What are the causes of this phenomenon? First and foremost, wars and armed conflicts. In Syria and Iraq 400,000 people lost their lives in five years of vicious fighting. Millions were driven from their homes by incessant bombing. The countries that bear the heaviest burden are Lebanon (1 million refugees), Jordan (1.2 million refugees) and Turkey (2 million refugees). Almost a million have already crossed the Aegean Sea on their way to the European Union. The EU Member States have therefore adopted significantly stricter asylum laws, set up coast guard and border protection forces, they have concluded readmission treaties with third countries (Turkey) or are in the process of negotiating such treaties (Afghanistan, Egypt, Maghreb). Tens of thousands of people are fleeing from fighting in Yemen. The dramatic battle over Aleppo and the beginning offensive against the so-called Islamic State in Mosul will generate further refugee flows. It is tragic that the regional and global actors have not yet succeeded in finding a peaceful solution. To be quite clear, we should not expect a military solution to any of these conflicts. It is irresponsible to wait for the region to bleed to death. The long-term consequences are going to be disastrous – the brain drain, ethnic and cultural conflicts and tensions, the failure to achieve sustainable integration. The emergence of populist movements in defense of national sovereignty and identity is directly related to this development. These movements reject globalization, they put into question international institutions and international law.
Opinion polls in Germany show how sensitive this issue is. More than two thirds of those questioned feel that the inflow of refugees, increasing xenophobia and possible terrorist attack seriously endanger the development of the country. An even greater threat is perceived (by 77%) to come from radical Islamist groups. A positive solution is expected, above all, from the European Union – between 80% and 90% of those questioned expect the EU member states to cooperate more closely in matters of refugee policy, in the fight against organized crime and terrorism. Similar opinions are expressed in other countries.
This is happening against the background of the enormous military build-up of recent years. China’s military spendings have increased by almost 10% annually over the past decade; the USA has doubled its military presence in the Pacific region; Russia has increased and modernized its armed forces. The root cause of these alarming developments is the erosion of global order and the massive arms build-up by the major powers. Syria is but a foretaste of things to come – of what the new world (dis)order might be like. Where are those that are forward-looking and insightful enough not to allow the ultimate disaster to occur?