• Welcome to the Migration Update December 2022-January 2023. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Rick Slootweg drafted the cases for the Judicial Observatory. Claudia Masi supplied several information items. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Migration

    Migration Update December 2022-January 2023

    Migration Update

    31 Jan 2023

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    Welcome to the Migration Update November 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Rick Slootweg wrote up the cases for the Judicial Observatory. Thanks to Théo Larue for contributing a news item.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Migration

    Migration Update November 2022

    Migration Update

    30 Nov 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update October 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Migration

    Migration Update October 2022

    Migration Update

    31 Oct 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update September 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Davide Marcantoni provided material for the Judicial Observatory.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Crisis Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update September 2022

    Migration Update

    30 Sep 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update August 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Davide Marcantoni provided material for the Judicial Observatory.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update August 2022

    Migration Update

    31 Aug 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update July 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU-Russia Justice Migration

    Migration Update July 2022

    Migration Update

    29 Jul 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update June 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Davide Marcantoni and Ailbhe McNamara prepared the Judicial Observatory.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Crisis EU Member States Justice Migration

    Migration Update June 2022

    Migration Update

    30 Jun 2022

  • Streaming of our 3 panels of the second day of our sideline event in Rotterdam:

    1) Future Prospects for EU Migration and Refugee Policy Moderator: Vit Novotný, Senior Research Officer, Martens Centre Discussants: – Tasos Chatzivasileiou, MP, New Democracy (EPP), Greece, Secretary of the Standing Committee of National Defense and Foreign Affairs – Rasa Juknevičienė, MEP, TS-LKD, Lithuania

    2) A European Vision of Democracy Moderator: Federico Ottavio Reho, Senior Research Officer and Strategic Coordinator, Martens Centre Discussant: Roberta Metsola, President, European Parliament

    3) European Ambitions and Geopolitical Realities Moderator: Tomi Huhtanen, Executive Director, Martens Centre Discussants: – David McAllister, MEP, CDU, Germany, Vice-President, EPP – Frances Fitzgerald, MEP, Fine Gael, Ireland

    Vít Novotný Roberta Metsola Federico Ottavio Reho Tomi Huhtanen France Fitzgerald European People's Party European Union Migration

    EPP Congress – Day 2 Streaming

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    01 Jun 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update May 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU Member States EU-Russia European Union Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update May 2022

    Migration Update

    31 May 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update April 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to Davide Marcantoni for writing up the ECtHR court case for the judicial observatory.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Crisis EU-Russia European Union Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update April 2022

    Migration Update

    30 Apr 2022

  • Popular sentiments are crucial in how societies respond to immigration.

    Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the volume of refugee migration into the EU stagnated. The bloc’s share in hosting the world’s refugees had been declining since the peak of the bloc’s asylum and border crisis of 2015-16.

    There was also a general view that the bloc was closing itself off. This perception was more due to political rhetoric than reality. While refugee immigration constituted only a small part of overall EU immigration figures, the numbers of non-EU workers, students and family members of existing migrants reached the total of more than 20 million residence permits at the end of the pre-pandemic year 2019.

    The Kremlin’s assault against Ukraine has changed the perception of the EU as an insular entity, however incorrect that perception was.

    Ukraine’s desperate are now running for safety into the EU in the hundreds of thousands, creating the most intensive forced flight in human history when measured by the number of people crossing international borders in one month. The use of cars, buses and trains is making this flight possible, and so are the eastern members’ open borders.

    On 4 March 2022, the EU’s interior ministers voted to grant all Ukrainian refugees temporary protection in the bloc, providing a ‘blank check’ to an unlimited number of Ukrainians who might arrive in the EU before 4 March 2023. One’s presence in Ukraine on 24 February and having been displaced by conflict are the only conditions for the EU to provide legal protection.

    Absorption capacity, meaning the ability of a society to accept and accommodate people from another society, appears to have ballooned beyond all imagination. Whether Ukrainians will become well integrated in all the member states they are entering, remains to be seen.

    Absorption capacity and war

    In peacetime, the prospect of admitting 3.7 million people within a month would have caused unimaginable political conflicts between the EU’s members.

    Sentiments obviously play a decisive role in determining a society’s absorption capacity. War is turning out to evoke the strongest of sentiments.

    Before the war broke out, the EU’s eastern frontline states were often characterised in West European countries as inherently xenophobic. This characterisation was incorrect, but at least partly understandable due to the far-right rhetoric of a couple of the region’s leaders, as well as several members’ refusal to participate in the mandatory relocation scheme of 2015-17. This portrayal now seems out of time and out of touch.

    When Russian tanks began rolling into the previously unconquered areas of Ukraine, the Central and East Europeans’ response was instant, automatic and instinctive. ‘I want to help the victims of Russian aggression’ was a thought that galvanised the collective psyche without having to be communicated.

    The fact that Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Czechia and others are currently falling over themselves to welcome, accommodate, and assist refugees is impossible to miss. So is the abrupt transformation in rhetoric by the governments in question.

    How can we explain this change?

    Identification with the victims plays a major role. A comparison with the Syrian conflict can help us grasp this phenomenon. The Syrian conflict that began in 2011 was difficult to understand for the average European. Due to the conflict’s complexity and length, and due to the involvement of so many internal and external actors, it was difficult for Europeans, east Europeans including, to clearly identify the victims and develop compassion with them. In Ukraine, it is beyond doubt who the aggressor and the victim are. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees did not start arriving from Turkey until 2015, four years into the war. Ukrainian refugees started fleeing their country on the day that Russian rockets started landing.

    Also essential are the Central and East Europeans’ historical instincts. At different points in the twentieth century, people on today’s eastern flank of the EU, from Finland in the north to Romania in the south, became acquainted with Soviet tanks. With the important exception of defeating the Nazis in 1944-45, these tanks broke lives and crushed hopes. For four decades, these eastern countries were colonies of sorts of the Soviet Union, a Marxist-Leninist empire.

