EU President Herman Van Rompuy said during an interview on Sunday that the danger of migration to Europe should not be exaggerated and that European migration treaties, including the Schengen agreement, need to be respected. He said “[t]here is of course a migration danger, but do not overdo it.” (“Interrogé sur l’existence d’un danger migratoire lié à l’afflux de migrants depuis le début des révoltes dans le monde arabe, M. Van Rompuy a répondu : ‘Il y a bien sûr un danger migratoire mais il ne faut pas l’exagérer’, lors d’une émission d’une émission commune de la chaîne TV5Monde, la radio RFI et du journal Le Monde.”) In regard to the Schengen agreement, he said “[n]either Italy nor France, until now, has done anything illegal. That said, there is a danger of not respecting the spirit of the Schengen Treaty…” (“Ni l’Italie, ni la France, jusqu’à présent, n’ont fait quelque chose d’illégal. Ceci dit, il y a un danger de ne pas respecter l’esprit du traité de Schengen…”)
Van Rompuy’s remarks are consistent with Jose Manuel Barroso’s statements last week reported by the EU Observer regarding the danger of the “immigration debate being hijacked by ‘populist and extremist’ forces in Europe.” Barroso was quoted as saying “I don’t think it is in the interest of third countries [such as Tunisia] that there is a debate in Europe on such sensitive issues and that certain populist, extremist forces seek to take advantage of these problems.”
We got a small taste of the populist forces at work with yesterday’s results in Finland’s parliamentary elections and the strong third place showing of the True Finns led by Timo Soini. While the True Finns are currently focused more on blocking the Portuguese financial bailout, anti-immigrant sentiments within the party are strong.