Western Balkan and Central European leaders meet to discuss the refugee crisis and the route to freedom on October 25, 2015. An agreement on a 17-point system is only the beginning of an overtaxed region.
Winter's approaching in the European Union and that means a look at the refugee crisis from a new, more dire humanitarian angle for the Balkan Summit.
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Leaders from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia met on Sunday, October 25, 2015 to discuss the refugee crisis rocking the EU.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attended, along with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. Guterres was a former prime minister of Portugal and now focuses on the human rights of the refugees landing daily on European soil.
At a press conference after the meeting, German Chancellor Merkel and Juncker continuously noted the crisis was not a single nation’s problem, but the entire union’s problem to solve. Fair-burden weighed heavily on the politician when speaking to the press. Given the estimated number of over 800,000 refugees choosing to stay in Germany by the end of the year, equal distribution of resources makes sense.
Merkel also pointed out that the current crisis is the hardest test the European Union has faced since inception. While many nations build borders and walls, others are required to take in the rejected refugees due to policy and general human empathy for others.
A 17-point agreement was reached where the Western Balkan route transforms into a more orderly, defined trail for refugees to traverse. One of the most important regulations requires nations on the route to not push the travelers into the next region until the designated time. The idea is to create a system where safety is not just in travel but also shelter.
Leaders all agreed to implement the EU Civil Protection Mechanism as necessary; as well as coordinate with the UNHRC when supplies and additional support are needed. Support may include funds from the the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Development Bank of the Council of Europe.
Juncker believes that no registration means no rights while Guterres holds the idea that refugees are fundamentally given access due to circumstance. All leaders agreed that a biometric data system was in the best interest. Due to safety during travel, the data may prove helpful in case of accident or criminal activity towards a refugee.
In a final statement, the European leaders believe that “only a determined, collective cross-border approach in a European spirit, based on solidarity, responsibility, and pragmatic cooperation between national, regional and local authorities can succeed. Unilateral action may trigger a chain reaction. Countries affected should therefore talk to each other." In order words: neighbors need to communicate regularly and with the council in the best approach for success.
By strengthening borders between nations, such as Greece and Macedonia, the UNHCR and EU hope to help transition along Albania as well. Frontex will be the main enforcement system used. However, if a refugee refuses to submit to international protection, then the person will not be allowed to enter a third country.
Easier assignment of visas and using the EU-Turkey Action Plan have been set up to avoid the use of smugglers—a reason many refugees die in mid-transit or are stuck in Turkey after supplying large amounts of money. Europol, Frontex and Interpol will work to create safer routes for the refugees while attempting to catch human traffickers and smugglers. The High Commissoner continuously noted the need during the presser.
Politico Europe points out that while not everyone agreed to speak to media, like Hungarian Prime MinisterViktor Orbán, at least dialogue fractionally opened up. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović seemed side with Orbán, telling the media, “I came to discuss, not to adopt a joint conclusion, which leads nowhere."
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić spoke to the press after the first summit meeting. “I’m not sure that we’re going to conclude something that would be very helpful immediately but I’m sure that at least we understood each other and we’ll be ready to take actions jointly in the future."
Tina Strefela, spokesman for Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar, agreed that "what matters is delivery" and keeping promises. “We need leaders to stick to the political commitments agreed upon, and that has to start tomorrow.”
Additionally, the EU will make use of all tech available in communicating with documented refugees and migrants. Communications include translators as well.
Google recently added Arabic to their visual sign program, allowing a translation of German and/or English into the language. The app also prevents a battery drain in a situation with irregular charging opportunities. Refugees often use phones to communicate to families, smugglers, and other refugees. Apps like Google Maps help enhance route and transportation lines.
According to Al Jazeera, the Critical Info Hub is an open-source program set to enable refugees to learn about the Greek island Lesbos. More information will be updated as volunteers translate the necessary text. Information that is extremely important in the face of nearly 48,000 refugees landing in just 5 days. Overtaxed systems welcome the aid.
“Unlike some other disasters, this was one where many of the people in dire need already have phones and are used to using phones to get information," Director Jacquelline Fuller told CNN Money.
According to the network, Google.org, the humanitarian and philanthropic arm of the juggernaut, donates over $100 a million year to charities and organizations. The $11 million raised for the refugee crisis in just 48 hours last month has already been used as quick funds in Jordan and Lebanon, as well adding the technological advancements, while working with the UN Refugee Agency.
The opportunity to give money directly to those in need is “very rare,” yet it also gives options “to make decisions on how to spend it.” While Google is no longer matching donations, the corporation still encourages donations to charities in need.
Merkel avoided questions on how the leaders plan on making the system work; instead saying that the details of accountability will be settled at a later date. As a first step, the summit members hope to build a strong front in the face of extreme adversity. Concerns over rising conservativism in face of trouble may worry some EU citizens, but only time will tell if the actions and recommendations in the latest meeting will work.