Migrant Mess
Austria to Seal Off Border with Slovenia

The Balkan migrant corridor is about to get much more congested, as Austria announced this morning that it is getting ready to erect a border fence with fellow Schengen member Slovenia to help control the flow of people. AFP:

“We do not believe that the current migrant crisis that Europe is facing can be resolved with the building of fences or walls,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert, adding that the problem could only be dealt with if countries stood united. […]

Austria’s move is bound to intensify concerns about the EU’s cherished Schengen system, a crucial part of European integration efforts, which allows for the free movement of people and goods.

But Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner insisted the planned barrier was “not about shutting down the border”.

“This is about ensuring an orderly, controlled entry into our country. Also, a fence has a gate,” she told Austrian media Wednesday.

Slovenia, which is expecting up to 400 additional border guards from other EU countries to come to its aid, had also threatened to build a fence along its border with fellow EU member (but not Schengen member) Croatia. Croatia might be likely then, in turn, to close its border with Serbia, which is more-or-less demarcated by the Danube. (Croatia’s exceedingly long border with Bosnia would be much harder to secure, though with winter coming, Bosnia’s more mountainous terrain might be enough of a deterrent—at least for a time.)

What we’re witnessing is a slow-motion car wreck. The idealistic policies of Angela Merkel—which are themselves coming under increasing fire back home in Germany—are running straight into the reality of European politics to produce what may end up being an intractable humanitarian catastrophe. A column of tens of thousands of stateless, homeless people are now splayed across a set of countries—Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia—least capable of providing for their basic needs as winter sets in. Slovenia has less than half the GDP per capita of Austria; Croatia, in turn, has just a bit more than half that of Slovenia; and Serbia and Macedonia, in turn, have about half that of Croatia.

As one senior European policy analyst told Politico EU’s Playbook:

“It’s one thing for people to die at sea” as most people can block that out as a distant problem, except when the tragedy is huge (an overcrowded ship sinking) or poignant (a dead child washed ashore). “But it’s another thing for people to die on land around us.”

These are the wages well-meaning humanitarian impulses untethered from political realities.

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