The Mediterranean has turned into The Sea of Death

Sad news from the Mediterranean told that the “borderless” Europe faces serious problems. Bodies of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have become too mundane sight in the coast of Italy. This problem is not a new one, but hit the headlines also in Finland.

EU has endeavoured to practice effective border policy in every points of the compass, but in this very moment the results seem to be weak. Eastern Partnership has faced serious, even military problems in Ukraine. In the Mediterranean the flow of asylum seekers and refugees does not seem to end.

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More people has died on the borders of ”EU” than during 28 years of Berlin Wall.

In early 1990s there were lot of afraid of how Finland will face a massive stream of emigrants from Russia. The border was conceptualized as huge gap in standard of living. The worst scenarios did not materialise despite of socio-economic gap is still there. Finland can’t, however, stay as bystander in this humanitarian catastrophe in the south. The EU member states need to share responsibility also in this case.

But what can EU do? There are several possible propositions. Some people would be happy to see a wall in southern and eastern borders of EU. Model can be seen in US-Mexico border. EU has also flashed a possibility to launch military operation against human traffickers.

Strengthening of border control is traditional way. We have read during the 1990s and early 2000s how political borders will be diminish because of globalisation and networking. However, we have evidenced how crucial part of (nation) states’ identity and building the borders are. They also play a role in domestic and foreign policy. Borders are still used for controlling movement and preventing un-wanted entry. Within EU this kind of border policy is emphasized in states with external EU-borders.

The stream of emigrants in the Mediterranean is not a problem, it is a humanitarian catastrophe. It is just a tip of the iceberg of much wider socio-political chaos in European neighbourhood. This catastrophe can’t be prevented only by restricting border control or legal possibilities to entry, nor to speaking about military operations.

What we need is global governance; a policy that was emphasized also in Finland in early 2000s. EU’s role as global actor was underlined. Finland’s responsibility as talented and respected intervener and professional in crisis management was accented. Now the election candidates speak almost nothing abuot global governance. Election programs included only some parenthesis about global responsibility. Economy and austerity issues were considered much more important.

It is disconcerting how the Ukrainian Crisis has narrowed our discussion about security policy. Narrow and military-oriented point of view has been emphasized. Of course we need to concern this aspect alike, but for solving the problems in the Mediterranean and beyond EU, and Finland also, needs much broader perspective.

The problems should be solved ad fontes. Closing the borders is like shutting eyes and hoping that unwanted visible thing would vanish. Social, economic and political problems in the neighbourhood are enormous. The Arab Spring did not bring peace, democracy and stability to entire Northern Africa. The War of Iraq or the operation in Afghanistan haven’t been solutions for domestic issues. There are too much pushing forces in these countries that even deep economic crisis and rising xenophobia are not prohibitive factors.

An attempt to cross the Mediterranean in small and crowded boat is extremely dangerous. Still people want to try. It tells a lot about desperation. Circumstances in people’s home countries are so poor, that they want preferably to risk their life than stay.

EU, i.e. all the member states together, has to strengthen the role as global actor. “Peace project” shall not shrink and become only neo-liberalistic economic project. What is needed now is more active crisis management, social policy and capability to do solve problems; or else the Mediterranean will maintain as premature brave of thousands of people.

This column was originally published in newspaper Karjalainen in May 6th, 2015.

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