Brussels, Belgium. As 6 million plus migrants head for Europe, what should have been a constructive summer is turning into possibly the last summer of a full EU as many nations are openly revolting against Brussels orders to accomodate more migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
The summit was intended to spread a bit of optimism. The professionals, it was announced, would now take care of Brexit negotiations, and the British government even promised to protect EU citizens’ rights in the United Kingdom after withdrawal.
Although that proposal is now being criticized as inadequate and vague, it is still being touted as a sign of progress. After that, the remaining 27 member states sought to create momentum for new projects.
The joint press conference held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron was then appropriately symbolic. Merkel described the mood of the two-day summit, which ended on Friday, as “optimistic and dynamic.” Such words are more easily uttered in the knowledge that economies in almost all member states, even those which were heretofore weak, are starting to grow again.
The eurozone has just completed its best quarter in almost six years, which, however, isn’t saying much considering the crisis that has been plaguing the continent for the last several years.
But the generally positive mood that has come on the heels of the Brexit depression did not brighten every topic of discussion – such as that of immigration. Macron, who is seen by many as Europe’s new hope, began the conference by angering eastern European countries that have refused to accept refugees from the bloc’s main countries of arrival, Italy and Greece.
Macron complained that members were not in a “supermarket” and that the EU was not about “handing out money without regard for European values.”
Although he did not name names, those he was referring to, such as Hungary, felt attacked. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban snapped back that Macron’s comments were a “kick.” He labelled Macron a “newbie” whose start in office was “not very encouraging.”
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, on the other hand, stood by Macron: “I cannot always make demands and then shirk my responsibilities.”
In an effort to smooth over differences, Macron also met separately with heads of government from the so-called Visegrad Group: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nothing, however, came of the meeting. After the summit, Merkel said that all members were “very, very much in agreement” on the issue of fighting the root causes of migration and the control of Europe’s exterior borders.
She resignedly added: “Unfortunately, we made no progress on the question of distribution,” noting that very little time had been allotted for discussing the issue, “since it was clear that we would not be able to make any progress.”
In his joint press conference with Merkel, Macron added: “The current refugee crisis is not a temporary, but rather a long-term challenge, which can be resolved only through long-term stabilization in Africa and the Middle East and through ambitious European development policies.”