The refugee flows are nothing new. And the games that poorer, weaker countries play by using them, have also been around for a while.
The Belarus border is just the most recent in a long list of examples how Brussels cannot fight back countries who use refugees as a weapon against the EU’s failed hegemony
For many erudite commentators who know the EU well, the scenes on the Poland-Belarus border felt a bit ‘déjà vu’. Once again, the EU’s failed policies when tackling immigration flows — which in many cases are as a direct result of propping up dictators or for dabbling in geopolitics — comes right back and smacks Brussels in the face. Perhaps Belarus is using Syrian refugees as a tool to hit back at Brussels and its bellicose sanctions-based so-called foreign policy. For journalists and analysts who lead with this argument, we can assume that many will be supporters of the EU project itself and are unable to see a bigger picture.
Such a panorama can be summed up in the old English saying “you reap what you sow”. For decades, or certainly since the EU metamorphosised into a geopolitical player since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty — which signed off on Brussels having over 120 “ambassadors” around the world and a more beefed up foreign policy narrative — we have seen such a doctrine be a rod for its own back. In Libya, in recent years, journalists have seen some of the most barbaric acts of human cruelty known to man with modern day slavery and sexploitation carried out on African migrants fleeing their own countries, run by tyrants whose human rights atrocities frighten them so much, they make the trip for a better life. The irony of this is that those same despots are supported by the EU, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of millions of euros, just as long as they show respect to the EU, its flag and its delusional hegemony. Syria is another example. In 2007, the EU was ready to accept Assad as a new partner in the region but then felt obliged to follow the U.S. in ostracising him later on after he was linked to the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005 and he had the cheek to hit back at what was essentially a western-backed Muslim Brotherhood attempted coup d’etat in 2011. In Libya itself, EU countries were happy to bomb the country in the name of a so-called peace initiative signed off by the UN Security Council — which in the end, secured not a peaceful transition to a more western-style democratic apparatus but the ugly assassination of Ghaddafi himself and a decade of civil war leaving the country divided. Even in Morocco, where old allies like France and Germany are giving up on Rabat, we see the Moroccans respond to EU bullying by opening the gates to thousands of illegal African immigrants who entered Spain — a stunt, not unlike the one from Belarus to send a signal that there is a limit to how much poorer countries on the periphery of the EU country will take from threats from the EU executive in Brussels which of late is in a panic mode.
The refugee flows are nothing new. And the games that poorer, weaker countries play by using them, have also been around for a while. But the EU only has itself to blame when it allowed itself to be blackmailed by Turkey’s maverick president who took money off the EU to not allow them to leave and enter the EU at the Greek border. This was an error and it showed how weak and ineffective the EU project is as what we’re seeing today on Poland’s border finds its roots in the Turkey deal of just a couple of years ago.
Sanctions threats are really all the EU has. But with diminutive growth and a political crisis which sees countries like Poland regularly mulling the idea that the project is not worth the hassle, some might argue that this is a threat from a toothless tiger anyway. U.S. sanctions against Iran, in the end, didn’t amount to the leverage that was hoped. Tehran is moving ahead with a new economic model which involves China and Russia on a grand scale and is almost reaching its pre-2015 oil revenues with black market sales which the Biden administration refuses to tackle head on.
And so these threats are met head on by immigration stunts, which harms the EU project’s credibility as once journalists start writing about immigration, we are reminded that the Schengen Treaty is something that EU member states switch on and off at will without the EU executive even issuing so much as a vexing press release. The Belarus immigration story is really about a country standing up to EU sanctions on the regime and a bigger disingenuous show to supposedly get tough with Russia. Today, it’s Poland on the front line and facing the numbers, which is ironic given that Poland has its own “push back” laws which EU chiefs deem illegal and have been the basis of talks about Warsaw leaving the EU altogether. Before it was Greece on its Turkish border when the policy of Brussels failed spectacularly and we saw right-wing militias “hunting” for Syrian refugees who managed to get across. Slowly, the whole world is waking up to this new retaliation against Brussels as the EU has let its weakest pressure become clearly visible. Even the EU’s own policies on how it controls its own citizens leaves a lot to be desired. But on immigration, there is only dithering, confusion and chaos. If Brussels continues to peddle this fatuous idea that it’s a super power and can make threats to countries that it once called friends in euro-jargon called the ‘network neighbourhood’, then we can only expect more countries to hit it where it hurts.