Eastern EU’s role in the Refugee Crisis

The idea that the West is to blame for the current wave of refugees is widespread in the Eastern part of the EU, with the US invasion of Iraq and Germany’s alleged decision to invite Syrians into Europe seen as key events of the unfolding crisis.

Czech president Miloš Zeman said last year that “the immigration wave is rooted in the crazy idea to invade Iraq […] [T]hen there was the crazy idea to make order in Libya, then the same in the case of Syria.”[…] “The responsibility for the wave of refugees lies precisely on those whose silly actions provoked this wave”

A similar thought was uttered by Slovak prime-minister Robert Fico around the same time when he said: “I only have one question: Who bombed Libya? Who created problems in North Africa? Slovakia? No.”.

It is a classic expression of the “victims of history” motif, so dear in these parts, but on closer scrutiny, it holds little water.


Eastern EU states have actually been willing actors in the destabilization of Iraq with Poland actively participating alongside the United States in the Iraq invasion, while most other countries supporting the invasion and later participating in the occupation. The Eastern flank of the EU acted in Syria too, both diplomatically – by recognizing the Syrian Opposition as legitimate – and militarily, by providing military aid to anti-ISIL factions. Romania and Bulgaria also participated in the UN-sanctioned anti-Ghaddafi campaign of 2011, which ultimately lead to a politically fractured Libya unable to stop trans-Mediterranean migrant smuggling, and the entrenchment of ISIL in some areas of Central and Eastern Libya.

While I do not oppose the interventions themselves (with the exception of the original Iraq invasion), I do have great issue with the demonstrably false narrative that the Eastern EU states are victims of Western geopolitical action, and not willing participants themselves. It is profoundly incorrect to benefit from close collaboration with US adventures abroad (the cooperation during the Iraq War was very beneficial in obtaining the American good will necessary for NATO membership), yet shun the responsibilities when the chickens come home to roost.

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