The European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, is going to move forward on a proposal to impose mandatory refugee quotas on member countries. The New York Times reports:
The proposal for redistributing migrants would be based on a quota system that would take into account factors like the size of a country’s population, the state of its economy and its level of joblessness, European Union officials said.
The plan, which has not been finalized and must be approved by national governments to take effect, is being supported by Germany. Last year, the Germans fielded one-third of the 570,800 asylum claims registered in the European Union, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and they are pressing for other countries to take their share.
The countries in Southern Europe where many of the refugees land, most notably Greece, Italy and Malta, are also pushing hard for other member states to help alleviate the pressure on them.
While it’s understandable that the countries most affected by the wave of refugees and migrants coming from Africa and Syria want some help, the EU’s top-down, several-steps-removed-from-the-people approach seems particularly ill-suited to tackle this problem. Large-scale resettlement of refugees can ultimately only be successful if the existing population is ready to welcome them. Culturally and politically, Europe still has a lot of work to do on that front. A fiat from the least democratic arm of the EU, imposed against the wishes of several member states (Britain and Hungary have already voiced objections that undoubtedly others hold too), seems likely to exacerbate, rather than relieve, the long-term problems associated with this crisis.
The measure also dances with sovereignty issues in ways that go beyond the EU’s already-codified, internal “Freedom of Movement.” It’s likely too that it will inflame tensions between member states (some of whom, like the UK, will have opt-outs, while others won’t) at a time when the state of the European Union is already strained. Within each country, finally, such a mandate will probably increase the appeal of the upstart populist parties, which often combine less than savory pasts and policies with a widely-felt, but otherwise unvoiced, objection to policies such as this.
The Mediterranean crisis is grave, and action is needed. But there are other options. Bureaucrats in Brussels can’t make everyone love, accept, or, perhaps even more importantly, employ one another by fiat—no matter how much they might wish it so.