    So, when on 24 February Russian tanks began rolling into the previously unconquered areas of Ukraine, the Central and East Europeans’ response was instant, automatic and instinctive. ‘I want to help the victims of Russian aggression’ was a thought that galvanised the collective psyche without having to be communicated.

    Many Central and East Europeans also realise that in Putin’s messianic war, Ukraine represents freedom, prosperity and democracy and thus, Western civilisation. This is despite the many failings that Ukraine displayed as a state, including wide-spread corruption and cronyism. Along with feelings of helplessness and rage, Central and East Europeans are rationally acting in their own self-interest as they open their homes to Ukrainian families. They realise that Putin’s army poses a direct threat to the West and to their way of life.

    The fact that the vast majority of refugees are women and children also helps. Nobody could claim that a man is less worthy of protection than a woman is, and asylum law certainly contains no such clause. Still, it seems a trait of the human mind that people are readier to assist a mother with children than a man. The fact that most Ukrainian men are at home fighting the enemy only adds to the generally shared admiration of Ukraine and its people.

    Familiarity cannot be dismissed as a factor, either. Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians shared the same state with Ukrainians until 1990, the Soviet Union. Ukrainians have been the dominant immigrant group in Poland, Slovakia, and Czechia since the fall of communism began in 1989. The opening of visa-free access in 2017 only sped up the process of mutual familiarisation. Ukrainians have been among the fastest growing immigrant groups, not only in Central and Eastern Europe, but across the EU, for many years now. They tend to assimilate easily and are known to be hard workers. Linguistic, religious, and cultural proximity with the EU’s eastern flank is part of the equation.

    These factors are not exclusive to the EU’s eastern members and, with the exception of historical instincts, are present across the whole bloc. They are contributing to the steep increase in the EU’s absorption capacity, resulting in private homes being opened, public institutions mobilising their resources, and tens of thousands of volunteers helping on all possible fronts.

    The triggering of temporary protection allowed the EU to immediately respond to the influx, without the immediate need to debate intra-EU distribution. But given the mass of newcomers, problems with their reception and integration will, no doubt, occur at local, national, and European levels. The fact that some female Ukrainian refugees have already fallen victim to crime and abuse may be only a harbinger of things to come.  

    It is too early to draw conclusions on the implications of the Ukrainian influx for the EU immigration and asylum policy. What is clear is that the compassion of Europeans as well their self-interest in helping Ukraine to defeat Putin’s army has multiplied Europe’s absorption capacity to levels not seen for decades.

    Vít Novotný Central and Eastern Europe EU Member States Migration Ukraine

    Vít Novotný

    Ukrainian Refugees and the EU’s Absorption Capacity

    Blog - Ukraine

    06 Apr 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update March 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to Davide Marcantoni for selecting and writing up a court case for the judicial observatory, and Sandra Pasarić for suggesting a news item for this issue.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update March 2022

    Migration Update

    31 Mar 2022

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    Welcome to the Migration Update February 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments, and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to George Pepios for writing up the judicial observatory and to Wolfgang Pusztai for suggesting a news item for this issue.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU Member States EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update February 2022

    Migration Update

    28 Feb 2022

  • Rainer Münz Tomi Huhtanen Immigration Migration

    Can Migration Alone Solve Europe’s Demographic Crisis?

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    23 Feb 2022

  • Loredana Teodorescu Gender Equality Immigration Migration

    Women and Asylum in Europe

    Her and EU - Multimedia

    11 Feb 2022

  • Eleftheria Katsi EU-Russia Immigration Migration

    The Week in 7 Questions with Daniel Fried

    Multimedia - The Week in 7 Questions

    19 Nov 2021

  • Eleftheria Katsi Rainer Münz Immigration Migration

    The Week in 7 Questions with Rainer Münz

    Multimedia - The Week in 7 Questions

    15 Oct 2021

  • Vít Novotný Tomi Huhtanen Harald Christian Scheu Vladimír Šimoňák Immigration Migration

    The Refugee Convention: Does it still matter?

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    14 Oct 2021

  • This time we bring you EPP Group Greek MEP Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou! She answer about the summer season for European tourism, migration, Turkey, Belarus, and the Transatlantic Relations, among other things.

    Roland Freudenstein Immigration Migration Transatlantic relations

    The Week in 7 Questions with Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou

    Multimedia - The Week in 7 Questions

    28 May 2021

  • Long ago (35 years), on the First of January 1986, Spain and Portugal joined the European Union – the EEC as it was known back then – thereby completing the integration of Western Europe. With this accession, the 12-membered club reached a significant geographical milestone: being present in continental Africa, thanks to the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

    With 18.5 square kilometres and 84,000 inhabitants, Ceuta has been part of Spain since 1580 and was previously part of the Portuguese crown for over 150 years. Melilla is 12.3 square kilometres, has roughly 87,000 inhabitants, and joined Spain in 1497. Since the 15th and 16th centuries, Europe has seen many changes and so have Ceuta and Melilla. The only constant has been their belonging to Spain and, therefore, to Europe.

    Today, these cities present a challenge for the Union’s borders and migration policy like no other EU territory. They are the only two physical borders we have with the Sahel, one of the main origins of illegal migration and refugees, along with the Middle East. For years, tens of thousands of migrants from Western Africa have reached the EU by jumping the fence between Spain and Morocco, or swimming to the cities’ beaches. What we saw on television the past few days is nothing new to the residents of Ceuta or Melilla, nor is the accompanying blackmail from the Moroccan authorities.

    For instance, every time the Moroccan government or its Monarchy have had a window of opportunity, they have used border control and migrants as leverage to obtain what they wanted, be it a more beneficial fishing agreement with the EU with respect to the shared waters with the Spanish Canary Islands, investments for Tangier harbour so it can better compete with neighbouring Spanish ports, launching political propaganda about their sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla, or boosting their illegal occupation of Western Sahara, as was the case this time.

