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Fortress Europe and Martin Luther King

By Tim Marshall.opinonsm2

As the pictures of tear gas and water cannon came through from the Hungarian/Serbian border a little part of Europe died.

It was the part about ‘open borders’, ‘ever closer union’, and ‘the European spirit’. Reality has just mugged European liberalism.

There is no going back from here. All politics is local, national politics trumps the European ideal, and Fortress Europe is being built.

The Hungarian fence is the physical symbol, there will be more. The Eastern Europeans, unaffected by decades of West European liberalism have no shame in saying that they do not want their culture diluted. The British, partially ‘guarded’ by the water which has always made them ‘Europeans apart’ say  there is too much pressure on social services and promote an alternative policy of taking from the refugee camps. The Germans, Europe’s great liberals, opened the door, then realized the enormity of their actions and promptly closed it again.

The Germans have realized that if they continue to pull, their 800,000 could become 8 million because the push factor of the terrible war in Syria, the awful conditions in the camps of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and the economic plight of millions of others to the east and south, will simply overwhelm them.

UNHCR at Budapest Train Station

UNHCR at Budapest Train Station

So, the drawbridges are going up. In the short term, the bottle neck caused by Germany, Austria, and Hungary’s decisions will result in massive numbers of people pushing against the closed borders. Back down the road, the numbers will build in Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece.

Other routes will quickly become well-trodden – through Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, and even Ukraine. All these may also build barriers although so far the Croatians are processing the people who have already made it their border.

Much of the electorates will take no notice of the statisticians and politicians who explain that Europe’s populations, especially in Germany, are aging and requires immigration. This will not placate those who are bumped down council house lists, or whose wages are undercut by desperate people willing to work for unscrupulous gangsters in a variety of industries. Enough people will demand the borders are closed, the influx reduced, the way of life sustained….. and because all politics is local, the politicians will listen.

Extremist parties of the right are already on the rise. This will continue, and they will have their equally dangerous partners on the extreme left. Desperate to shore up their support the mainstream parties will shift to measures designed to placate the potentially extremist voter without simultaneously selling their souls to the devil of the attraction of the extreme.

The British, traditionally suspicious of ‘intellectuals’ and extremes, may be able to resist the pull to the left and right, but the history of much of the continent suggests the people of Europe must be on their guard as the ghosts and inheritors of the charlatans of the 1930’s bellow easy answers into a thousand microphones.

If the barriers do not halt the flow into the bottlenecks, then at some point the EU and/or the UN will have to step in with camps until what we see in Jordan now will be seen in Greece and Italy. To a degree this is already happening.

Eventually, the word will filter back East – the doors are closed. If so, then the pressure on the camps (and societies) in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon will increase risking social implosion there, thus exacerbating the push factor into Europe.

martin_luther_kingIf we re-imagine Martin Luther King’s 1963 ‘I have a Dream’ speech, as if given at the Serbian/Hungarian border on Wednesday, he might have said – “It would be fatal for the Union to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Middle East’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality…those who hope that the Middle East needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the Union returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in Europe until the travails of the Middle East are dealt with. … We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.

We can never be satisfied as long as the Arab is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as their bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities”

And so, everything points to the solution; somehow – bring peace to Syria and Iraq.

It is shaping up to be among the most difficult challenges Europe has faced since it rebuilt itself after the horrors of World War Two.


5 Comments on "Fortress Europe and Martin Luther King"

  1. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 17th September 2015 at 12:22 pm | Reply

    The solution to the refugee crisis is not in Hungary or Germany. It is in Syria itself. The shortest cut to this is the removal and dismantling of the Assad’s regime which is 95% responsible for the exodus of Syrians. This involves standing up firmly and robustly to Russia and Iran who are the defenders of Assad and are ultimately responsible for the human catastrohpe that has now reached the heart of Europe. The second step is arming the Peshmerga and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who are currently fighting ISIS to enable them to drive ISIS out of Syria. Nothing else will work. It might sound crude and simplistic but everything else has so far miserably failed to deal with the issue.

    • Nehad, this is a genuine question, which I ask out of ignorance and a wish to learn. If Assad falls, what would we get? My sense of popular opinion in Europe is that people have come to the conclusion that when a dictatorship falls, the result is usually something far worse. Not sure if that’s a reasonable assumption but it’s becoming the common response to suggestions of regime change. Is there a realistic option for Syria that doesn’t involve civil wars for the next decade or more? Will Russia even allow Assad to fall? Syria is beginning to resemble a Gordian knot. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to untangle it.

  2. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 17th September 2015 at 4:10 pm | Reply

    Thanks David. Your question is not only genuine but important and valid. Yes things can get worse if Assad goes, but after approximately 300,000 dead, 4 million refugees, 9 million displaced inside Syria itself. After the daily use of barrel bombs by the regime against civilian residential areas, and the use of Sarin and Chlorine gases and after allowing the influx of jihadists in 2012 and 2013, I ask the question how much worse it will get? I humbly believe that the worst has been reached and it cannot get much worse unless Russia and Iran deliberately ignite new fires. Both Iran and Russia are exploiting Obama’s impotence and world’s indifference. By the way, there was no ISIS in Syria before the Summer of 2013. With Iran help the regime allowed ISIS into the country so it can cynically claim it is fighting terrorism.
    I agree about Russia being the Gordian knot. Like Iran it is part of the problem and will never be part of any solution. Both will do everything to keep Assad in power.
    Finally if you have the time, please read this piece which I wrote in August in the Huffington Post which sheds some light on the collusion between Ira, Assad and ISIS:

    • Many thanks, Nehad. I approve of your optimism. I assume worse is always relative and as hellish as your worst sounds, I’d guess there would still be room for things to go downhill.

      Not sure the world is indifferent. Not even sure Obama is either. I just think there’s a sense that everything we do tends to make things worse. Public opinion was so set against the Iraq War that, really, old models of conflict have been discredited. I begin to think that America will only go into battle again if it satisfies the Twitter generation.

      Interesting article you’ve written on ISIS, particularly the end. The odd part of this, I think, is that ISIS represent the only conflict that public opinion might support. I’ve often wondered why governments have hesitated. Perhaps you’ve just provided an answer. Perhaps they’re meant to be the bad guys from whose clutches Putin is about to ride in and rescue us.

  3. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 17th September 2015 at 6:57 pm | Reply

    Thanks David for coming back. The Syrians don’t want boots on the ground. The moderate opposition have been asking since 2012 for the right weapons to counter Assad’s air-attacks. This opposition is battling ISIS and Assad and they can do the job if the right help is offered.

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