Face it, folks. The EU doesn’t give a toss

Never mind that anyone with any real knowledge of Libya tried warning them all that this would spell unmitigated disaster for both Libya and the entire Mediterranean region: including Gaddafi himself, who in his last televised interview warned Europe that the choice was between himself and Armageddon

The few bodies that were found of the hundreds of migrants who perished in Saturday night's capsize were brought to Malta on Monday for burial
The few bodies that were found of the hundreds of migrants who perished in Saturday night's capsize were brought to Malta on Monday for burial

Ever notice how the moment some terrible tragedy occurs on our doorstep – i.e., several times each year for the past six or seven years, without exception, with a death toll that now compares with the worst genocidal atrocities of history – our national reaction here in Malta is always the same? 

Predictable as clockwork, we all collectively turn our heads northwards and howl at the European Union across the Sicilian channel: demanding that it miraculously solve the problem once and for all, with a wave of its magic wand. 

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve witnessed manifestations of this superstitious belief over the past decade. For it is indeed beginning to resemble a superstition: a primal, irrational and utterly unshakable faith in the European Union’s superhuman powers… for all the world as though the EU really could solve this problem, if only it wanted to. 

Well, here’s a small surprise for you all. It can’t. And it doesn’t want to, either. And it has pretty much told us this to our faces, each year, without fail, every single time we’ve ever asked. At one point, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom even came here to spell it to us in no uncertain terms. She told us all, loud and clear, to just shut up and stop pestering the EU about a bunch of Africans dying on its doorstep. 

‘We don’t give a toss about poor black people drowning in the Mediterranean,’ she said at a press conference. ‘When are you nitwits going to finally get this into your thick heads?’

OK, OK, she might have used slightly different words. Things like: ‘Frontex II won’t replace Mare Nostrum’ or ‘I am personally disappointed by the lack of co-operation shown by member states’... but we all know how to interpret typical Brussels technocratic jargon when we need to.  What Malmstrom really meant was clear as daylight, and we all know it. The EU actually wants more people to drown in the Mediterranean. That’s the whole point: more people drowning means fewer people actually making it to the European mainland. And what, after all, is the declared objective of Europe’s entire immigration policy? To save lives, or to control borders?

It’s to control borders, dumbass. So the more people drown, the more successfully Europe’s borders will have been controlled. Not really all that difficult to understand, is it?

But oh look. More people drown, just as the EU has all along intended, and what happens? Once again those idiotic Maltese people – the ones who just don’t get it, no matter how often and how blatantly things are spelt out to them – turn to the EU and demand ‘action’. I mean, for Frontex’s sake. What, exactly, does the EU have to do to get us to accept the reality that IT WILL NOT DO ANYTHING because IT DOES NOT WANT TO DO AYTHING? Tattoo it on our foreheads? Imprint it onto our subconscious with a microchip insert, linked directly to the central information database in Brussels?

And besides: with a few exceptions here and there – like humanitarian NGOs, which have often suggested workable, pragmatic solutions, only to be laughed out of the Berlaymont building altogether – nobody ever specifies what sort of ‘action’ they have in mind. 

What can the EU do, anyway? Let us, for argument’s sake, assume that the European Union genuinely did give a toss about poor black people drowning (yes, yes, I know it doesn’t, and that it is patently ridiculous to argue otherwise, when the same EU also upholds the policies responsible for those deaths in the first place… but hey, it’s an argument, so let’s assume it anyway). How can it stop such tragedies from occurring?

Our prime minister has a couple of ideas, it would seem. He suggested that the EU should ‘stabilise’ Libya. Sadly, Joseph Muscat didn’t specify exactly how this might be achieved in practice. Perhaps the EU should send in its non-existent army to serve as an imaginary peace-keeping force in the region. But that’s the problem with imaginary armies, you know. They keep coming up against real ones; and for some obscure reason, real-life militants wielding real weapons always seem to trump non-existent European soldiers every single time, no matter how many millions of them you deploy… 

And just to compound the teenie-weenie logistical problem that the EU doesn’t have a centralised military presence of any kind… well, the EU doesn’t even have a common foreign policy, either. To date it has been impossible for the EU to forge anything resembling internal consensus on such issues as Libya (still less Syria, Iraq, or even Russia), beyond ‘European Parliamentary resolutions’ that we all know from recent political experience are kind of meaningless anyway. 

