Monday, October 19, 2015

The trouble with history is that it does not stay still

For better for worse, circumstances change. There is no need to quote Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's famous riposte - we all know it. The trouble is that a good part of the post-1945 structure was assumed to last for ever. Germany was always going to be down, was the thought in many a mind, particularly in France. Anyone could have told those architects of the "European structure" that this was a pipe dream. The Soviet Union was going to last for ever and the far-off conflicts in the Middle East would never seriously affect European countries. Should one laugh or snort at such ridiculous presumption?

At present, there is no Soviet Union but there is a Russia that is displaying all the dangerous signs of a rather weak bully; as to the Middle Eastern conflicts they have long ago invaded most European countries and are likely to continue to do so.

By and large I have kept out of the migrant/refugee discussion because as I have said before I have no solutions any more than the people who keep talking about it do. I need not add that much of all that discussion is based on what the latest headlines and pictures are.

All the same, a couple of items have caught my attention today. One relates to Chancellor Merkel's meeting with President Erdogan of Turkey (where there is another election due on November 1 and the general political situation is far from stable).

It seems that
Germany is ready to help drive forward Turkey's European Union accession process, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday (18 October), extending support to Ankara in exchange for Turkish help in stemming the flow of refugees to Europe.
Well, well. And how is Turkey going to do that? Are they even interested in this kind of bribery or blackmail?
A "safe zone" in northern Syria, a proposal long championed by Turkey but which has gained little international traction, is badly needed, Davutoglu said.

"Our priority is to prevent illegal immigration and reduce the number of people crossing our borders. In that respect we have had very fruitful discussions with the EU recently," he said.

But Davutoglu said while progress had been made on an EU offer to Turkey last week of an action plan including "re-energised" talks on joining the bloc, several issues remained to be resolved.

"Firstly, the sharing of the refugee burden should be fair. The amount of aid ... is secondary. What is more important is the common will to tackle this issue. Turkey has been left alone in recent years," he said.
It looks like Turkey will, understandably, start demanding various concessions.
Restarting accession talks is one of the conditions Turkey presented last week to agree to a common action plan with the EU to tackle the migrant crisis.

The action plan includes measures to strengthen the control of Turkey's border with the EU and facilitate returns of unwanted migrants to Turkey, as well as aids to help Turkey handle the 2.5 million refugees living on its territory.

Turkey also demanded a liberalisation of the visa regime in 2016 for Turks coming to the EU, a €3 billion aid package and a participation of Turkish leaders in EU summits.
Another of the EU's neighbour is becoming restive. Though smaller than Turkey, Switzerland has greater clout in the world or did have before Turkey had become vital to Europe's safety (not for the first time).

Sunday's national parliament election in Switzerland may not be quite as important as it sounds, given the country's political structure but is indicative of attitudes.
The anti-immigration Swiss People's Party (SVP) won the biggest share of the vote in Sunday's national parliamentary election (18 October), projections showed, keeping pressure on Bern to introduce quotas on people moving from the European Union.

Success for the Swiss People's Party (SVP), coupled with gains made by the pro-business Liberal Party (FDP), led political commentators to talk of a "Rechtsrutsch" - a "slide to the right" - in Swiss politics.

Immigration was the central topic for voters amid a rush of asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.

"The vote was clear," SVP leader Toni Brunner told Swiss television. "The people are worried about mass migration to Europe."

Sunday's result cements the SVP's position as the dominant force in Swiss politics.

The SVP won 29.5% of the vote, according to projections from Swiss broadcaster SRF, up from 26.6% in the 2011 vote and far exceeding expectations.

This would translate into an extra 11 seats, bringing their total tally in the 200-member lower house to 65, the best result for any party in at least a century.

The election gains for the SVP, which was already Switzerland's biggest single party, come 20 months after the Swiss in a referendum backed limits on foreigners living in the Alpine nation. The SVP had strongly supported the restrictions.

Lawmakers have until 2017 to reconcile this referendum result with an EU pact that guarantees the free movement of workers, otherwise the Swiss government must write quotas into law regardless of any compromise with the EU.
Turkey can be bribed or blackmailed but Switzerland is a tougher proposition. EUObserver gives more details:
The centre-left social democrats came second in the election with 18.9 percent, which was only a 0.2 percentage point increase. But with the centre-right Liberal Party (FDP) in third place, a clear right-wing majority has emerged in the National Council.

Several newspapers in neighbouring Germany therefore spoke of a "Rechtsrutsch", a swing to the right.

However, Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) said it was rather a "return to normality".

In an editorial commentary, the NZZ noted that "a win of several percentage points is hardly a landslide" and that while two right-wing parties now have a majority, they are no homogeneous block but have differing views.

"[The term] 'Rechtsrutsch', like 'asylum chaos', is a part of the vocabulary of fear", the paper noted.
The NZZ is correct: hysteria does not help anyone and this result is not frightening to anyone except the Europhiliac establishment. You see, none of this was supposed to happen.


  1. Helen, this might sound a little hyperbolic, but I think what happens now with these "refugees" could shape the future of Europe for the next century and beyond. I really do believe it's an existential crisis. What a large chunk of the population of Europe, raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition fear is the rise of Islam in Europe, as we are seeing with the rise of so called Far-Right parties. So I'm very far from being alone in this.

    If enough refugees can make it through, time and birth rates will mean that the number of Muslims in Europe will substantially increase. With Freedom of Movement, and perhaps even without it I would expect there to be at least one Islamic majority country in Europe, probably in my lifetime (I'm in my fifties). Current favourites are probably Sweden and Austria. I don't think it will be possible to assimilate this number of people, the hard men will be able to force Sharia on the country.

    If the EU is only able to turn off this flow by accommodating Turkey, many people will ask what is the difference. If Turks can come as they please, then come they will. I'm not sure the EU has the ability to control this situation, they might be able to keep it off the front pages of newspapers, but peoples own eyes will not allow the truth to be hidden.

    Like the Diplomad (who you link to) I don't now think anything is off the table. If it goes on for long enough some of the East European countries might even drift into the Russian orbit.

    Like you I have no solutions, at least no easy ones, just fears.

    1. I don't think the East European countries will drift too far into Russia's orbit and Russia is not actually as strong or as clever in international terms as people seem to think. However, they are not happy with what is happening and are making it quite clear that they will not go along with what they see as an imposition they cannot cope with from the West. Given that the West European countries are becoming less and less happy about developments the situation is fraught. I am not denying that. I do not think the crisis is existential but the present situation is clearly not one that can carry on indefinitely. No, I have no solutions.