On Thursday, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia declared the state of emergency on its borders, after weeks of chaos at a railway station where daily thousands of migrants and refugees, opting to travel through the Balkan route, crossed Greece and tried to enter Europe’s Schengen Area. Accusing Greece, with which it has a tense relationship, of aiding the migrants’ journey, the FYRoM sent military forces to protect its border.
Nevertheless, police deployment did a little to slow the flow of refugees and tension exploded when a limited number of migrants “in danger”, almost 200, were allowed to enter FYRoM from the border with Greece.
FYRoM is a major transit point for migrants heading from Greece to wealthier northern EU members. Thus, not surprisingly, this humanitarian catastrophe has created an immediate concern in neighbors countries, which are determined not to allow more access to migrants via the Hungarian-Serbian border.
Yesterday the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French President, Francois Hollande, met in Berlin to find a new joint approach to the migrant challenge. So far, the EU has failed to agree a common strategy to ease the pressure on southern countries, such as EU-wide quotas for asylum seekers. But the massive arrival of refugees on the southern coasts of Europe imposes to rethink the European approach to migration.
As Angela Merkel recently said, migration risks to become a bigger challenge for the European Union than the Greek crisis. Indeed, the International Organization for Migration stated that this year over than 25.000 migrants and asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea and around 2.300 migrants perished so far trying to cross the Mediterranean, confirming that it is one of the deadliest route.
Thus, the European Union must move more quickly in helping the EU countries heavily exposed to migration. From this point of view, the European Commission has recently pledged new funds to help Member States which notably suffer migration flows, like Italy and Greece, Austria and Hungary. Furthermore, the EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said that more funding will be granted for the other front lines in the migration crisis. But, as Juncker stated emergency funding should be matched by concrete commitment at European level, even if immigration issue is unpopular at home.
In spite of this, the “conflict” between the Commission and some Member States to equally share the burden of migration is still one of the sensitive issues. Indeed, some European countries, notably Eastern European members, are still reluctant to the “quota system” and argue over how to control the flow of thousands coming from North Africa and the Middle East to European shores.