    A few weeks ago, Brahim Ghali, leader of Frente Polisario – the liberation movement for Western Sahara – travelled to Spain from Algeria under a false identity and was hospitalised with a serious COVID-19 infection (he is 71). Upon discovering this, Morocco’s government expressed their indignation towards Spain for allowing the Sahraoui to enter the country and demanded robust action from Madrid.

    When Spain explained the humanitarian reasons for keeping Ghali in the country, thousands and thousands of illegal migrants suddenly arrived at the border of Ceuta, and we saw the Moroccan police opening the gates of their fence, allowing them to go towards Spain. As a result, ten thousand people illegally entered Ceuta in just 24 hours, many among them children (who were told that they were going to watch a football game with Cristiano Ronaldo playing in Ceuta!).

    Spain had to send the army to control the continuous assault on its territory in the following days and was forced to relocate hundreds of minors in the rest of the country (under international law, they cannot be returned immediately after entering the country alone). Only after a bank transfer of 30 million euros for migration control cooperation did Morocco re-establish order at the border, and the assaults ceased.

    This crisis was covered more by European media because of the calm of the previous months, during which COVID-19 reduced migration flows considerably, and because of the pervasive use of minors. However, the phenomenon has existed for decades. We can expect it to continue for a long time, especially as it depends on the Moroccan government’s interests, just as it happens with Turkey and Erdoğan’s blackmail tactics.

    Given this, what can Europe do against these faraway villains? Europe can do a great deal; for example, deploying Frontex agents, sending economic assistance through the Internal Security Fund, or using the Solidarity Clause. But, in order to assist Spain with these instruments, the national government has to ask for it and, for some reason, Pedro Sánchez and his socialist-populist coalition government hasn’t.

    Why do we have these mechanisms at all if Member States would rather respond individually to the great challenges they face? Many of the aggressions and provocations from neighbouring countries would probably not happen if we showed unity and strength.

    As in most old tales, evil takes advantage of the weaknesses of good-hearted characters, but then there is a brave hero that puts the cowardly bullies in their place. Who will that hero be for Ceuta and Melilla, for Lesbos, for Malta, for Lampedusa? Furthermore, who will become the hero for the thousands of families destroyed by human trafficking, loss of life, and poverty in their home countries?

    We all know the answer: the EU could be that hero. But, in order to become it, Europe needs more competencies in various areas including migration, the ability to act quickly, and real understanding and solidarity from the Northern Member States, even if the problem seems distant to them. Let’s do what we do best: take one step after another and start by letting some of the issues of foreign affairs be decided by enhanced majorities instead of unanimity. Let us become heroes for Africa, let’s put a “happily ever after” at the end of this tale.

    Álvaro de la Cruz Immigration Migration North Africa

    Álvaro de la Cruz

    A Tale of Two Cities in Africa


    27 May 2021

  • Vít Novotný Tomas Tobé Giorgos Koumoutsakos Immigration Migration

    EU External Funding on Migration and Democracy: Synergy or Friction?

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    26 Jan 2021

  • On 25 November 2020, a majority of the European Parliament approved my report on improving the efficiency of development aid. The report puts efficiency and effectiveness back at the centre of development cooperation. It also establishes conditionality for third country recipients of development aid to promote joint priorities as well as EU policy objectives on, inter alia, migration management.

    According to the UNHCR, almost 80 million people are currently displaced from their homes. While the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially reduced the number of irregular migrants reaching the Union’s shores, the numbers are still higher than those prior to 2015. In addition, EU agencies project that an increase of migrants will occur once the pandemic is under control. Economic migration is likely to continue to dominate irregular arrivals to the European Union for the foreseeable future.

    Migration is, however, not limited to EU borders. As highlighted by the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, it is an issue we need to address globally and in cooperation with countries of origin and transit. As the world’s largest donor of development aid, the EU has an important part to play on the global arena.

    Provisions I put forward in the report provide the European Union with guidance to improve migration management, including safe and orderly return, with due respect to fundamental human rights. It is the duty of a nation to accept the return of its citizens. As such, cooperation on returns belongs to the notion of good governance.

    In addition, conditionality may also be applied to achieve the common objectives of eradicating poverty, reducing vulnerability to climate and environmental changes, and developing economic and trade policies. Such sustainable development in third countries may, in the long term, reduce the root causes of migration. Reducing the number of displaced people will be the most efficient way to secure safe, orderly, and manageable migration.

    Conditionality provides the Union with an option to respond when a third country acts in a way that is harmful to European objectives.

    Conditionality also serves a greater principle. As a member of the European Parliament and chair of the development committee, it is my firm belief that every euro spent must provide the highest level of efficiency. On this merit, EU institutions have agreed to include rule of law conditionality in the next long-term budget, with regard to cohesion funds spent within the EU. This central principle is now also enshrined in the development aid policy.

    Let me stress that I would prefer conditionality not to be applied, but rather for our third country partners to promote joint objectives based on the spirit of cooperation. However, conditionality provides the Union with an option to respond when a third country acts in a way that is harmful to European objectives.

    I am convinced that the Parliament resolution in question will be an important tool for the EU as a geopolitical actor, with regard to both effective development aid and migration policies.

    Tomas Tobé Development Foreign Policy Migration

    Tomas Tobé

    Making Development Aid Dependent on Cooperation on Migration


    26 Jan 2021

  • ‘New European Pact on Migration: Overcoming the Stall?’ with Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung (Germany) and Luigi Sturzo Institute (Italy).


    – Luigi Estero, General Directorate for the EU, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    – Stephan Mayer, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister of the Interior, Building and Community

    – Roberta Metsola, MEP, EPP, Vice-President, EP

    – Loredana Teodorescu, Head of EU and International Affairs, ILS – Moderator

    Loredana Teodorescu Roberta Metsola Immigration Migration

    NET@WORK Day 1 – Panel 4

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    25 Nov 2020

  • A series of four terrorist attacks hit France and Austria between 25 September and 2 November 2020. All were perpetrated by young jihadists. At least eight people were killed, excluding the terrorists, and more were injured, some seriously.

