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As Migrant Deal Falters, Strains on EU's Underbelly Grow

Walter Russell Mead

Bad omens in southern Europe. The Wall Street Journal:

On average, the number of people landing on Greek islands has risen to about 100 a day in August, up from fewer than 50 a day in May and June. About 460 people landed on Greek islands on Monday, a number Greece hasn’t experienced since early April.

The traffic is still far below daily peaks of 6,800 in October last year. But the rising numbers are making Greek and EU officials worried that the fragile deal with Turkey—aimed at returning almost all who land on Greek shores—could break down.

Turkish officials, angered by what they see as a lack of European support for Turkish democracy as Ankara roots out alleged supporters of July’s failed coup, have threatened to scuttle the migration deal if the EU doesn’t grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel to the bloc by October. Turkey says it was promised the concession.

Greece and Italy, two of the European countries most damaged by the euro disaster are also the hardest-hit by the migration crisis—and in both the euro crisis and the migration crisis, policies intended to safeguard northern Europe, and especially Germany, have made things much worse in Europe’s vulnerable south.

The long term costs to the European project are going to be high. That Brussels has been unable to develop a monetary union without causing the greatest economic disaster in many European countries since the Second World War, that it then proved unable to put the affected economies back on the road to prosperity and growth, that Germany benefited immensely (and continues to benefit) from a policy that impoverishes the south, that Europe then failed to deal effectively with the migration crisis in North Africa and the Middle East—and that it then developed a policy that, again, protected Germany at the expense of the southern countries… this does not bode well for the future of one of the most noble political ventures in human history.

Unable to craft policies that work, unable to share the pain of failure fairly: one must hope that history will give Europe a break. More crises—another round of economic trouble, an intensification of the wars in the Middle East, an even more aggressive series of moves by the Kremlin—could stress Europe to the breaking point. That would be bad for American security and prosperity; the next administration will have to engage with Europe with a depth, focus and wisdom that has been sadly lacking for the last 16 years.

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