Euro Mideast Intervention = Own the Refugees?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 4/14/2011 12:05:00 AM
We've heard this story before. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell is usually credited for applying the Pottery Barn principle to foreign intervention. For international readers, Pottery Barn is a housewares retailer in the US. Instead of breaking what the Brits call "crockery," Powell asserts that breaking a country results in the interventionist taking responsibility for the "broken" country. Among these, of course, are its people.

Alike the quarrels over a two-speed Eurozone with stalwart countries alike Germany and the Netherlands outperforming their southerly peers, we appear to have something of another North-South divide in dealing with crumbling Middle East / North African states. Just as there is no "one-size-fits all" policy rate, there may be no pan-EU migration policy as countries bordering the Mediterranean are inundated with refugees. So, as some European heads of states act as cheerleaders for "the spread of democracy" and some actively participate in armed intervention, they have another hot topic for integration on their hands. The Italians in particular are keen on passing refugees through to other European states. What's Italy to do with the 23,000 or so who've landed on Lampedusa? From the New York Times:
Since the global financial crisis, the European Union has been deeply divided over economic policy. With the Libya intervention, it has split over foreign policy. But today few issues are proving more divisive within the bloc than immigration. That much was clear this week, when the fractious 27-member European Union rejected Italy’s idea to make it easier for immigrants who first land in Italy to travel elsewhere in Europe. At a time when a wave of immigrants fleeing the unrest in North Africa shows no signs of abating, the rejection raised the possibility of tightened intra-European border controls for the first time since visa-free travel was introduced in the 1990s.

Frustrations have been building here for weeks, and over the weekend Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finally said enough was enough. Visiting the Italian island of Lampedusa, the point of entry for thousands of North African immigrants to Europe, he said: “Either Europe is something that’s real and concrete or it isn’t. And in that case, it’s better to go back to each going our own way and letting everyone follow his own policies and egotism.”

Mr. Berlusconi’s statement, echoed by other members of his government and criticized by his European counterparts, highlighted a looming showdown within Europe over how to handle the 23,000 migrants who have arrived in Italy since January. Fears of immigrants, fanned by right-wing parties and voter discontent over economic malaise, have deepened already profound divisions within Europe. Experts say the issue is proving to be at least as problematic — and potentially as destabilizing — as Europe’s struggle to manage a succession of financial crises. And it adds a new source of friction over NATO’s intervention in Libya.

The majority of Africans seeking work or refuge in Europe are Tunisians, but a growing number are sub-Saharan Africans fleeing Libya. To reduce tensions in the makeshift tent camps in Italy where officials shipped the migrants who first arrived on Lampedusa, Italian officials said they would issue temporary residence permits to qualified migrants.

Italy had asked fellow European Union member states to recognize the permits as valid for entry — essentially condoning the migrants’ passage to France and beyond. At a meeting of European Union interior ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, other member states, chief among them France and Germany, said no. In response, Italy’s interior minister, Roberto Maroni, asked, “I wonder if it makes sense to stay in the European Union?”

While European neighbors have criticized the Italians for their poor handling of the immigration situation, the stalwarts of Mr. Maroni’s Northern League party, known for its anti-immigrant stance and fierce Euro-skepticism, have criticized the interior minister for not being tough enough.
Will bribing the states refugees want to flee work? I have my doubts, but some Europeans apparently hope so:
Instead, Europe’s policy has been to hope that immigrants will not come and to try to persuade North African nations to compel their citizens to stay home. Although the collapse of governments in Tunisia and Egypt and the unrest in Libya have undone a variety of bilateral treaties with European countries, including agreements on migration, that policy is still in place.
Expanding the pottery barn argument, I suppose it becomes a valid question of who broke these MENA countries. Is it the "EU," its more busybody states, even "NATO"? The answer points to both the fate of supranational migration policy and the aftermath of these conflicts in terms of handling refugee flows.