    On 25 September in Paris, Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud, a 25-year-old Pakistani immigrant, stabbed two people outside the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine. On 16 October 2020 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris, a Russian refugee of Chechen origins, Abdoullakh Abouyezidevich Anzonov, beheaded a schoolteacher. On 29 October, Brahim Aouissaoui, a Tunisian citizen, killed three people with a knife at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice. And on 2 November, a dual Austrian-North Macedonian national, Kujtim Fejzula, went on a shooting spree, killing four people at Schwedenplatz in the centre of Vienna and wounding many others.

    All these attacks continue to be investigated. So far, there is nothing to suggest that they have been coordinated from one place. The three attacks in France were each perpetrated by knife-wielding young men who took ‘revenge’ on those who they claimed offended Islam or simply, as in Nice, those present in a Christian church.

    The Vienna shooting stands out in that it was probably planned by a larger terrorist group and has had cross-border dimensions. Additional attacks have been foiled in Belgium and Greece.

    At least one counter-attack occurred in France. On 29 October, the French police shot and killed a knife-wielding far-right extremist who threatened a North African merchant in the city of Avignon.

    What lessons can Europe take from this wave of Islamist terror?

    Cooperation between intelligence agencies

    Communication between national intelligence agencies in Europe, Africa, and Asia needs to improve. The Vienna attack shows that, as on several occasions in the past, national agencies failed to act on one another’s information. Back in 2015, the terror attacks on 13 November in Paris could have been prevented had French intelligence acted on warnings from Turkey and Iraq.

    Returning to the Vienna shooting, during the summer, a known Islamist radical, Kujtim Fejzula, tried purchasing ammunition in Slovakia. He was unsuccessful because he did not have a firearms license. Slovakia’s intelligence service shared the information with their Austrian colleagues. However, something went wrong in the subsequent communication. Fejzula was not being followed at the time of the attack.

    The EU’s national security services in cooperation with the EU Intelligence and Situation Centre and Europol are currently working to prevent another terrorist attack. This joint effort needs to become permanent and institutionalised.

    Migration controls

    The knife attack in Nice points to gaps in the EU’s asylum and border policies. The attacker was a Tunisian citizen who recently crossed to Italy by boat, possibly with the assistance of smugglers. Italian authorities conducted a security check on him but classified him as not dangerous. Despite issuing him with a deportation order, they did not detain him, and he was free to travel to France, where he killed three people.

    Security checks are of little use in cases where the individual in question has no criminal record. Therefore, automatic detention for irregular arrivals, except for unaccompanied children, should be considered during negotiations on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The non-frontline EU members would need to support the EU’s southern countries in creating the requisite detention capacity. Without such assistance, the frontline states have few incentives to be vigilant on security when processing irregular arrivals.

    As ever, preventing irregular departures towards Europe is the preferred option, rather than detaining people on European soil.


    European politicians will have to pay more attention to the ideology of Islamism, some of whose branches form the basis of jihadi terrorism. Verbal condemnations are necessary, but action is what truly counts.

    All four attacks were perpetrated by young men aged 18 to 25. This is a group particularly vulnerable to being radicalised. Due to their young age, the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and Nice attackers must have been radicalised relatively quickly and recently, the former in France and the latter in Tunisia. Addressing radicalisation among this demographic group remains one of the toughest challenges.

    Only the terrorist from Vienna had a clear record of jihadist fundamentalism, including an attempted trip to Syria to join ISIS. He was also the only one to possess EU citizenship. The remaining ones had either immigrant or refugee status. Europe needs to find the right balance between respect for the Refugee Convention on the one hand, and preventing terrorism perpetrated by a tiny section of migrants on the other.

    Schools should be one focus of attention, as highlighted by a Martens Centre paper, Lifting the Integration Veil: Outcasts from Islam in Western Europe by Tommaso Virgili. Teachers in our elementary and secondary schools need to receive support when faced with intolerance by students and their parents. In reverse, the state authorities need to detect those cases where teachers themselves spread religious radicalism.

    The teaching of Islam in Europe needs to be put in the hands of tutors who understand European societies, speak their languages, promote peaceful forms of Islam, and are committed to fundamental principles such as freedom of speech.

    Although not the cause of jihadism, it is also important to enforce anti-discrimination rules to assure people of migrant backgrounds that they have a firm place in our societies. This includes measures in the labour market where positions in the public and private sectors need to be accessible to people irrespective of their religion and ethnic background.

    Tackling radicalisation on the Internet and in some mosques is becoming a necessity.

    As President Macron asserted, the laws of the French Republic cannot be questioned in the name of a hostile ideology. The religious neutrality of the state must be preserved. But as Austrian Chancellor Kurz put it, countering terrorism and upholding the law must be undertaken without dividing our societies between Christians and Muslims, or locals and immigrants. The challenge facing our politicians is massive: prevent terrorism without pitting groups of citizens against one another. Freedom of conscience and religion has to be preserved, be it for Christians, Muslims, or atheists.

    I would like to thank Conor McArdle for his background research on the topic, Theo Larue for proofreading the text and Roland Freudenstein for comments.

    Vít Novotný Integration Islam Migration Security

    Vít Novotný

    What are the Lessons From the Terrorist Attacks in France and Austria?


    17 Nov 2020

  • On 23 September 2020, the European Commission presented its highly anticipated New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Intended to break the legislative deadlock that the EU’s asylum policy has been facing since 2016, the set of Commission proposals includes not only new legislation on faster asylum procedures at the EU’s external border, but also a new solidarity mechanism, and policies for migration crises. A lively public discussion has erupted following the publication of the New Pact.

    Will the EU member states accept the Commission’s proposals? Will prescreening of asylum applicants and a wider use of border procedures work in practice? Is the new solidarity mechanism too complex to work? To discuss these, and many other questions, the Martens Centre has the privilege to organise an online discussion with Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life.

