meeting in July is set to tease out the details on how to curb migrants from criss-crossing internal EU borders.

But these talks to which the author refers are about fundamental conflict between the current German chancellor and the CDU in a situation where the CDU might well walk away from its long standing partnership with the CDU as well.

As The Economist described the outcome of the special EU summit:

THERE is a pattern to European Union summits about subjects on which governments cannot agree.

First, leaders stay up all night to signal their commitment.

Second, they issue a statement sufficiently vague and contradictory to allow everyone to declare victory.

Third, officials charged with implementing the agreement argue endlessly over how to interpret it.

This sequence, described in a tweet by a former EU official, Shahin Vallée, perfectly describes the EU summit on illegal migration on June 28th-29th.

The leaders battled into the pre-dawn hours on June 29th, but the tortuous phrasing of their conclusions—one sentence contained 12 commas—betrayed their inability to find meaningful compromises on the issues that continue to bedevil them.