Après Paris: What now, Europe?

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 18, 2015
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People mourn during a one-minute silence for the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, France, on Nov. 16, 2015. [Xinhua/Xu Jinquan]



One can almost feel the eerie calm on the streets. Europe has changed overnight, and it is war this time. People talk in gloomy hushed voices, the pubs feel dead, and people look at each other suspiciously in a bus. For someone coming from India, it looks all too familiar - a time when you can't trust anyone, when you feel besieged.

Western Europe hasn't seen urban warfare of this scale since Second World War. The Paris attacks have changed Europe in ways we still cannot fathom, but a few things seem inevitable. Firstly, the EU/U.S. alliance is under immense pressure to intervene in Syria and Iraq without the luxury of walking away from it anymore. Secondly, this is possibly the end of borderless Europe. The refugee/migrant debate is dead. Europe will be a fortress again. Thirdly, there will be a huge push from Conservatives and the Populist Left for détente with Russia over Syria, making Assad the biggest winner. Fourth, there will be an upsurge in ultra-rightist and fascist ideas all over Europe.

The policies of Obama/Merkel/Hollande of careful disinterest will possibly face the biggest scrutiny. The halfhearted attitude of not dealing firmly with two wars on the southern and eastern borders of Europe, plus the massive behemoth that is the EU administration taking years to decide something, lies behind this calamity. The EU never took the war in Syria seriously, after the disastrous intervention in Libya, essentially creating a launch pad for ISIS terrorists.

The policy of Obama and Merkel was to invite refugees, leaving the security burden of Middle East to regional actors, without doing anything to address the fundamental cause of the refugee flow, namely a regional war raging for over five years now. As a result, Europe is in greater threat than any given point of time since the mid-1960s.

Secondly, the idea of a unified borderless EU is now possibly gone. Poland has already declared that no refugees will cross its border, not now, not ever. Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia all closed borders overnight. Reports of hours of passport checks in the trains with any Arab/Afghan looking family being escorted off started coming out of Denmark and Finland.

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