    Vít Novotný Margaritis Schinas Immigration Migration

    Online Event ‘The New Pact on Migration: Will the Member States Sign Up?’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    14 Oct 2020

  • Loredana discusses migration issues with Roland Freudenstein, like the recent European Migration Pact, the Dublin Regulation on Asylum, or our solidarity approach for locating refugees and migrants.

    Loredana Teodorescu Roland Freudenstein Migration

    The Week in 7 Questions with Loredana Teodorescu

    Multimedia - The Week in 7 Questions

    02 Oct 2020

  • This article examines the question of migration from the perspective of long-term integration. In recent decades, the latter has often yielded to multicultural policies shaped on the recognition of groups and their alleged identities and demands. Through a case study of blasphemy against Islam, this article argues that multiculturalism has three main flaws: first, it shrinks the complexity of identities in order to assign individuals to pre-made boxes, thereby essentialising communities; second, it fosters social conflicts by opposing different groups and their supposed demands; and third, it creates a discriminatory system, contrary to the principles of equality and dignity. To avoid the ruination of the European dream of openness and diversity, it is necessary to return to an individualistic view of integration based on freedom, equality and universal citizenship.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Tommaso Virgili European Union Islam Migration Values

    Tommaso Virgili

    Whose ‘Identity’? Multiculturalism vs. Integration in Europe


    06 Jul 2020

  • The article examines the immigration and integration policies of France, Sweden, Germany and Denmark. It argues that there is a need for a more unified understanding of the concept of integration throughout the member states. Although European law does not regulate the issue of immigrant integration as it is a competence of the member states, there is a need for a unified understanding of integration. Denmark’s integration policy is described as an example of an effective policy that ought to be emulated, in contrast to those of other countries. The article concludes that the problems France, Sweden and Germany face in integrating newcomers are partly due to a lack of consensus about what integration ought to be.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Claudia Cajvan EU Member States European Union Integration Migration

    Claudia Cajvan

    Lessons From Migrant Integration Into European Societies


    30 Jun 2020

  • There is a widespread perception that the development of surveillance technologies in border management is antagonistic to civil liberties. This article attempts to contribute to a better understanding of the need for new technological means to survey the EU’s external border. Contrary to the critics, it contends that there is no liberty without security. It argues that the so-called militarisation of the EU’s borders is a precondition for countering the dangers which threaten our liberties. These dangers include organised cross-border crime, illegal migration and incursions by hostile powers. The article also demonstrates that the use of border surveillance aircraft contributes to saving lives at the EU’s external border and that the use of modern technologies generates record trails which make it easier to track potential human rights abuses committed by border guards. To manage migration, facilitate legitimate commerce, monitor for illegal waste dumping and guarantee the undisturbed functioning of our institutions, improved border management with the help of modern technologies is a necessity.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Vít Novotný EU Institutions European Union Migration

    Vít Novotný

    Surveillance Aircraft and the Borders of Schengen


    23 Jun 2020

  • The article describes the socio-demographic situation of Western Pomerania following Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004. Western Pomerania faced a number of challenges: a brain drain, a rapidly ageing society and a shortage of workers. The region’s demographic situation was particularly serious compared to Poland’s other regions. However, Western Pomerania is now profiting from an inflow of migrants, especially from Ukraine, which is boosting the region’s economy. The article describes the measures undertaken on the local and regional level to promote the inflow of economic migrants and to integrate them into the local society. The measures described are helping to form a broader regional strategy to tackle the challenges of people leaving the region, the ageing population and a departing workforce. The article argues that if the proper support for newcomers is provided, migration could become a positive factor for the local economy.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Olgierd Geblewicz EU Institutions EU Member States Integration Migration

    Olgierd Geblewicz

    Western Pomeranian Experiences with Migration and Emigration: The Need for Local Solutions


    15 Jun 2020

  • The Portuguese and Italian governments have decided to grant large-scale regularisation to undocumented non-EU migrants. This includes work permits and access to health care for temporary periods. An expert panel has recommended similar measures for Germany. In principle, are temporary regularisations of undocumented workers a good idea or not?

    Wido Geis-Thöne, Senior Economist Qualifications, Migration and Innovation, Cologne Institute for Economic Research:

    “Regularisations for undocumented non-EU migrants are a good idea if they have been living in the country for a long time and two other conditions are met. First, the host country should not be able or willing to enforce their removal, and, second, they should not have access to regular residence with the corresponding rights and obligations by other means. The latter is not the case in Germany. Thus, the legal status of Duldung (toleration) exists here for third-country nationals who cannot be deported or who are not to be deported for various reasons, such as illness or completion of training. Although this is not a residence title and does not release them from the obligation to leave the country, it does give them access to the health, education and social system: Geduldete (tolerated persons) receive largely the same benefits as asylum seekers–and are allowed to take up gainful employment. If the Geduldete integrate successfully into the labour market and society, after a certain period of time, they can also obtain a regular residence permit, which secures their long-term stay in Germany. If it should turn out that a larger group of non-EU migrants who would actually be eligible for regularisation do not have access to toleration – which in my opinion is not the case – the access criteria for Duldung should be adjusted. Germany’s Duldung approach is clearly better than regularisation programmes, as it works continuously and not just at infrequent points in time. A combination of the two makes no sense, as it would in all probability only lead to confusion and uncertainty on the part of the competent authorities and would hardly help those affected. Both the Duldung and regularisation programmes always run the risk of motivating other people to set off for Europe without valid papers, which can plunge them into misery. Policymakers should therefore be very careful in applying them, although they are often necessary for humanitarian reasons and with a view towards integration.”

