Desperate to discourage asylum seekers from coming to the European Union (EU), member states are urging funding for the construction of walls. The Commission gives in… a little. The far right is celebrating.
It’s time to turn inward. Unable to agree on a solidarity distribution of migrants throughout Europe, the twenty-seven Member States of the EU come up against the exasperation of the countries on the front line. Among them, Bulgaria, furious at seeing itself transformed into a buffer zone serving as camps for illegal migration, summarizes its president, Rumen Radev. In tune, a dozen states (Austria, Hungary, Poland, etc.) have been urging the EU for months to pay for the construction of walls and fences at its external borders. Austria even used it as a means of blackmail, last December, by vetoing the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area as long as their borders have not been reinforced.
The Commission in a hurry to pay
On February 9, the leaders of the twenty-seven states agreed to ask Brussels to finance measures that directly contribute to the control of the EU’s external borders. At the end of 2021, while Belarus was “ shippingof migrants to Poland and Lithuania with the sole aim of undermining European unity, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had sworn that she would never agree to finance barbed wire and walls. But the East is not the only sticking point. In 2022, 330,000 migrants entered the EU illegally, unheard of since the 2015 record (one million) according to Frontex, the European border surveillance agency. And of the 13,200 Afghans, Ivorians or Syrians who entered on the sly last month, 43% took the perilous Balkan route and 49% the deadly Mediterranean Sea.
“ The walls have already pushed up to our doors”
Summoned to dry up these flows, Von der Leyen therefore released ballast, on February 10, by evoking the management of mobile and fixed infrastructure, cars, cameras, watchtowers and electronic surveillance. The vagueness remains as for the walls. But no matter: the conservative Austrian Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, welcomes the clear commitment of the Commission […] to protect the external borders. In the European Parliament, the far-right Identity and Democracy group (sixty-four elected members, including those of the National Rally) also mocks to see Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP conservatives, working for [him] and adopting [his] policies . Heartbreaking, judge the Liberal Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel. “I thought that Europe was the fall of a wall and not the construction of new ones”,he thought. History already proves him wrong. Since 2014, on the 12,000 km of borders bordering the EU, walls and fences have grown like weeds, going from 315 to 2,048 km.