The European Union is hell-bent on forcing member states to take "their share" of migrants. To this end, the European Commission has proposed reforms to EU asylum rules that would see enormous financial penalties imposed on members refusing to take in what it deems a sufficient number of asylum seekers, apparently even if this means placing those states at a severe financial disadvantage.
The European Commission is planning sanctions of an incredible $290,000 for every migrant that recalcitrant EU member states refuse to receive. Given that EU countries such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria have closed their borders to migrants or are in the process of doing so, it is not difficult to discern at whom the EU is aiming its planned penalties.
The EU may yet come to realize, however, that this latest ill-concealed jab at the Central- and Eastern European members of the European Union -- if it passes muster by most member states and members of the European parliament -- may just signal the beginning of the unraveling of the European Union, an event which, considering the authoritarian structure of the organization, might be a good thing. The EU's authority comes, undemocratically, from the top down, rather than from the bottom up; it is non-transparent, unaccountable and there is no mechanism for removing European Commission representatives.
The migrant crisis has revealed a deep and seemingly irreconcilable rift between those countries that roughly two decades ago still found themselves on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain and have not forgotten it, and Western European countries spared from a merciless Soviet totalitarianism. The soft Western Europeans, instead, developed politically correct credos of "diversity" and "multiculturalism," which they intractably push down the throats of those recently released from captivity, refusing to show the tolerance of which they themselves purport to be high priests.
In September, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said,
"We should know more about Central European history. Knowing that they were isolated for generations, that they were under oppression by Moscow for so long, that they have no experience with diversity in their society, and it creates fear in the society.
"Any society, anywhere in the world, will be diverse in the future — that's the future of the world. So [Central European countries] will have to get used to that. They need political leaders who have the courage to explain that to their population instead of playing into the fears as I've seen Mr Orbán doing in the last couple of months."
Exactly because central Europeans were subjected to a totalitarian ideology for half a century, they are rather unenthusiastic about submitting to a new, increasingly totalitarian ideology, especially one which seeks to impose itself as the "only truth," and in its intolerance is averse to any nonconformity -- as Timmermans' comments make condescendingly clear.
The European Union's vision of an ideal "multicultural" and "diverse" society seems to be viewed by the central Europeans as humbug, perhaps because they have correctly observed that the "multiculturalism" on display in Western Europe is largely a monoculture of the Islamic variety.
If there is anything at which the Central Europeans became experts during their Soviet internment, it was deciphering the doublespeak of communist apparatchiks, which may account for their adeptness at deciphering the doublespeak coming from Eurocrats such as Timmermans. As the Hungarian Prime Minister's spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said in September, "... multi-culturalism in Western Europe has not been a success in our view. We want to avoid making the same mistakes ourselves."
The magic that the European Union once held for Central European countries, which rushed to join the organization after the demise of communism -- believing it to be the very antithesis of what they had just experienced under communist rule -- is fast evaporating.
In February, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that, "If Britain leaves the EU, we can expect debates about leaving the EU in a few years too." Three-fifths of Czechs say that they are unhappy with EU membership, and according to an October 2015 poll by the STEM agency, 62% said they would vote against it in a referendum.
In March, after the Brussels terrorist attacks, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said, "I see no possibility at this time of immigrants coming to Poland."
"Until procedures to verify the refugees are put in action, we cannot accept them," Rafał Bochenek, a government spokesman, told reporters.
"The priority of the government is the safety of Poles ... We understand the previous government ... signed commitments which bind our country. We cannot allow a situation in which events taking place in the countries of Western Europe are carried over to the territory of Poland."
In Poland, 64 percent of Poles want the country's borders closed to migrants.
In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, stated:
"Mr. Timmermans is right that we have not had the same experience as Western Europe, where countries such as Holland, Britain and France have had mass immigration as a result of their colonial legacies. But we would like to deal with our problems in a way that suits us. And we especially do not like it when people who have never lived in Hungary try to give us lectures on how we should cope with our own problems. Calling us racists or xenophobes is the cheapest argument. It's used just to dodge the issues."
Even among those Eastern European countries still waiting to be admitted to the EU, the enthusiasm for the EU seems to have dwindled. "The EU that all of us are aspiring to, it has lost its magic power," Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksander Vucic said in February, "Yes we all want to join, but it is no longer the big dream it was in the past."
The reactions of countries such as Poland and Hungary are the normal, healthy reactions of nations who wish to remain prosperous, sovereign and safe for the sake of their own citizens. In addition, entertaining no illusions about "multiculturalism," they appear to have a justifiable apprehension about the detrimental effects of the current migration crisis on national security and finances.
It is not only the newest members of the EU that have begun to realize that is a bad idea to defer decisions about borders and national security to an unelected supranational entity, which appears completely oblivious to the concerns of its member states.
In Norway, the government announced that it will not accommodate any more migrants beyond the 1500 that the country has already agreed to take during the next two years, as part of the EU's refugee relocation scheme. "We have set a quota for refugees from the EU. Increasing it is not of current interest," Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug said in April. Norway, in fact, has begun paying asylum seekers to return to their own countries.
In Austria, the government is imposing border controls at the Brenner Pass, the main Alpine crossing into Italy, and erecting a barrier between the two countries.
In the face of such resistance from member states, the European Commission's plan to penalize them for not accepting "their share" of migrants could not possibly be more ill-timed and out of touch. It comes across as a desperate attempt by the EU's executive body to force its way of handling the migrant crisis onto disobedient EU member states, like an authoritarian parent disciplining its unruly children. There is, however, such a thing as bending something until it snaps. By persisting in pushing their agendas on EU member states that still consider themselves sovereign and not merely provinces of the European Union, Timmermans and his European Commission bureaucrats may just have given the European Union its kiss of death.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.