By design, the European Union is now depending on the nice will of autocratic regimes for the upkeep of its borders. Human distress has change into a suitable bargaining chip: The boys, ladies and kids on the Polish border had been simply the most recent to be caught within the center. Trapped between closely armed Polish and Belarusian border guards, in freezing circumstances and with meager meals provides, they confronted a deadly scenario. A minimum of 11 people died.
The European Union centered on Mr. Lukashenko, decrying his “inhuman” actions. However these phrases ring hole when Poland, a member state, pressured folks again over the border and fired tear gasoline and water cannons at them. It additionally barred journalists, support staff and worldwide observers from the border zone. And but, remarkably, Poland got here beneath no stress from the union to open its border to probably the most susceptible. It as a substitute loved the bloc’s full help.
European officers use the language of ethical superiority and humanitarianism with out the insurance policies to again it up, weakening their authority to name out international locations equivalent to Belarus and Russia. They need to begin redressing these double requirements instantly. Within the first occasion, the European Fee should stress Poland — wielding the risk, and even actuality, of punishment — to permit humanitarian entry to the border zone the place needed and to course of asylum claims of individuals on its territory.
That needs to be step one in a brand new strategy to migration, opening extra authorized pathways for work visas and refugee resettlement, whereas growing a functioning asylum system during which the burden is shared all through the bloc. None of this might be simple — right-wing, anti-migrant sentiment is extensively entrenched throughout the continent — however the advantages could be broad. It could strengthen the bloc’s ethical standing, for one, and open up its societies to the beneficial properties well-controlled migration can carry.
However, basically, it makes strategic sense. Chaotic scenes at borders are usually not a great look. By treating asylum seekers on its soil not as a worst-case state of affairs, however as a manageable scenario to be met with compassion and solidarity, Brussels would ship a strong message to the world. Its antagonists would know that there could be no level making an attempt to blackmail it in future.
But when the bloc permits loss of life and struggling to change into the default, the road between authoritarian regimes and the European Union will blur much more. For these eager to undermine democracy and human rights, nothing might be higher.