The Fire Forging Europe

STOCKHOLM – In 2003, when the European Union drafted its first security strategy, the continent’s citizens lived in a seemingly safe world. Indeed, the document’s opening sentence confidently proclaimed that “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free.” The EU’s foreign policy in its immediate neighborhood was focused on creating “a ring of friends,” from Morocco to Russia and the Black Sea.

Today, the outlook could not be more different. The continent’s leaders are struggling to respond to a world that, in the words of a recent policy document, “has become more dangerous, divided, and disorienting.” The EU finds itself surrounded by a ring of fire, not of friends, with hundreds of thousands of people crossing its borders to escape the inferno.

In the east, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has driven some two million people from their homes – more than were displaced by the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina two decades ago. Meanwhile, the horrific violence in Syria and disorder in North Africa have resulted in a sharp rise in the number of refugees, sparking talk of yet another crisis in the EU.

To be sure, the challenge is hardly unique to Europe. What the media portrays as a tidal wave is, in reality, little more than a trickle. The vast majority of those who have fled the carnage in Syria live in camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Indeed, at least ten Turkish cities are now home to more refugees than original inhabitants, and more Syrian refugees are living in Istanbul than in all the EU countries combined.