Macedonia is defending Europe from itself –

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Second, generalisation. We need to be clearer about who the migrants are. At the outset, we became trapped by the generalisation that every migrant was a humanitarian case. Since the Paris terrorist attacks, by contrast, there has been a risk of us regarding them all as security threats. But if we are to secure a pan-European solution, we must observe the different, nuanced aspects of this crisis.

On the humanitarian front, this means recognising that the door that was first opened by refugees from war-stricken areas in the Middle East – who may have a strong claim to the right to asylum, protection and humane treatment – is now being used by economic migrants from Africa and Asia.

On the political front, it is clear that the EU functions excellently in times of peace and prosperity, but not in conditions of crisis. Trust in the European system is being eroded with every passing day. The price of de-sovereignisation is too high. It is self-evident that this crisis cannot be resolved by mere political declarations and bureaucratic procedures, but that it has also to be managed with support and assistance on the ground from the security forces.

Economically, we must accept that 90 per cent of migrants who came to Europe last year used illegal people-smugglers. In 2015, organised crime networks earned between €3 billion and €6 billion from the migration business. But the European Migrant Smuggling Centre started its work only a fortnight ago. This implies that the EU has been caught off guard.

Socially, the crisis is putting the European model of integration to the test. Instead of being united in diversity, will Europe now be united against diversity? Instead of integration without assimilation, will Europe now prefer integration through assimilation? The Arab philosopher Averroes wrote that “ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence”. Today in Europe, violence instigated by individuals and groups who fear diversity is spreading.

We cannot ignore the new threats to our security. According to Europol, today on EU territory there are between 3,000 and 5,000 radicals, extremists and terrorists. They took advantage of the lack of co-operation between security services in Europe and misused the migrant corridor. Close co-operation among security services is necessary, and so is the implementation of de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation programmes. The times when European security could be defended at its external frontiers with the Middle East and north Africa are long gone. Now, European security has to be defended within Europe itself.

Macedonia is committed to a common European solution. We are ready for all scenarios, and we will act as other states along the refugee route. As a transit-only country, Macedonia is doing this for the benefit of the EU. Unfortunately, even as we are trying to implement EU decisions, we face unfair criticism for doing so.

It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The EU and the Schengen area are only as strong as Greece. Europe as a continent is only as strong security-wise as Macedonia. Therefore, both Greece and Macedonia need to be helped. The effectiveness of the EU’s response will shape the very future of our continent.

Gjorge Ivanov is President of Macedonia

Macedonia is defending Europe from itself –