    Olivia Sundberg-Diez, Policy Analyst European Migration and Diversity, European Policy Centre, Brussels:

    “These measures are, in principle, very useful to address labour shortages, exploitative working conditions, and social marginalisation during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Italy, they can undo some of the damage caused by the country’s recent Security Decree, which substantially increased the number of people living irregularly and without basic services in the country. Now that returns from Europe have essentially (not completely) halted and will be difficult to implement for the months to come, other policy responses for these migrant groups need to be seriously considered, such as regularisation. The details of these proposals merit attention, however. If states do not provide paths for longer-term regularisation, they may simply be kicking the can down the road and sending people back to precarity in some months’ time. Incentives need to be in place to ensure employers, and migrants themselves, do in fact come forward and apply to regularise their status. Finally, the policies proposed so far by Italy and Portugal (and to a smaller degree by other countries) apply only to a small portion of undocumented migrants in these countries. Italy’s measures exclude migrants working in certain key sectors, such as tourism, construction, or transport, or people who are unable to work and may be especially vulnerable. Portugal excludes those who have been employed without formal contracts or for less than a year at a time. From a public health perspective, excluding these groups from access to basic services during the pandemic is bound to be counterproductive.”

    Monica Andriescu, Senior Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Institute Europe, Brussels:

    “Governments in Europe and beyond have repeatedly used regularisations to address pressing labour shortages, manage migration, and slow down the growth of informal economies. However, this policy tool has the potential to be more than a quick fix, if it is well designed, effectively implemented, and accompanied by other relevant measures. Two questions are critical in this context. 1) Who is eligible? Regularisation measures often select specific groups of migrants, depending on their occupational profile or length of residence. This selection inevitably excludes other categories of migrants. And 2) What is the impact? Temporary regularisation programmes might reinforce irregularity in the long-term, if the outcome for migrants is the return to the undocumented status once provisional work or residence permits expire. Well-conceived programmes can positively impact migrants’ livelihoods and upward mobility prospects if they balance labour market needs with rights protection requirements, provide a path to permanent residency, and are accompanied by other policies that support migrants to remain in regular employment.”

    Rainer Münz, migration and demography expert, formerly working at the in-house think tank of the European Commission (2015-2020):

    “Europe has, so far, experienced two types of mass regularisations: (a) During the 1990s and early 2000s, several European countries – including Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK – offered large-scale regularisation on one or more occasions. Depending on the country, tens or even hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants profited from such opportunities. However, some regularised migrants quickly lost their jobs, if employers were no longer willing to keep them under minimum wage, tax, and social security regulations that applied under regular work contracts. (b) EU enlargements of the years 2004, 2007, and 2013 implicitly regularised hundreds of thousands of people who had already moved in earlier years from Central and South-Eastern Europe to Western and Southern Europe. EU accession of their home countries immediately gave them a legal status. After a transitional period, they also obtained legal access to formal labour markets. In 2004, only Ireland, Sweden, and the UK did not apply a waiting period.

    In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, Portugal and Italy have now offered irregular migrants residing on their territory temporary regularisation of their status. From an epidemiological point of view, such an offer makes perfect sense. Many recent and future measures, including testing, isolating, or tracing people and identifying their social contacts in case of infection, can hardly be applied to irregular migrants avoiding any contact with authorities and using pre-paid cell phones. Pull effects are not to be expected as long as borders are closed, and irregular arrivals are at an all-time low.”

    Crisis Economy Migration

    Should EU countries regularise undocumented migrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

    Other News

    04 Jun 2020

  • Migration is a major issue, not only for Europe but for the whole world, and it will remain so for years to come. It is a phenomenon caused by a number of factors and one that is beyond the capacities of a single state to tackle. Rather it requires solidarity and joint efforts to handle it. This article focuses on the migration/refugee issue in Europe, particularly from the perspective of Greece. It provides an overview of the efforts of Greece and the EU to address the challenge of irregular migration and the flow of refugees in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Giorgos Koumoutsakos EU Institutions EU Member States Migration

    Giorgos Koumoutsakos

    Migration: A European Question in Need of Urgent Answers


    04 Jun 2020

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some exploitative employer practices for both EU and non-EU seasonal workers, especially in agriculture in some EU member states. Can the conditions for these labourers be improved without damaging the viability and competitiveness of national agriculture sectors?

    Wido Geis-Thöne, Senior Economist Qualifications, Migration and Innovation, Cologne Institute for Economic Research:

    “If the exploitative employer practices violate existing legislation, better controls are needed. The problem is then that there can be such a strong distortion of competition that is detrimental to law-abiding companies that, if they do not also resort to these illegal practices, they can be forced out of the market. If companies are forced to violate the law, the regulatory framework must be adapted as a matter of urgency. Otherwise, the economic order itself will be called into question. In this case, either law enforcement has to be improved, or the legal framework must be adapted. If practices move within the range of what is legally permissible, the situation is different. In this case, it should be noted that there can be very different perceptions of when individual work processes are exploitative and when they arise from operational necessities, e.g. with regard to optimal harvesting times. In this case, policymakers are called upon to listen to all sides and to assess the arguments carefully. If the regulations are carried out within a reasonable framework, there is no reason to fear that the vitality and competitiveness of the European agricultural sector will be impaired, since imports from third countries play a rather subordinate role in this area and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) provides very strong support and protection mechanisms for domestic farms. Within the EU, agriculture, and hence seasonal workers should, in any case, be subject to largely the same rules in order to ensure that the CAP functions properly. At the same time, however, local conditions, for example with regard to wage levels, must also be considered in shaping employment relationships.”

    Monica Andriescu, Senior Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Institute Europe, Brussels:

    “Guaranteeing fair working conditions can never be at odds with growth and competitiveness. The pandemic has exposed the fault lines of our economies and its pervasive inequalities. In these times more than ever, safeguarding workplace safety, health, and decent working conditions are critical to increasing productivity and building economic resilience. Policies cannot afford to go amiss in harnessing and protecting the human capital needed to weather the storm ahead. Exploitative working practices are regrettably still part of European labour markets, with migrants particularly vulnerable to unfair employers and temporary work agency practices. While there is political commitment at EU level to improve employment conditions for all workers, there is a need for decisive action to be channelled towards alleviating inequalities at times when they are likely to be exacerbated if left unchecked (e.g. increasing workplace inspections and encouraging the reporting of abusive practices). This is particularly relevant for sectors where workers’ vulnerabilities are heightened by the physically draining nature of their work, e.g. in agriculture. Despite the gloomy prospects this crisis brings at macro and micro levels, it does harbour opportunities to rethink connections between economic growth and good work, and how to go beyond artificial perceptions that there is an inverse relationship between them.”

