A heartless and soulless Europe?

The latest events taking place in Europe concerning the so-called Syrian refugees’ humanitarian crisis lead us to consider that Europe could well be losing its heart and soul. It seems the Syrian war and tragedy were something alien and remote from European life and interests. There is no heart, no feeling of horror whatsoever or rejection of one of the major crises in the Middle East. It’s been now more than 4 years since the war started, there are more than 200,000 dead, more than 12 million displaced and thousands of missing people. Neighbouring countries can no longer endure the burden of the refugees: Turkey has received more than 1,590,000, Lebanon 1,300,000, Jordan 654,000, while the enlightened Europe that received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 is struggling to take in little more than 120,000. It is struggling and finally coming out of its lethargy now that the human drama is reaching Central and Eastern Europe capital cities and even the British Isles. Central European countries are starting to feel the same pressure and presence as Southern countries.

What is really disturbing is not the current debate about the distribution of refugees and the quota Europe is willing to admit, but the total lack of heart and political vision to face this humanitarian crisis. Paradoxically, Europe is reacting to this crisis as belatedly and inefficiently as it did concerning the Greek financial crisis. It seems Europe is facing a major existential crisis and that the two pillars that gave it its strength and pride during its constitution process, its common coin, that is, “its economy and the free movement of people”, are being questioned again.

How did the EU react to the Greek crisis? It took a long time to take a decision and when it did, it was too little too late. Wouldn’t it have been better to offer a logical and substantial bail out to Greece back in May 2010 instead of waiting almost 5 years to grant a third bail out without any guarantee of success? It would probably have cost us Europeans less and the Euro crisis would have been solved more easily. But Germany delayed the decisions. What are we going to do about the migratory and humanitarian crisis? Will we follow the same model?

Prime Minister Zapatero’s government already demanded a common migration policy back in 2007. Now we are again faced with extraordinary European Councils seeking to respond to foretold crises. Have we forgotten that in July, less than two months ago, an extraordinary EU Council was held which approved that 22,000 refugees would be taken in, when we all knew that this figure was wholly insufficient and ethically unacceptable?

Yesterday the figure of 120,000 refugees was approved, still meagre and insufficient to solve this crisis. The EU is hiding behind it and is lacking the political leadership to solve it. This is the case with the Syrian crisis. The EU reacts to a tweet about a Syrian father selling pens with his daughter in the streets of Beirut and raises 200,000 dollars, and is appalled on account of the picture of a child dead on the beach, but proves unable to lead a peace initiative. European rulers should urgently call a Geneva III meeting under their leadership and force a political and diplomatic reconciliation process. The “military” alliance has failed and selective military interventions have borne no fruit. The Islamic State, “Daesh”, is progressing and historical Syria is suffering from destruction and division.

What have we done to save the Bel temple in the historic city of Palmyra, World Heritage Site and cradle of our civilisation? This is the task that should lead European rulers to get started and demand from all parties involved a new peace commitment. What are we waiting for to call a Geneva III meeting, where Iran should be present? To grant to the UN a more significant role? The financial transactions feeding ISIS activities should be sealed and more responsibility should be demanded from Gulf countries to control radicals and their sponsors.

This is where the EU’s true problem lies. If it does not have the heart to act, it will lose its soul, because Europe is not simply “a market”, but a common project in which human values and respect to human beings are part of its political purpose. President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel claim responsibility and solidarity. We all agree. But respect and solidarity should respect European principles and values and be oriented towards the protection of people, peace and security of our closest environment.