The European Union’s struggle to staunch the flow of hundreds of thousands of people across its borders represents the continent’s biggest refugee emergency in over half a century.
But far from being insurmountable, many of the EU’s challenges are self-inflicted, the bloc’s own chief executive admits. Ambitions exceed capabilities and promises are broken. On the ground, there is chaos, willful obstruction or just plain incompetence.
EU nations are “moving slowly at a time when they should be running,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently told lawmakers.
“The gap between the pledges and what is on the table must be reduced,” he said. “Otherwise we are losing all kinds of credibility.”
The arrival of more than 700,000 people this year is ratcheting up tensions. Many EU countries are blaming Germany — the preferred home of many seeking sanctuary or jobs in Europe — for encouraging the masses to continue making the perilous journey.
The controversial razor-wire border fence in Hungary, with its echoes of Europe’s darker past, has begun to seem like a reasonable option to Slovenia and Austria. Police and the military now stand alongside guards on Europe’s borders.
Speed is of the essence in tackling the crisis. Increasingly cold weather is a new enemy, as the EU and member states race to set up shelters along thousands of kilometers (miles) of the “migrant route” out of Greece northwest to Austria.
The vast amounts of money that the EU often throws at its challenges are being grudgingly mustered — but cash and policy changes have so far proved woefully inadequate.
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