EU faces refugee challenge

(VOVworld) – The Western Balkans Summit opens on Thursday in Vienna. State leaders, ministers, and high-ranking officials from EU member states will discuss regional cooperation and the Western Balkans region’s possibility to join the EU. Another major topic of the summit will be the migration crisis in Europe in Europe. 

EU faces refugee challenge  - ảnh 1
Syrian refugees cross into Hungary underneath the border fence on the Hungarian - Serbian border near Roszke, Hungary on Aug. 26, 2015 ((AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

European countries have been shaken by a surge of immigrants from the Middle East, northern Africa, and the western Balkan region. Migration has inflated social and security pressures on the EU’s flagging economies.

The worst migration crisis

The EU is facing the worst migration crisis since World War Two. The EU’s border agency reports that since the beginning of 2015 about 102,000 migrants have entered the EU via Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, and Hungary, much higher than last year’s 8,000 people.

Hungary has been the center of the refugee crisis as it’s located at the periphery of the European Union's Schengen Zone. Hungary receives thousands of migrants from the Balkans every week. Hungarian police say since the beginning of the year, more than 140,000 people have crossed the Serbian border into Hungary, tripling last year’s total. Tension reached its highest level on August 26 when police used tear gas to disperse migrants protesting at a reception camp on the Serbian border. A 175-km iron fence has been built along Hungary’s border with Serbia and the Hungarian government has sent military troops to help secure its borders.

Other EU countries have also imposed tough measures to slow the surge of migration. Last week Macedonia declared a state of emergency and closed its border for 3 days to deal with migrants from Greece.

Why does it happen?

Analysts say the cause of the migration crisis is poverty in the Balkan countries. But the root of the poverty is the “Arab spring” movements in the Middle East and northern Africa and the “Jasmine revolution” in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. Instability and disturbance have forced people to flee their countries. Turkey received nearly 2 million refugees last year, mainly from Syria. Thousands of them continued to illegally cross the borders to Bulgaria and Greece. In addition to the Mediterranean sea route, 82,000 people from Ethiopia and Somalia have tried to cross the Red Sea and the Aden Bay to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other Gulf countries. 240 of them have perished at sea.

Consequences of escalating migration

Escalating migration poses threats to each EU country and to the entire union. The EU is facing multiple crises at the same time. It has been hit by escalating migration with its economic crisis just beginning to ease and Greece’s debt crisis not yet resolved. Germany and France have called for a common EU solution to the migration problem, but there is disagreement within the EU. The EC’s proposal to apply a refugee quota for each EU member has sparked strong opposition from several countries including the UK. While a comprehensive solution is yet to be found, each EU country is pursuing its own measures to deal with the crisis. At a Western Balkan summit in Vienna on Thursday, Austria proposed a 5-point action plan to tackle the migration crisis. It includes measures to eliminate human-trafficking groups, adjust the refugee quotas within the EU, expand security cooperation, support the refugees’ countries of origin, and set up an inter-Europe migration strategy. Analysts agree that the migration crisis is creating numerous economic, employment, and institutional problems for the EU.

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