When a sports team is in trouble on the pitch, the coach calls a time-out so he can instruct the team and rethink the strategy. And a time-out is exactly what PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has called with his establishment of border control around the kingdom.

Following suit
Firstly towards Sweden – that most liberal of havens that accepted 180,000 refugees and migrants in 2015. The saying goes that where there is a heart there is also room, but the Swedes bit off more than they could chew. The political harmony is gone and the National Democrats in Sweden were so successful that it was obvious the Swedes could not tolerate any more and demanded a stop to the inflow of refugees and migrants.

Denmark had to follow suit. In 2015, it acted as a stepping stone for people en route to Sweden. The former, and certainly the present, government tried austerity measures, including advertising in Lebanese papers, with a view to discouraging refugees from seeking asylum in Denmark. Still, we got several thousand and are now sheltering some of them in tent camps.

Oiling the hinges
Germany, with more than 1 million arrivals in 2015, has also called a time-out on its southeastern borders. Now it’s seeing the first measures in the north – on the border it shares with Denmark. Random controls are being instituted and old gates are being oiled to make them easier to pull shut.

Everybody knows that the EU’s external borders need to be in a working condition. A lot of desperate people have for years tried to cross from Africa to Italy – heartbreaking as many drown when the makeshift vessels they are on capsize.

A temporary measure
Crossing over from war-torn Syria to Turkey and then to the EU via a Greek island – and there are a lot of them – has opened the gates for more than 1.5 million people in 2015, with another 2- million waiting in Turkey and Lebanon. Do we really believe that we can stop this? No way! To believe it is possible to stop the inflow is overly optimistic. People are too desperate and the willing traffickers are too clever.

The point is that a time-out is only a temporary measure to restore order. It may work – but however necessary it is to create order, is it only a short respite. The real challenge is to reduce the inflow into the EU and that is not possible without a general effort from the EU.

Liberally fragile
We have now seen how fragile a liberal system is when caught off balance – and the lesson is that a time-out is a handy tool, but it takes much more than that to prevent repetition. The irony is that Europe needs millions of immigrants per year to make up for the low reproduction rate in most EU countries.

The civil war in Syria has to be stopped and IS has to be eliminated. Economic development and reconstruction in the Middle East and Africa has to start.  While we catch our breath in the time-out, we should focus on long-term reconstruction there and integration here. We dare to state that the integration of a new citizen in Europe is much cheaper than resettlement elsewhere – it may even be profitable.

Then we start dealing with the real issues. Integrated people can over time go back and be instrumental in rebuilding their countries. Hopefully we only need a brief time-out and some international co-operation to cure the disease and not only the symptoms.

Happy new year.