European countries are now officially being offered financial assistance from the EU in exchange for their processing of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. According to official reports by the Financial Times, the European Union will pay its member states 6,000 euros (about $7,000 USD) for every migrant taken in from boats marooned in the Mediterranean. The proposal is widely seen as an attempt to satisfy Italy’s new right-wing, xenophobic government which has consistently complained that it has been forced to take in the lion’s share of migrants due to their proximity to Northern Africa.
Italy has refused to take in migrants in the past, as they did last month when they denied entry to a boat with 224 migrants onboard. Other ships containing refugees, such as the Aquarius back in June, have been turned away and rerouted to countries such as Spain. Only recently has Italy decided (likely due to international pressures) to temporarily accept migrant arrivals until a solution could be reached with the rest of the EU that would prevent “all rescued people from landing in one country”.
The EU executive has announced that it wants to offer “full financial support” to any member state willing to form “controlled centers” where refugees, migrants, and people who have no right of abode in the EU, can be assessed. Unfortunately, Italy’s hard-line interior minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini has dismissed this proposal as “mere charity” and has asserted that “We don’t ask for money, we ask for dignity.”
Italy has insisted on the opening of controlled centers in African countries, as opposed to on European soil, so as to prevent further dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. Despite Salvini’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, migration rates have actually faced a notable decline since 2005 - decreasing as much as 80% in Italy this past year alone. Notwithstanding Europe’s far-right’s unreasonable response to migrants coming from majority-Muslim developing nations, xenophobes continue to put pressure on the liberal European order.
The strength of Europe’s far-right can be seen most clearly by their destabilizing effect on the EU’s longest-serving leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In early July, the Chancellor agreed to build border camps for asylum seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a deal to save her governing coalition. Members of the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s conservative CDU, the Christian Social Union, have placed greater pressure on Merkel to tighten her stance on immigration despite the Chancellor staking her legacy on accepting hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany.
Thus, even in the EU’s standard-bearer for the liberal European order, the far right have threatened to upend the humanitarian rules that are supposed to govern western liberal democracies. More specifically to Europe, the freedom of movement of people (one of the four freedoms of the European single market) and the borderless Schengen area are crumbling at the seams as populist far right movements in Germany and Italy once again threaten to bring down the liberal democratic order that has governed postwar Europe.
Seeing as the United States is pulling out of Europe’s defensive and commercial affairs due to President Donald Trump’s far-right anti-trade rhetoric, the only western leaders deemed capable of directing the free world are either new French President Emmanuel Macron or the weakened Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However, the growing strength of Europe’s far-right movement threaten to prevent these leaders from coming up with an adequate solution to the (already cooling) migrant crisis.