No to “Fortress Europe”

by P. K. Ioakeimidis

(“Nea”, February 16, 2001)

The European Union is trying to define a common policy on asylum (to replace the Treaty of Dublin) on the basis of the decisions of the Council of Ministers in Tampere (October 1999) […]

But a common European asylum policy must in no case violate the 1951 statute of the UN High Commission for refugees, or establish a “fortress” that would raise walls to exclude the “persecuted of this world”, especially those that come from countries in its immediate vicinity. Europe must remain open, a place of democratic sensitivity and respect for fundamental rights (including the right of asylum as guaranteed, inter alia, by the recently adopted European Charter on Fundamental Rights).

The new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, recently expressed his concern about and opposition to any initiative that would result in the creation of a “fortress Europe”. Applications for asylum in EU member states last year rose to 390,000, one third of those in Germany. The enormous number of asylum applications, together with the influx of illegal immigrants of all kinds, certainly make a common policy essential if the European Union is to be secured as a “place of freedom, security and justice” allowing unimpeded movement of persons within its borders.

The European Union cannot become a fenceless site. But the phenomenon of refugees and immigration (illegal or otherwise) cannot be handled solely, or even principally, by means of restrictive measures within Europe’s borders. The EU must assist at the very least the countries in its immediate vicinity, in order to eliminate the root causes of this phenomenon.

P. K. Ioakeimidis is a professor at the University of Athens.

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