Illegal migration has become an existential question for Europe’s institutions. The marathon European Council summit on 28 June was evidence of this; European leaders struggled to summon domestic and international support for a viable solution.
The panic is clear. Last month, the grim story of the Aquarius – a ship carrying 629 migrants from the shores of Libya to Europe – gripped European media, even while major world events such as the extraordinary meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, and the debut of the FIFA World Cup in Russia were going on.
The refusal of several European governments to receive the coastguard ship, with its guests aboard, led to this new European crisis and a vociferous exchange of words at the top level between Rome, Paris and Madrid. This was followed by political flailing in Berlin, triggered by a conflict with Chancellor Merkel’s coalition partners over, again, the question of migration
While the Aquarius was docking in Spain, Frontex reported a huge decrease in illegal migration to Europe, perhaps intended to calm anxious voters. European officials are scrambling to proclaim the end of the largest migrant crisis since the end of the Second World War.