The Refugee Crisis and its Impact on the European Union – More Disunity, Ultimate Failure or Pragmatic Emergency Solution?


More than 1 million asylum seekers arrived in Europe last year. The situation overwhelmed national governments and EU Institutions alike and further disrupted the relations between Member States. The Dublin Agreement, finally accepted as unfair and unsustainable, was blown to pieces along with the rest of the common asylum system; the Schengen agreement is on the brink of collapse. Every Member State seems to follow and defend its own agenda. Some erected fences along their borders even at borders with other Member States. Deep divisions (between east – Visegrad – and west, north and south, periphery and centre, and lately even between core members of the Union) are visible. Will the migration crisis drive the Union even further apart? Seven Migration Summits have not brought about a sustainable solution. Agreements are not being implemented. The communication channels between the various (groups of) countries seem to be blocked. The mood among EU citizens, helpful and positive in many countries at the outburst of the crisis, is changing. Populists have rushed in where main stream parties feared to tread and have taken over the political discourse. In the meantime, the refugees keep coming. What can be done to unblock the communication channels, unify the Member States on a pragmatic and responsible solution acceptable for all, which is also fair to the neighbouring non-EU countries, and give the refugees a humane perspective? And how can the political discourse be taken back from the populists?

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Date of Publication
March 2016
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
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