European Migrant Crisis: Action

Stick and Carrot: Riding the Donkey

My humble recommendation for EU policymakers regarding the migrant crisis is as follows.

  • Maintain a system of quotas so that even entirely recalcitrant member-states are obligated to help out to some extent.
  • Provide a smaller, separate subsidy for the countries bearing the bulk of initial asylum claims.
  • Maintain the proposal for a 10,000 euro subsidy for accepted migrants. Work to educate the European public on the economic benefits of refugees. Allow member states to claim the subsidy for all accepted migrants, including those under 18 and those they are mandated by quotas to take in.
  • Allocate subsidies for each migrant on a 5-year basis. Each year the subsidy should drop by 2000 euros. The goal for each member state should be to have migrants fully integrated by the end of the 5 years, with the diminishing subsidies being a strong incentive to allow migrants to conduct economically beneficial activity.
  • Disallow migrants from collecting benefits or seeking unemployment anywhere but their host country for the duration of the subsidies.
Migrants in Sicily, 2015. Courtesy of Nicholas Pinaut.


Passing any unified set of policies is difficult in an institution as byzantine as the European Union (which is better understood as a variety of overlapping institutions working in tandem). As democratic legitimacy-something the EU has a serious deficit of-is always important in instituting such wide-reaching policies, the only feasible way I see to institute a plan such as the one outlined above is to do so with referenda, much in the same fashion as the EU generally passes major constitutional changes.

As EU mandarins-and David Cameron-have repeatedly discovered to their immense chagrin, referenda concerning the EU often become messy proxy wars over domestic issues, even without throwing a volatile topic like immigration in to the mix. To credibly assuage worries from the right and from leaders of V4 and other migrant-skeptic countries, they must be provided assurance that migrants will be heavily encouraged to assimilate to at least a certain degree. Disallowing accepted migrants from seeking work or collecting benefits outside of their host country for the duration of the subsidies would be difficult, but would provide more needed assurance to skeptics.

Speaking of the same V4 countries-and of any less developed Union member-providing uniform subsidies across the EU would allow countries with a lower cost-of-living to profit more from allowing migrants in. Given that it is generally cheaper to clothe, feed, house, and tend to someone in Budapest than in Brussels, even with variance in the effectiveness of national integration schemes we could still expect to see a significant competitive advantage in hosting migrants for less developed or generally less wealthy member nations. Eastern European nations in particular are already experiencing difficulties with brain drain, as young people flock west.

Ultimately while there will never be a perfect solution to such a massive, hydra-headed problem, I still believe a strong subsidy scheme that incentivizes nations to host migrants-rather than simply trying to help them afterwards-would be an excellent path forward for the EU. Beyond simply staunching the open wound that has so far been the EU’s collective migration and border policy, a robust subsidy scheme would create massive growth in currently under-served corners of Europe.

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