Saturday, 06 June 2020
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The last weeks of the summer of 2015 have been filled with dramatic events affecting the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Death and suffering accompanies the unstoppable flow of people into Europe across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Balkans, driven in part by cruel murders perpetrated by terrorists of the so called Islamic State or Daesh in Syria, Iraq and other countries. In Syria years of civil war have irreparably damaged the regime of President Assad, have destroyed much of the country, and have displaced almost half its population.

As a result of these bloody events there has been a worsening of the situation in the Middle East and particularly in Lebanon, reeling before the wave of refugees arriving in the country. The untenable situation in the area has contributed to increase the flow of people entering Turkey and Greece in their intent on travelling through the Balkans to reach the richer EU countries. They are joined by other human beings coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries, writes General Federico Yaniz.

Those who want to enter the EU countries do so for very different reasons and taking different paths. Given that reality, the EU has failed to respond with an effective and coherent common policy. TV news images showing the unstoppable flow of people across the Mediterranean or the Balkans moving towards the heart of Europe and the dead in the holds of ships and rickety refrigerator trucks have stirred humanitarian and compassionate feelings in Europeans.

Med EUNAVFOR operation launched by the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU on June 22 claimed to be the initial response of the Union to the challenge of migration in the Central Mediterranean. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogherini said: "The objectives of this operation are not migrants but smugglers and human traffickers who are enriching their lives and too often their deaths. EUNAVFOR Med is part of our efforts to save lives. "

Two months after its inception, the operation seems to have managed to assure some safer journeys to Europe without completely avoiding tragedies. However, it seems that it has not been effective in monitoring and disrupting human smuggling or trafficking networks that carry it out. Despite the commendable work of EUNAVFOR Med, there has been no serious attempt to analyse in calm, depth and comprehensively the implications the massive influx of people, poorly controlled in some European countries. Nor it has been considered the short and long-term economic, political or security consequences of this uncontrolled migration.

Given the differences in economic development between countries, there will always be people who try to improve their economic situation in places with more opportunities. There have been and there will be people who seek refuge from chaotic situations caused by wars or natural disasters. A third group of migrants is asylum seekers trying to escape from nations where human rights are not respected and who are persecuted for their beliefs or political views. A serious study should take into account the different profiles of people trying to reach the EU. Only in this way and with the conviction that the current mess cannot continue indefinitely will it be possible to find a human, rational, differentiated and fair response to each type of migration.

The migration is only one facet of profound change in the Middle East. Among the causes of that change are: the bloody Daesh activity and limited response to its expansion in Western Syria and Iraq; Kurdish peshmerga forces have competently faced Daesh; the chaotic situation in Syria; the terrorist attacks in Turkey; attempts to destabilize Yemen and the fighting there on the ground as well as by air strikes; and the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran. These events and pre-existing religious and ethnic conflicts have had a deep and significant impact in an area of extraordinary importance for Europe and the United States. Direct military intervention by Turkey and Saudi Arabia in current conflicts in the Middle East, underline a new geopolitical balance in the region.

General of the Air Force (Retired) and journalist Federico Yaniz is Vice-President of EURODEFENSE-SPAIN

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