Hungary has shut its border to Serbia completely. So the refugees head towards Croatia instead (and Croatia then closes its border), and if the refugees do succeed they may need to cross minefields. Then fears are raised in Slovenia that the refugees might well head there – its PM Miro Cerar says the country will not enable a transit route. I’d think it is then only a matter of time before a route is found to the east of the border fence through Romania and into Hungary.
Meanwhile in Brussels Donald Tusk has scheduled an emergency European Council for next week. The only plan really on the table is Juncker’s 160000 refugee compulsory refsettlement plan, but central and eastern European countries continue to resist this. Slovak PM Robert Fico says he will not be “dictated to” – reference to the fact that Qualified Majority Voting could be used to simply outvote the expected 5 countries resisting the resettlement plan (UK, DK have an opt out, so are not relevant).
The problem here, it strikes me, is that there is no way – in public – for the views of all of these players to be confronted.
Fico – if you refuse quotas, what is your solution? While there may be anger from Czech Republic and Hungary (among others) that Germany allowed refugees to transit through to Germany (essentially ignoring the Dublic Regulation), what – actually – was the alternative? To leave thousands without shelter at the Serbia-Hungary border? Likewise the Croatian interior minister Ranko Ostojić says his country does not have the resources to cope, and uses this as the justification to keep refugees out – how about instead making an appeal for practical assistance instead?
We never have the answers to questions like these – we simply have the press copying and pasting the contradictory statements from different national leaders, and drawing the conclusion there is no plan or solution. In Brussels the conversations between these leaders, and their diplomats doing the pre-negotiations, are all behind closed doors – we cannot know what is said, and the participants know no-one will know either.
Oddly we have a parallel that could be useful to find a way forward here. In July this year Alexis Tsipras was invited to the European Parliament to explain what his government were doing. Despite predictable ridicule for the idea from anglosphere journalists like Stanley Pignal, it actually turned out to be quite masterful – for the first time, in public, Tsipras set out his case, and you could see him squirm when Verhofstadt attacked him in a barnstorming response (800k views on Youtube!)
So here’s an idea, Donald Tusk. Rather than the traditional separate 28 press conferences after the emergency summit, why not do a few joint ones? Put Merkel and Orbán together perhaps, or Faymann and Fico, and let’s see what happens. I’m pretty sure the rhetoric would be rather different if the person beside them – in public – looked them in the eyes and, in earnest, asked what is your solution, actually?
Photo CC License from Flickr. Concertina in Pink Gold on October 5, 2014 by Ingrid Taylar