Calls for stronger law enforcement and better security will lead to heightened surveillance measures across the continent. These will be denounced by human rights campaigners as putting civil liberties at risk, just as the EU’s recent deal with Turkey, aimed at stopping refugee flows, has been roundly denounced as a betrayal of European principles. These are no light matters: if values aren’t defended, then what is the EU all about? But Europe’s existential challenges have taken on such proportions that some compromises, however uncomfortable, may have become necessary.
After the bloodbaths in Brussels and Paris, it is obvious that security has become paramount; and after the scenes of refugees drowning at sea or stranded at barbed-wire fences, it is hard to deny that chaotic migration flows must urgently be stemmed. These are two distinct issues. But a key reason why they must both be approached with a new realism is that if swift measures aren’t taken, not only will more lives be threatened but Europe’s far-right and populist movements will end up dominating the continent.
Citizens’ lack of trust in the capacity of governments to get on top of problems is what fuels the growth of far-right parties. These, in turn, threaten Europe’s democratic fabric and social cohesion. If these movements continue proliferating, they will spell the end of the EU as a project, and possibly the end of stability and peace in our region.