    Rainer Münz, migration and demography expert, formerly working at the in-house think tank of the European Commission (2015-2020):

    “Following initial travel restrictions and border controls, many Western European farmers and slaughterhouse operators resumed recruiting labour in Central and Eastern Europe. Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands organised airlifts from Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. Employers mainly argued that domestic job seekers lacked the required experience and endurance. Another reason was that foreign seasonal and contractual workers are less expensive. They are exempt from certain social security contributions. Minimal wage arrangements do not apply if workers are hired via subcontractors or categorised as self-employed.

    The background to this wage dumping is competition within the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy does not shield Western and Southern European producers and processers from having to compete with their Central and South-Eastern European counterparts, operating in a distinctively lower wage environment. The flip side of this is retailers being able to offer lower food prices, for example, tomatoes at €1.29 per kg, apples at € 1.50 per kg or chicken nuggets at € 2.99 per kg.

    The COVID-19 crisis has exposed not only the extent to which certain businesses are dependent on readily available short-term migrant workers, but also their wages and their living and working conditions. In Austria, two dozen foreign temporary agricultural workers were confined in quarantine as some of them tested positive for the virus. In Germany and the Netherlands, hundreds of slaughterhouse workers were infected at their workplaces or at boarding houses. After the death of a few Romanian workers, the Romanian Minister of Labour, Violeta Alexandru (PNL), travelled to Germany to conduct on-sight inspection. Later in May, the German Minister of Labour, Hubertus Heil (SPD) announced that from 2021, it would become illegal for slaughterhouse operators to hire non-employed foreign contractual workers. It remains to be seen if this will lead to more automation, higher retail prices for meat or in a shift of production towards EU countries with lower wage levels or less regulated labour markets.”

    Several EU countries, including Germany, have been recruiting migrant and refugee health and social care workers although many of these people lack the professional certificates that they would require under normal conditions. Do you foresee a relaxation of national qualification standards as a result of the Corona crisis?

    Wido Geis-Thöne: “I consider it very unlikely that the Corona crisis will lead to a relaxation of national qualification requirements for health and social care professions. As far as I can see, the Corona pandemic is not expected to lead to a sharp increase in the number of people in need of care and assistance in the longer term. If this is not the case, there will be no sharp increase in the number of staff needed in the health and social services sector. The peak of the (first) pandemic wave represents an exceptional situation in this respect. However, in the context of demographic change, we will observer a gradual increase in the need for care and assistance, and this will pose major challenges for the health and social services in the medium term. It will also raise the question of whether it is possible to achieve a different mix of qualifications in these areas with a higher proportion of assisted personnel without the relevant specialist training.”

    Monica Andriescu: “National education and training systems are not prone to swift changes, such as the sudden relaxation of qualification standards. The key question is rather how to enable quicker procedures of recognition of foreign qualifications, which under normal conditions are often lengthy and complex. As evidenced by the stringent need for health and care workers to support the frontline fight against the Coronavirus throughout Europe, fast and effective procedures of recognising foreign qualifications are more relevant now than at any time in the past, to ensure a steady stream of relevant workforce. These will ensure that professional certificates are recognised in a timely manner and that occupational standards are maintained in destination countries. The pandemic provides an opportunity for relevant authorities and employers to join forces in identifying innovative routes to reform or expedite the recognition of skills, and to pilot these. The key challenge will be to balance speed and quality of processes and outcomes, without lowering standards.”

    Rainer Münz: “The relaxation of standards in order to hire migrants with professional health and care background during the COVID-19 epidemic is of temporary nature, caused by exceptional circumstances. It will not remain in place after the crisis ends. It can, however, be expected that many of those who have now found a job, will remain in the health and care sector. And we can assume that labour market authorities financing retraining and job integration of unemployed migrants will encourage more people to specialise as care givers or to have their medical degrees recognised.”

    Crisis Economy European Union Migration

    How does the Corona crisis affect the conditions for migrant workers in the EU?

    Other News

    29 May 2020

  • How should the migration issue be tackled from an institutional perspective? The issue of immigration represents a common, communitarian challenge, not only a challenge for particular countries. This means that the answers to this challenge must be found together, at the European level, through close cooperation between the member states and the EU institutions. Management of immigration should be organised at the European level, by the EU institutions and the member states working together. This applies to border control, the repatriation of those not granted asylum or a residence permit, and also to cooperation with third countries on migration issues.

    Read the full Editorial of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU Institutions EU Member States Immigration Migration

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    New Perspectives on Migration Policies


    25 May 2020

  • Migration proved to be a multidimensional challenge for Europe with wide implications: political, economic, and social. Recent incidents at the European borders (Evros river) also underlined the geopolitical aspect of the situation. The Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and the Konstantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy are organising a webinar in order to explore the migration issue and the geopolitical challenges for Europe in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Mediterranean Migration

    Online Event ‘Migration and Geopolitical Challenges for Europe in the Eastern Mediterranean’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    09 Apr 2020

  • When it comes to policies on irregular migration, it is sometimes courts, not parliaments, that call the shots.

    Vít Novotný Immigration Migration

    An EU migration policy revolution from the courts?

    Articles and Op-Eds - In the Media

    04 Mar 2020

  • The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular (‘Migration Compact’ from now on) is an international agreement that has given rise to passions like no other recent global document. The Compact was signed in the morning of 10 December 2018 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech.

    Uproar in Marrakech, quiet in New York

    The text of the Migration Compact stems from The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted by the UN in 2016. This declaration was a result of decades of international efforts to bring a sense of order to global migration and refugee movements. One can look at the process started off by the New York Declaration as the first serious attempt for a global migration and refugee governance. The New York Declaration was adopted by 193 members of the UN, with no official record of dissent from any UN member.

