I have long been puzzled by how the European Union could make decisions that might face strong opposition within the various members. Specifically, I did not speculate in my book with Bill Ayres about the domestic politics of the enlargement process, just that the conditionality was less than credible (countries were going to get in even if they fell short of the stated criteria). But I did wonder: given that the new members would be contributing markets but sucking away resources, wouldn’t groups that benefited from the status quo oppose the new members? And wouldn’t they be more passionate than those that might dream of benefiting from the new members? Particularly those countries that were poorer off and benefiting from the Regional Funds that subsidized them, if they were no longer as poor (Ireland)?
So, I am not surprised that the European Union has hit the wall—almost literally. The organization is backtracking on one of its fundamental aspects: borderless within. It looks like border controls for migrants will be reinstated.
- Driven by what? The threat of small numbers of refugees flowing from the Arab Spring.
- Driven by whom? Italy and France seem to be in the lead, but also xenophobic parties in Denmark, the Netherlands and wherever else they serve as critical supporting parties for minority governments.
“Italy's anti-immigrant campaign is headed by the interior minister Robert Maroni, of the xenophobic Northern League in the Berlusconi coalition. The campaign in France is seen as an attempt by President Nicolas Sarkozy to dilute the growing appeal of Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the extreme Front National.”
Most EU members are in support of this effort. Germany is resisting (so, for one of the few times this spring, Germany is on the right side of an issue—but then again, they have no xenophobic party of any size). Of course, things are complicated because there are multiple decision-making authorities within the EU: a court, a legislature, a council of ministers and a commission. So, this is not over.
No, I do not take that much pleasure in either EU-setbacks or in xenophobia trumping other interests. Ok, maybe a little bit of Schadenfreude, but not much, as I think Europe’s reactions to immigrants are a far greater threat to Europe’s values and stature than the immigrants themselves. Just as North Americans fail to look to European models of health care to improve their own policies, Europe fails to consider how countries with a history of immigration have managed it. Yes, it can be bumpy, but immigration will help their coming demographic crisis of aging populations. Figuring it out may be hard, but I am not sure they have an alternative.
PS Blogger was down for most of the day (and night?). Looks like they ate yesterday's posts....