Migrant Crisis and Migration Policy in Europe: From Demographic Imbalances and Political Turmoil to the Increasing Migration Stream
In 2015, migrations from West Asia and North Africa to Europe increased significantly. Migration streams to Europe predominantly changed directions from West and South Mediterranean to Balkan South East direction. Unprecedented migrant crisis has caused quick collapse of the European Union legal system dealing with immigration. The rules have been broken in Greece and some other European countries. Consequently, numerous undocumented immigrants have flooded Balkans and some other European countries in late 2015 and at the beginning of the next year. The number of migrants declined after the spring 2016 political agreement between the European Union and Turkey. The thesis of the paper is that migrant crisis is a part of broader population policy crisis in Europe. Differences in demographic transitions combined with political turmoil and local wars in emigration areas will generate lasting migration flows to Europe. Therefore, European Union and its member states need well designed and politically agreed population and migration policies. The author’s ideas on sustainable European migration policy need further discussions and evaluations.
KEY WORDS: migrant crisis, migration policy, demographic imbalances, European Union
European migrant crisis 2015/16 has shown serious weaknesses of the EU legal system dealing with refugee protection, asylum seekers and immigration. In spite of the fact that immigration has remained legally in the domain of EU member states the crisis exposed necessity of broader European cooperation in the field of migration and refugee protection. The thesis of the author of the paper is even broader than this. The migrant crisis is a consequence of broader demographic, economic and social situation in Europe, West Asia and North Africa. In the EU migrant crisis is a part of broader population policy (PP) crisis.
Migration policy (MP) is important part of PP. However, the connections between MP and PP are neglected in practice. In the EU and most of its member states only immigration policy attracts interest of politicians and public in general. PP and MP in its totality are much less developed in spite of the need for positive net migration in the low fertility countries to neutralize serious population ageing and future population decline. Migration processes in general and migrant crisis 2015/16 in particular are connected to huge demographic and economic differences between Europe on one side and West Asia and North Africa on the other side. One of the most important is the difference in the demographic regimes. Europe has modern demographic regime with completed demographic transition, positive net migration, stagnant population growth and population ageing. European hinterland on the other side has transitional demographic regime with high population growth, young population age structure and negative net migration. Demographic imbalances and the differences in economic development push migrants and refugees (in periods of wars, military conflicts, political and social turmoil) towards Europe.
Therefore, EU needs well designed and developed MP and PP for appropriate management of migration processes and sustainable population development in general. The author has outlined basic elements of the sustainable model of MP in the EU. The model needs further development and discussions in professional and broader political circles and institutions. However, the crucial element of the sustainable immigration to Europe is the capability of the European societies to integrate immigrants economically and socially. It is important to know also that flow of the people is one side of the medal only. The other side is export of the capital and direct investments of European countries and companies in the hinterland regions for faster economic development and better employment opportunities there. The EU also needs to lower the costs and to increase efficiency of the migration and refugee protection management. The funds are much more needed for economic and social development and modernization which will enable better life for native Europeans as well as for integrated immigrants in Europe.