The pressure placed by the migrant crisis on Europe’s commitment to free movement was laid bare on our front page yesterday with a map highlighting the states that have reintroduced some form of border controls.
For months, EU officials have gone through the familiar practice of holding a meeting and announcing an agreement on the need for a united response.
What that response will look like, and how member states will adopt it, remains to be seen.
Solidarity is easy in the good times, but comes with a political cost when the continent actually needs to draw on it. The mass movement of people is not the only crisis to reveal the limitations of pan-European decision making.
Time and again, whether during financial turmoil or Greek bailout dramas, the ideal of EU governance has taken a backseat to the views of national parliaments.
This reality frustrates the advocates of ever-closer union, and inevitably leads to calls for “more Europe”.
Today, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s adds its voice to those concerned by the lack of a co-ordinated response to the migrant crisis.
The guardians of sovereign credit ratings say that the magnitude of the problem now poses a direct risk to the credit worthiness of nation states.
However, it’s not the number of people entering Europe that causes them concern.
Indeed, they believe that the continent can easily absorb the numbers without a negative effect on economies or budgets.
Instead, it’s the lack of a Europe-wide political solution that now endangers sovereign ratings.
“The biggest uncertainty for sovereign ratings involves Europe’s inability to find cooperative solutions to this challenge,” it warns. As far as S&P is concerned, failure to handle this crisis suggests an inability to handle future shocks, too.
The truth is that the nation state is not yet as dead as some federalists would like it to be. Domestic politics and national parliaments, archaic as they may appear to some, still shape a state’s reaction to external threats and crises.
Europe certainly needs to work together in finding both short- and long-term solutions to the challenge posed by mass migration, but once again, for better or for worse, the primacy of the nation state is revealed by a crisis.