At his State of the Union speech next Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to propose an expanded mandatory migrant quota system. A plan initially proposed in June envisaged that 40,000 migrants would be spread across the continent. European leaders rejected this call for a mandatory quota of 40,000, and instead agreed voluntarily to accept 32,000 instead.
Now, leaked details indicate that Juncker intends to call for accommodation for 160,000 migrants. Analysts estimate that a full 55,000 of that number would go to nations that currently are opposed to the scheme. Sources inside the EC, however, remain confident that the new quota scheme will fare better than June’s more modest target.“The politics have changed”, one told the Times of London. “There is opposition but it is a minority now. Binding quotas are needed.”
Though there was some indication that several eastern European countries are indeed softening their stances, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban continued to spit fire on the issue. “The problem is not European, it’s German. Nobody would like to stay in Hungary, neither Slovakia, Poland or Estonia”, he said yesterday. “All of them would like to go to Germany.” And in any case, the migrants would not be welcome in Hungary, he added. “We do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.”
So the Times’ source who believes that the politics have changed may be right as far as the politics in Brussels and many European countries go. But on the other hand, Orban is giving voice to what many in the Visegrad countries feel. They believe immigrants don’t want to live in their countries but in Germany, which is due to take 800,000 asylum applicants this year. So why fight too hard on trans-migration? On the other hand, they don’t want Muslims settling in their countries. This resistance to absorbing large numbers of Muslims is highly unattractive to liberal sensibilities, but there are parts of Europe where political correctness carries much less weight than it does in Brussels or Whitehall. And finally, many in these countries want Europe to control its borders and discourage immigration.
Disgust with Orban aside, EU leaders will have to find a way to set quotas that neither totally overburden Germany nor press public opinion in other countries to the breaking point. It will be easier to strike a deal if it appears to be a one-off measure, rather than a new mechanism for an open-ended inflow of immigrants. Political and humanitarian concerns combine, therefore, to argue in favor of Europe regaining control of its borders.