In the time since German Chancellor Angela Merkel unilaterally opened the floodgates of Europe in 2015 by declaring that she would not put a limit on the number of migrants attempting to enter Germany — and therefore, given the European Union (EU) policy of border-free travel in what is known as the Schengen Area, ensuring that virtually all of Europe would be affected — somewhere between two and three million aliens have arrived in the EU illegally. They consist of a diaspora from all over the Middle East, Central Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Merkel stuck with the welcoming line for a considerable period, notwithstanding the difficulties it caused (and continues to cause) for frontline EU member states: Italy and Greece from a maritime standpoint and the newer EU nations in Eastern Europe by land.
After her political party started to take some hits in German regional elections — particularly after some number of so-called "refugees" who flooded in proved to have Islamic extremist connections leading to terror attacks in Germany and elsewhere — Merkel mitigated her stand, allowing that it may have been a mistake. A mistake it was, and one of colossal proportion, one that is still reverberating to this day as migrants continue attempting to enter Europe.
Somewhere along the way, perhaps as she began to recognize the huge numbers of migrants involved, Merkel decided that because Germany is a part of the EU, and since so many EU member states find themselves waist deep in the consequences of her decision, parceling out the arrivals in a burden-sharing arrangement among all of the EU nations was the right thing to do; a serendipitous joining of uplifting morality and political necessity.
The powers-that-be at the EU's headquarters in Brussels quickly acquiesced to this notion. Germany's influence in EU politics is outsized, in no small measure because the German economic engine largely drives the entire bloc and has been instrumental in bailing out the smaller states, such as Greece, when they founder on the rocks of their own bloated social policies. As a consequence, when Merkel pipes the tune the European Commission almost always rises to dance. How ironic that Germany has managed to succeed, via the mechanism of the EU, in holding sway over most of Europe when its earlier attempts at domination ended in failure and ruin.
What Brussels Eurocrats perhaps didn't plan for, or expect, was the intransigence they've faced from the small, new eastern EU member states, who see no reason to agree to bail out Merkel's short-sightedness at the risk of their own national security. The EU, and of course Germany, insist that they must, because they are treaty-bound to do so; this was part of the package that they bought into when they signed up for EU membership.
There is, of course, quite a bit of irony in this moral posturing about the importance of living up to treaties, given that almost none of the old-line EU members such as Germany, France, Italy, and others — all of whom are also NATO members — comply with the provisions of that treaty, which requires each signatory nation to spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product toward defense.
It is also interesting that the EU Commission interprets its internal treaties as superseding international refugee law, whose protocols clearly acknowledge the primacy of each nation state in making its own judgments about the acceptance, or not, of refugees (and by no means all of the migrants who have flowed into Europe are bonafide refugees) based on its national security interests and concerns.
Nonetheless, faced with certain member states' intransigence, media are reporting that the EU is now throwing its might behind legal actions to force the rebellious nations (Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic) to accept their "share" of migrants, or face various penalties.
How that will turn out remains to be seen, but it's worth noting that one of the prime reasons for Britain's exit from the EU was migration-related. Although the United Kingdom was never a part of the borderless Schengen Area that constitutes most of the EU states (plus a few others such as Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden), it was obliged to permit visa-free travel and work for citizens of other EU member states, and that alone was sufficient to cause resentments among the majority of British voters who were concerned at the loss of job opportunities to foreigners, and the loss of British sovereignty to Brussels. Thus, when given a chance by referendum to pull out of the EU, they took it.
This most recent example of the EU Commission bullying newer member states will hardly go over well, not just with those directly affected, but also with other new or small EU nations that may have caved in on the issue of accepting migrants they don't want, but who will be watching closely and making decisions about their own long-term national interests vs. continued participation in the EU enterprise, which is still a project in the making. Whether or not it will become one more unraveling thread in the EU sweater, who can say? But it can't help.
One last point: If all of this appears to Americans to be shockingly iron-fisted and abusive to the smaller powers, and it is, then it's worth observing that our own federal government has been no less ham-handed in its cavalier treatment of those states that have raised serious concerns over the dumping of refugee populations into the middle of their communities, with little or no discussion or collaboration, only to have their voices fall on deaf ears. Is there much difference between the conduct of our federal government and that of EU leaders? Probably not from the viewpoint of those most concerned.