THE BLOG
23/09/2015 07:43 BST | Updated 21/09/2016 06:12 BST

Europe's Migrant Crisis: The Region's Past, Present, and Future

Consider the word "crisis" in the modern world. Which would be the first geographical region that comes to your mind when you think about "crisis"? Maybe not Europe? At least, perhaps not until recent months, when the region became plagued with two major crises -- the financial one caused by our Greek friends, and the currently trending news item, the migrant crisis.

Consider the word "crisis" in the modern world. Which would be the first geographical region that comes to your mind when you think about "crisis"? Maybe not Europe? At least, perhaps not until recent months, when the region became plagued with two major crises -- the financial one caused by our Greek friends, and the currently trending news item, the migrant crisis.

A number of questions are impatiently awaiting responses. What caused this crisis? What are Europe's political incentives in helping the migrants? How will European culture alter in the near future, when the migrants and their children settle down and take up a remarkable portion of each country's population? What might the region's future look like?

To examine the present plight, one should return to the region's past to find underlying reasons why some European countries are so keen on assisting the torrent of migrants despite the potentially negative ramifications that the sheer number of people flooding into the nations' respective territories on a daily basis could cause.

Human rights would be an obvious and important reason. With the current international system in place for decades, European nation states can hardly shut the doors to the refugees bluntly under the watchful eyes of the international community, transnational organizations, and civil society in general. The bureaucratization of the European Union itself marked a significant period in history; this would connect to the international relations theory of neoliberalism: that to individual states, absolute gains are always greater than relative gains. The international society must act together to maximize mutual interests, and that cooperation begets more cooperation, and existing trust fosters further trust and subsequently, fruitful collaborations. The very structure of the European Union relies on path dependency -- the history of the Union had created an existing structure that would be hard to alter.

Such structure requires members to act as one and unite to resolve issues together. Unfortunately, countries like Hungary have already tightened border control laws and digressed from the quotas to cope with their individual lack of capacity to host more immigrants. Presently, less developed countries (particularly Eastern European states) like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia have approved asylum applications at a rate lower than the quota, whilst Sweden, Germany, Greece and other countries have been approving asylum applications at a rate higher than the quota. The situation hardly seems sustainable. Given that the existing political structure of the European Union distributes power unevenly and members often find it difficult to truly unite due to their self-interests, it may be difficult to impose quotas on each member state efficiently and equitably.

Another incentive might be the very sense of remorse some European countries have experienced due to their past. Consider what the historians describe as the "early modern" period in European history. How many Jews and Muslims were expelled and punished for their identity, say, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella around the 15th century? Looking back at the continent's more recent history over the last few decades, one may see how Germany has clearly demonstrated its wish to alter its image from its World War II atrocities by proving its leadership position in humanitarian and financial aid through its concrete actions.

It is still hard to say what the immediate future would look like for the continent. Europe has been making sacrifices in terms of the migrant crisis, but how long can these sacrifices last without diminishing individual nations' sovereignty? Hopefully, we could learn a lesson or two from the region's past to inform its present and future.