Stability certainly cannot be forced onto a warzone (as Libya has effectively become) by means of a parliamentary resolution that everyone and his dog always ignores anyway. Only force – military force – can achieve the sort of stability Muscat clearly has in mind. And it is the one card that is missing from the EU’s deck at the moment.  

Nor is this the only detail that seems to have escaped our collective attention. We seem to have somehow failed to notice that the European Union is not exactly very good at solving its own internal problems… still less those of the rest of the world. 

Take the euro debt crisis, for instance. You know, the one that was engineered by the same EU, when it simply accepted member states such as Greece without bothering to actually verify their submitted accounts. Now: just imagine Greece was an ordinary citizen (as opposed to a country) trying to take out a bank loan (instead of joining a single currency zone). Would any bank in its right mind merely take Mr Greece’s word for it, when he claimed a salary of X drachmas after tax each month? Or would the bank insist on (at minimum) a recent paycheque, among countless other documents to prove his financial reliability as a mortgage-holder?

But of course Greece is a country, not a person, so the ordinary rules of common sense do not seem to apply. So the EU took Greece on trust (and Italy, and Spain, and France, etc.) when it claimed to be ‘rolling in money’. And when, inevitably, it turned out that Greece was actually rolling in its own financial grave instead… how did the EU propose to solve that problem? It appointed Jean-Claude Juncker – i.e., the same man responsible for admitting Greece, as the architect of the eurozone – as its new Commissioner-in-Chief. 

That’s the equivalent of ‘you got us into this mess, now you get us out of it’. Can anyone be surprised, then, that we are not out of this particular mess yet?  

There is, however, one course of action the EU is rather good at when it comes to refugee crises. It’s very good at causing them. It was in fact a number of European countries which were responsible for creating the black hole of instability that Libya has now become. Countries such as Great Britain and France, for instance, both thought it would be a jolly good idea to lend all those nice friendly rebels a helping hand to oust Gaddafi from power in 2011. 

Never mind that anyone with any real knowledge of Libya tried warning them all that this would spell unmitigated disaster for both Libya and the entire Mediterranean region: including Gaddafi himself, who in his last televised interview warned Europe that the choice was between himself and Armageddon.

Easy choice for Europe, I suppose. We’ll take Armageddon, thank you very much. Not content with having created the conditions for the emergence of ISIS in the first place (by similarly destabilising Iraq in 2004), Britain evidently thought it was high time for another nasty evil dictator to be removed from power. To be replaced by what, exactly? Oh, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. And who cares if the last time the UK helped oust a dictator, the result was a 10-year protracted civil war, around a million civilian deaths, and the creation of an unprecedented refugee crisis all over the Middle Eastern region? This time, it would be different. This time, they’d get it right.

As for France, this particular European member state thought it would be ‘tres astucieux’ to just pepper Libya with weapons and munitions… parachuting them all over that enormous country, with scant regard for whose hands they actually fell into, and for what purpose they would eventually be used. As a result, the ISIS forces present in Libya have since been able to seize oilfields and airports, level towns and villages, and perpetrate untold atrocities upon civilians, using machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades generously donated to their cause by Monsieur Nicolas Sarkozy. 

This is, in fact, the only discernible ‘action’ the EU has ever taken with regard to the present refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. It first created the conditions for thousands upon thousands of people to flee Libya for their lives… then sat comfortably on its fat arse in Brussels, while all those people die horrible deaths trying to reach the same Europe that now looks the other way.

And we all still expect the EU to ‘do something’ about the refugee crisis? The less it does, it would seem, the better.

More in Blogs