Editorial: words no longer enough

Euroopa Parlamendi presidenti Martin Schulzi on suudlemas laubale Euroopa Komisjoni president Jean-Claude Juncker. Pilgu on pööranud kõrvale Briti iseseisvuspartei UKIP liider Nigel Farage (paremal).

PHOTO: FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP

In his «State of the Union» address yesterday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stressed humane, economic and security reasons while receiving refugees while bringing a broader message: if from words – talking about solidarity and values – we switch not over to deeds, the European Union is in danger and a part of European values with it.

Plain and clear: the inflow isn’t about to cease and member states need to brace themselves for more. Since the year begun, close to 500,000 have made it to Europe. On top of the 40,000 announced in May, 120,000 additional ones will have to be relocated. That makes 160,000.

To add a context: in 1949, Western Europe featured about a million refugees, about 70,000 of these Estonians. Back then, Europe made it. Why not now, when dozens of times wealthier?

The broader contemporary context: the commission-admission that words ain’t enough equals a realisation that the stands taken thus far – diplomatic and convenient – have proven insufficient. For Europe, quite a statement. A vast part of European politics has been words, formulations of general developments to then get shaped into decisions – which worked in times more peaceful. Rules based, the EU has managed with words. Slowly-slowly yet surely.  

It’s different this time. The refugees are here right now, and need help right now. It’s like a fire. When the house is burning, a family isn’t holding discussions but goes by default – save the people, talk later.

Understandably, the act-not-talk situation comes with hazards. Firstly, for centuries debate has been a pillar for modern European values and to give it up is unthinkable. In the member states, the debate must go on and all parties must have a say. Which will not mean that prior steps aren’t taken to rescue lives.

Secondly, the question always remains if the act-then-talk situation will not be used for various political forces.

But there’s another aspect – the one outside the block. The crisis spots. Perhaps, it’s time to shift the mainly bureaucratic union towards a front more united to deal with root causes?

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