While the number of refugees making their way to Europe continues to climb, European Union leaders are still discussing how to differentiate between who is a refugee and who is a migrant.

What is more, some member states are raising questions about religion, refusing to accept those who are Muslim. As for the far-rightists, they are exploiting the anti-migrant sentiment rising in many European societies, including those in which citizens in the past had also fled. These are mainly the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, which have no experience with multiculturalism as the rest of European democracies have had over the past decades.

However, the existence of numerous cultures and a large population of first- and second- generation migrants have had an important impact on European economies and on the formation of the common European idea.

What remains is that there are many policies concerning the refugee crisis in Europe and even more interpretations about what the European Idea is all about.

It has now become an acceptable projection that new waves of refugees and migrants will knock the doors of Europe in the not-so-distant future, while the arrivals never stopped.

Meanwhile, Russia’s intervention in Syria has only complicated the situation. Assad’s regime is grossly responsible for the huge numbers of Syrian refugees. Assad has followed a policy of total destruction by bombing campaigns aimed at the annihilation of every area considered to be controlled by the democratic opposition.

Islamic State’s invasion did the rest. By persecuting religious minorities, as well as non-fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, it created additional numbers of refugees. Also, collaborating with organised crime rings, Islamic State also works alongside human trafficking and is engaged in the lucrative business of transporting migrants from Africa and South Asia to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Russian bombs, which also hit unarmed civilian population, will now add new refugees to the existing waves.

In addition, as we experienced during the last period, of the Syrian crisis is mainly a European problem and not a Russian one.

Back in Europe, however, there is a sense that the major concern is how and where to distribute the refugees. Since these efforts are divisive, it is no exaggeration to think that the situation in the near future will only get worse.

Financial discipline of the EU member states was a major concern in previous years. Now the biggest threat for European cohesion is coming from a not-so-well calculated danger. The refugee and migrant waves are the real threat to the very existence of the European Union.

The reason for this is because they are testing how well the notion of the European Idea is understood by every single member state, their political leaderships and their societies. The total lack of solidarity, as shown by many Central and Eastern European democracies during the last months, and the emergence of an even greater anti-European sentiment among their populations, has pushed the EU into a difficult corner. 

How will the European Union, as an institution, act to prevent the coming threat? Is there any precise idea about what actions need to be taken in Syria?

Considering what has happened in Afghanistan, where a destroyed Taliban movement in 2001 has re-emerged and now threatens the very existence of the Afghan state. This should be a lesson.

The European Union’s next move in Syria must be well calculated and it must include a plan for the future of the region. Above all, it must be based on a common policy agreed on by all European member states.

No national foreign policy must become an obstacle to the efforts of a bigger entity, such as the EU and its peoples. A common policy inspired by a common idea is what Europe needs today.