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by: Katie Gartner

The conflict in Syria has led to a massive movement of refugees across the Mediterranean and through Turkey, all looking for similar destinations. Europe, seen as a land of opportunity, prosperity, and safety, has struggled in recent months to cope with this influx of migrants. Germany, fresh from dealing with the Greek economic crisis, initially promised free and open borders to migrants, with an overwhelming welcome in Munich. Unfortunately, they quickly realized that the standards established under the Schengen agreement, regarding unrestricted travel across the borders of European Union nations, were unsustainable due to the incredible numbers of migrants looking to settle in Germany. Many countries in central and southern Europe, like Serbia, Hungary, and Croatia, also began by accepting migrants with open arms, but quickly realized their inability to uphold their hospitable intentions.

In light of these political and economic issues, there are several questions to consider, questions that are the central focus of this blog post.

  • Does Europe’s “culture of guilt” as described by Christopher Caldwell in his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe influence the initial spirit of hospitality in many nations?
  • How much of the limitations placed on migrant movement result from a nation’s lack of capacity to accept migrants, and how much result from a centuries-old European fear of Islamic culture?
  • If barbed wire border fences are not a viable solution, but neither is continued acceptance of migrants, what should a nation’s course of action be?
  • Does the EU have a responsibility, given its relative peace and stability, to respond overwhelmingly to the tragedy on its shores and borders?
  • Western nations, like France and Germany, are likely to have a greater capacity to accept immigrants than their Balkan counterparts. Knowing France’s problems with outward expression of religious (especially Islamic) devotion, how would you recommend the French government proceed?
  • How will this migrant crisis shape a new European culture? In comparison to the Bosnian war in the 1990s, what will its impact be?

Having spent nearly half of my childhood in Belgium and Germany, these questions are plaguing me as I continue to read more and more articles on the migrant crisis. My father spent several months in both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine, and much like the problems surrounding Crimea that began in early 2014, this migrant crisis will indubitably have a profound impact on the continent that I called home. With this in mind, I hope to spend a few more blog posts exploring these questions and trying to justify my opinions or form new answers.