Open Arms Behind Barred Doors: Fear, Hypocrisy and Policy Schizophrenia in the European Migration Crisis

Date01 May 2016
Published date01 May 2016
AuthorKelly M. Greenhill
Open Arms Behind Barred Doors: Fear,
Hypocrisy and Policy Schizophrenia in the
European Migration Crisis
Kelly M. Greenhill*
Abstract: In 2015, over one million refugeesand m igrantsarrived in Europe, laying bare the
limitations of the EUs common border control and burden-sharing systems. This article
examines consequences of the EUs disjoint, schizophrenic and, at times, hypocrit ical
responses to what has become known as the European migration crisis. It explains how
unilateral, national-level responses have made the EU as a whole particularly susceptible to
a unique brand of coercive bargaining that relies on the threat (or actual generation)of mass
population movements as a non-military instrument of state-level coercion. After outlining
who employs this kind of foreign policy tool, to what ends, and under what circumstances,
the article offers an illustration of this kind of coercion in action, by analyzing the March
2016 deal between the EU and Turkey. The article concludes with a discussion of broader con-
sequences of the deal and implications both for the displaced and for the EU going forward.
I Introduction
During 2015, more than one million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, about half of
whom were f‌leeing the civil war in Syria and about one third of whom were seeking political
asylum. The question of who should bear responsibility for the new arrivals and how those
responsibilities should be shared generated very different, sometimes schizophrenic, policy
responses among European Union (EU) member states, withmany states prioritizing na-
tional interests over European solidarity. These divergent national responses generated
f‌ierce political debates over legal and normative obligations to the displaced within and
across member states. In many capitals, these debates also (re-)kindled national divisions
in ways that redounded strikingly to the benef‌it of right-wing, nationalist political parties.
The lack of EU solidarity and absence of a collective responseto the humanitarian and
political challenges imposed by the inf‌luxfurther laid bare the limitations of commonbor-
der control and migration and refugee burden-sharing systems that have never been
wholly and satisfactorily implemented.
By years end, half a dozen members of the
Schengen Zone had unilaterally reinstituted internal border controls under the excep-
tional circumstancesprovision of the Article 26 of the Borders Code.
Other states, such
as Hungary, erected physical barriers to entry along borders with non-Schengen states.
* Associate Professor at Tufts University and Research Fellow at Harvard Universitys Kennedy School of
Government Belfer Center for Sc ience and International Affair s. Harvard University, 79 JFK Stree t,
Cambridge,MA 02138, USA.
S. Fratzke, Not adding up: the fadingpromise of Europes Dublin system,MigrationPolicy Institute Report
(March 2015), available at f‌ile:///Users/kgreenhill/Downloads/MPIe-Asylum-DublinReg.pdf.
These countries were Austria,Denmark, France, Germany,Norway and Sweden.
European LawJournal, Vol. 22, No. 3, May2016, pp. 317332.
© 2016 John Wiley& Sons Ltd. 9600 Garsington Road,Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street,Malden, MA 02148, USA
In part in response to these acute stresses and strains on the common European enterprise,
in early January 2016, European Council President Donald Tusk declared that the EU had no
more than 2 months to save its passport-free Schengen Zone and maybe even theunion itself.
A failure to f‌ind a solution could, Tusk warned, lead to the EU failing as a political project.
Should Tusks dire prognostications come to pass, it would not be the f‌irsttimethata
mass migration catalysed a fundamental reconf‌iguration of the international political
landscape. The mass exodus of East Germans to Austria through Czechoslovakia and
Hungary in the summerof 1989, for instance, impelledthe German Democratic Republic
to open its westernborders, leading to the fall of the BerlinWall and the subsequent reuni-
f‌ication of East andWest Germany.
While the exodusfrom East to West did not happen
in a political vacuum, it was in the end a mass migration, rather thana military invasion,
that destroyed East Germany, sounded the death knell for the Warsaw Pact and
pref‌igured the end of the Cold War and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Whether a similar fate could befall the EU is as of this writing an open question. What is
certain, however, is that both recent and proposed EU member state responses to the recent
unregulated inf‌luxincluding mass detentions and deportations, unilateral border closures
and calls for foreign military actionillustrate anew the potential power of unregulated mi-
gration to make people and governments feel insecure and under threat. British Prime Min-
ister David Cameron invoked insects when he warned of a swarmof illegal migrants
invading Europe,
while Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared that, from a
European perspective, the number of potential future immigrants seems limitless, [and
most new arrivals] are not Christians, but Muslims. Orbán further added that the refugees
entering Europe look like an army.
For his part, Polish Law and Justice Party off‌icial and
former PrimeMinister JaroslawKaczynski warned thatMuslim refugees wouldbring par-
asites and diseases to the local population,
while the leader of the Sweden Democrats
Jimmie Åkesson declared that that Islamism is the Nazism and Communism of our time.
Against the backdrop of what happened in 1989, these none too novel examples of
inf‌lammatory rhetoric, coupled with Tusks stark warning about the potential dangers
facing the EU as a political unit, dramatically underscore the inconvenient, and oft
ignored, truth that military assaults are far from the only way to undermine already fragile
political bargains and governance arrangements (or to make citizens feel endangered, afraid
and reactionary). Fears of irregular (mass) migration can also do so, and do so at great po-
tential cost to statesleaders and to the laws, values and human right norms they are (at least
ostensibly) committed to uphold.
Tusk gives the EU two months to save Schengen”’,EuroNews, 19 January2016; available at http://www.; Schengento Fail in Months
if Migration Crisis not Under Control, says Tusk,, 19 January 2016; available at http://www.
Somewhat ironically, it was German reunif‌icationand the vibrant German economic engine that allowed the EU
to grow into the worlds largest economy and such an attractive destination inthe decades since reunif‌ication.
David Cameroninsists describingmigrants as a swarmWasntdehumanising”’,The Telegraph, 15 August
2015, available at
Refugees look like an army, says Hungarian PM Viktor Orban,The Guardian, 23 October 2015, available at
Right-wingPolish leader Kaczynski says migrantscarry diseases to Europe,US Newsand World Report,15
October 2015, available at les/2015/10/14/right-wing-polish-
Anti-immigrant Sweden democrats now the biggestparty, according to poll,TheTelegraph,20August2015,
available at
European Migration CrisisMay 2016
© 2016 John Wiley& Sons Ltd.318

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT