Blog AnalysisEuropean policy

Europe on the verge of a nervous breakdown

(B2) The European summit, which is being held this Thursday and Friday (February 18 and 19) in Brussels, is being held against a backdrop of multiple crises. What are we doing together? Europeans seem to wonder (*).

The refugee crisis, the border crisis, Brexit, the conflict in neighboring Syria… are about to blow up the last political dikes of European solidarity. If Europe has known a number of crises up to now, the fragmentation is very marked today between the countries: those of the north, and the south, the east and the west. The temptation of every man for himself is strong. The Heads of State and Government will not have too many hours, and one night, between Thursday and Friday, to try to pick up the pieces of the crises that seem to be beyond them. Multiple meetings will precede the summit: this evening, with the Balkan countries, Thursday noon with Turkey (1). Sign of extreme tension.

Concern for borders

The migrant and refugee crisis is indeed worrying. The borders are under strong external pressure. Everyone fears the return of spring, with arrivals, even more important than today by the Mediterranean. Europe unable to defend its borders is reduced to asking for help from NATO and the Turks to monitor its borders.

The Juncker plan seized up

The 'Juncker' plan for joint management of the crisis has taken on water. Based on a triptych – reception, relocations, returns – it is currently seized up. The reception and sorting centers (hotspots) originally planned are not all functioning yet. A little late, however, Athens has gone into overdrive in recent weeks. The army was thus called to the rescue. And the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hopes to arrive in Brussels saying: I did the job, it's up to you to do yours.

The failed relocation

But the relocation of refugees, who arrived in Greece and Italy, to other European countries, remains blocked. According to the latest report drawn up, only 500 people have been relocated, whereas the objective was set at just over 100.000 people! The expulsions of migrants not accepted as asylum seekers come up against realities. The European Union has not signed many readmission agreements. And countries that have signed such an agreement, like Pakistan, are playing cat and mouse. Islamabad thus sent several planes loaded with expellees back to Europe.

On the verge of exploding

The Schengen Zone is thus on the verge of explosion. Greece has been summoned by its partners and the European Commission to better monitor its maritime borders. Otherwise, some countries may be allowed to restore their borders. The difficulty is that Greece does not have common land borders with other countries in the Schengen area. It is therefore the entire Balkan area that should be monitored. This is what the countries of Eastern Europe are proposing. Meeting in Prague on Monday, the Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak leaders agreed that a "plan B" should be prepared to monitor the borders in the Balkans.

The Turkish deal more than anything

A solution refused, for the moment, Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor prefers to bet on the agreement concluded with Turkey to keep Syrian refugees at home. " I will fight with all my strength on Thursday and Friday for the Turkish-European plan to be the right way ". The challenge of the summit is “to find a common solution between Europeans and not to have individual solutions which is not the best formula for managing migration summarizes the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders.

Satisfying David Cameron

A maxim that could be applied to the other issue of the meeting: finding a solution that suits David Cameron to encourage him to vote in favor of remaining in the European Union, during the next referendum which could be held in here in the summer. The President of the European Council, the Polish Donald Tusk, has designed a basket of solutions, allowing the British leader to come out with his head held high. But the consensus is not yet perfect around the table. " A dose of theater in this type of negotiation is always necessary quipped a seasoned diplomat of these European rounds.

It remains to be seen whether this package, which resembles a clever Byzantine mix of concessions and reminders of principles, will convince ordinary Britons to vote Yes. Not sure… " We don't have a plan B, we have a plan A. Britain will remain in the European Union and be a constructive and active member of the Union “Prefers to argue the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) Article published in Sud-Ouest, Wednesday morning

(1) meeting canceled followingAnkara bombing.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).