Thursday 23 April, the European summit on the question of refugees gathered leaders David Cameron, Angela Merkel and François Hollande in Brussels. A decision was made by leaders on what to do with the 3 million Syrians fleeing their country, victims of the civil war – ISIS and Assad’s regime tyranny. Whereas France agreed shyly to welcome 500 to 700 of them, Germany has already opened its doors to more than 70,000 Syrians. Although France’s contribution can be deemed modest if not hypocritical, Britain did not do much better. As a matter of fact David Cameron did worst, declaring he was not ready to welcome any of them. It is as though he forgot Britain signed the Geneva Conventions in 1949, and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, engaging each signatory to consider asylum demands from war refugees.
This, however, is nothing new. Some might say Great Britain’s Prime Minister – or Tory candidate for the general election next week – is panicking at the idea that he might be thrown out of 10 Downing Street by the “not-so-prime-ministerial” Ed Miliband. Essentially, he wants to scrape votes from Eurosceptics within Conservative voters and UKIP sympathisers. Yes, that may well be so. It is even more likely given the fact that he has pledged to introduce a referendum bill within 100 days was he to be re-elected.
Or, it may well be that David Cameron has no idea what being European means. If Europe is one of the issues in this election and 70 per cent of Britons want a referendum, it is not for good reasons. Britain feels like it is investing too much in the EU, and is not getting enough out of it. Yet, the problem is that the UK has never really shown enthusiasm at being a member of the EU. All it wants is to benefit from it. Just look at the whereabouts – or the where-he-should-have-been-about of the PM. Where was Mr Cameron when Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko were negotiating with Vladimir Putin on the ceasefire in Ukraine? Where was he when France and Germany decided to massively fund Greece so that it could repay its debts? Where was he when the rest of Europe was pledging to participate to Triton’s rescue mission?
The answer is: nowhere to be seen. Because David Cameron wants to be re-elected PM and he would rather spend time saving his own skin than Europe’s. Peace in Ukraine, people dying in the Mediterranean whilst seeking a better life, asylum seekers; all that doesn’t appeal to him because it does not serve Britain’s best interests. To him, Britain’s best interest would be to increase exchanges with the USA, without the constraints imposed by the EU. The sad reality is that Cameron does not get what it means to be European, because he is British and liberalist first. In France, we have a saying that applies particularly well here: “He wants the butter and the money of the butter with it.”
Yes, Europe is not at its best at the moment and it is in dire need of help, but it needs Britain to be saved. However, it does not seem likely to happen if its PM hides whenever he is needed. What if the question of this election was not what can Europe do for Britain, but what can Britain do for Europe? It certainly would not hurt to care a bit more…