Analysis by Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, June 25 (KUNA) -- The European Union (EU) is facing complex and diverse challenges both on the domestic and external fronts, which are casting dark shadows on the future of the Union itself.
Just emerging from the worst economic crisis of the postwar period, the EU is now faced with multiple other more severe crises. Brexit, immigration, terrorism, US trade war, Iran nuclear deal, tensions with Russia and rise of left-wing and right-wing populist parties in Europe are some of the problems proving to be insurmountable for Brussels to deal with. The immigration crisis, the increasing violation of human rights and rule of law by several EU member states is tearing apart the cohesion of European societies.
British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sajjad Karim said that Europe has to stand up and fight for its values if a major crisis is to be averted. "In 15 years of being a Member of Parliament though, I have never been so worried. Xenophobia has been on the rise for many years now and has only been exacerbated by the Brexit vote and a rise in populism across Europe," he said speaking at a recent conference in the EP on racism.
EP President Antonio Tajani said that, "Immigration is the problem of problems," and warned, "The future of Europe is at stake." President of the European Council Donald Tusk has put forward a plan to build refugee camps beyond the EU's external borders in Libya to stop the flow of illegal migration to Europe. Figures released by the EU border agency FRONTEX last May showed that illegal migration to Europe dropped by 44 percent in the first four months of 2018.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on European countries, "To manage their borders and their migration policies, in a way that simultaneously upholds the European and international asylum standards that emerged from the Second World War." Most migrants to Europe go to Italy and Greece so the EU appealed to other EU member states to reduce the burden of those two countries by accepting a refugee quota. Nevertheless, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have refused to share the burden and accept any refugee quotas.
Analysts are dumbfounded that a Union of 28 countries with a population of over 500 million have been wrangling and quarreling for the last three years on asylum quotas for a mere 50,000 refugees. Countries with tiny populations such as Jordan and Lebanon are hosting millions of refugees from Syria. Turkey, with a total population of 80 million, is now home to nearly 4 million refugees.
Poland and Hungary, both right-wing populist governments, are strongly at odds with Brussels on many issues from immigration to independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press and democratic values. Currently Italy also has a populist government with little sympathy and support for the European integration process.
Hungary's parliament last week passed a controversial package of laws penalizing NGOs that help migrants. The reaction from the EU to this shocking legislation was mute, with an EU spokesperson expressing concern over this development. Analysts point out that, had a non-European country adopted similar anti-democratic laws, then the EU would be up in arms imposing sanctions and restrictions on that country.
On the external front, US President Donald Trump punctured EU's foreign policy and trade agenda with his positions on the EU, NATO, Russia and global trade.
A widely circulated photograph taken after the G7 summit in Canada portrays the current impotence of Europe to deal with the transformation in US policies. The photo shows Trump sitting on a chair with folded hands surrounded by leaders of major European countries who are standing and seem to be pleading and cajoling with the White House chief.
The Iran nuclear deal, the most prized achievement of EU diplomacy, is in shreds after Trump's withdrawal from the deal. The EU and US are now in a trade war over tariffs and Washington put the multilateral system into question by pulling out from the Paris climate deal and by not signing the final communiquأ© of the recent G7 summit in Canada.
According to European media and analysts, Trump's preference for bilateralism can have serious consequences for European unity.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe must take its fate into its own hands and cannot fully rely on the US, a position shared by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Shada Islam, a senior analyst at the Brussels-based think tank 'Friends of Europe' has commented, "It should be clear by now that America really isn't into Europe anymore. The US is undoubtedly in retreat from its global commitments while Asia's rising powers, with China in the lead, are ratcheting up their worldwide influence and clout." Then proposed a "Modern and up-to-date multilateral order, one which is no longer West-focused but reflects changed dynamics and patterns of global power". (end) nk.lr