    The Migration Compact has a non-identical twin brother, the Global Compact on Refugees (Refugee Compact), also a result of the diplomatic process started off by the New York Declaration. According to an informed source, the Refugee Compact has gone through the UN structures with little dissent, with only the US expressing a certain degree of disapproval. Barring a last-minute revolution, the Refugee Compact will be agreed by the UN General Assembly in New York around 17 December 2018,  a few days after the signing of the Migration Compact in Marrakech.

    The Migration Compact had been negotiated by 190 UN governments. The US withdrew from the negotiations in December 2017, Hungary in July 2018. Between the summer 2018 and the beginning of December 2018, several other countries announced they would not sign the Migration Compact. In Europe, these included Czechia, Austria, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria and Latvia.

    On 10 December in Marrakech, most governments in which the European People’s Party participates signed the Migration Compact. The impression is that all the governments with the EPP participation will be signing the Refugee Compact later this month.

    The document

    The Migration Compact is not legally binding, and the document stresses this multiple times. Nevertheless, according to some interpretations, the document could become customary international law in the same way that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights has become.

    But this remains a theoretical proposition. For a  document to become a part of customary international law, its practices would have to be ‘universally followed’ and obtain ‘widespread acceptance’. In addition, customary international law contains a concept of a persistent objector. If a state consistently and openly objects to an international norm, the norm is considered as not binding on that state.

    The document contains 23 objectives. Protecting human rights of migrants is a core element but so is the sovereignty of states.

    The Migration Compact does contain passages that may be problematic from the centre-right viewpoint. This includes the rights of migrants working in the informal economy, as opposed to the desirable insistence on employers declaring their employees and paying their taxes. Furthermore, the tone of inclusivity and the constant emphasis on migrant rights may not be to the liking of everyone on the European centre-right.

    However, most policy objectives of the Migration Compact are in line with the European Agenda on Migration  as well as the European People’s Party 2018 Congress document on migration, A Secure Europe. This comprises secure borders, minimising the drivers that compel people to leave their country of origin, the identification of migrants, criminalisation of migrant smuggling, prevention of human trafficking and government cooperation on migrant returns.

    Political controversy

    With the partial boycott of the Migration Compact, we are witnessing a peculiar situation. Most of the governments that are withholding their signature have negotiated the document until the last minute. The Slovak foreign minister, Miroslav Lajčák resigned over his own Socialist-led government’s withdrawal from the Migration Compact. He had been instrumental in developing the document at the UN.

    The Belgian government did sign the Migration Pact but one of the coalition partners, the Flemish N-VA, withdrew from the cabinet over the issue.

    The fact that the UN Refugee Compact is not suffering the same wave of boycotts as the Migration Compact, gives us an insight into the curious world of politics of immigration in the West. The Refugee Compact might also be perceived as generating obligations on the signatory states, yet all the European UN members seem committed to signing the Refugee Compact later in December.

    Whether the governments who refused to put their signature to the Migration Compact have been negotiating in good or bad faith, is not up to me to decide. Likewise, it is not up to me to decide about domestic reasons for the boycott, such as the need to polarise national and European migration debates and to temporarily improve the standing of the governments in question vis-à-vis parts of their electorate.

    Attack on multilateralism and the weakening of the EU position

    The bigger picture is clear. The several governments’ boycott of the Migration Compact amounts to, once again, an attack on multilateralism. The Migration Compacts lays the foundations for global cooperation on migration. It offers multiple avenues for building trust between governments, thus ultimately leading to better migration policy outcomes for the EU and its members.

    Those European governments that refused to sign the Migration Compact will not be entitled to complain that third country governments do not cooperate when it comes to the registration of migrants, cooperation on border control and readmission of own nationals.

    The international position of the EU is weakened accordingly. The EU is currently striving to externalise migration controls by cooperating with third countries. It is difficult to see why a European country that wants to externalise migration controls would deliberately jeopardise its position vis-à-vis potential partners.

    Vít Novotný European Union Globalisation Immigration Migration

    Vít Novotný

    Boycotting the Migration Compact: a loss of credibility for the EU


    10 Dec 2018

  • On Thursday 28 June 2018, the European Council gave its endorsement to the concept of ‘regional disembarkation platforms’. These centres would be built in non-EU countries (presumably in North Africa) in cooperation with those countries. They would serve as facilities to which migrants rescued in the Mediterranean would be brought. Thus, a new option would be open to the EU, not to bring the rescued migrants automatically to one of the EU’s coastal member states.

    This point from the Council conclusions elaborates one aspect of the broader trend to externalise EU migration controls. This trend is being promoted by the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Earlier in June, Kurz suggested sending immigrants back to the countries of transit and origin. These measures would stem mass migration and prevent drownings in the Mediterranean.

    The idea of reception centres outside the EU borders has been circulating for decades now, without much tangible progress. The reason why implementing the idea has been so slow is the daunting scale of the challenge. The security, humanitarian, legal, political, diplomatic and financial aspects of the problem are multifaceted and interdependent in unexpected ways.

    Agreement by a high number of institutions is necessary but the predictability of many players (national governments in and outside the EU and sub-national authorities and assorted tribal, religious and political groups in North Africa and the Middle East) is low.

    Unlike Australia and the US which, each in a different way, have partly externalised migration controls, Europe is surrounded by several highly unstable regimes. Migration flows into the EU are notoriously mixed, including refugees and economic migrants from different countries. This increases the scope of the challenge that lies in front of the EU.

    Main elements in externalising migration controls

    The main elements in externalising immigration might be:

    • significantly improved EU external border management, in cooperation with third countries
    • determining asylum status of migrants as close to the country of origin as possible; this could be done at EU consulates or at reception centres set up by the EU
    • guaranteeing safety, security and basic welfare in the reception centres
    • encouraging voluntary returns to countries of origin
    • offering (positive and negative) incentives to governments of non-EU countries, especially for accepting their own nationals
    • potential resettlement of the most vulnerable individuals into the EU (resettlement means accepting selected refugees after security screening)
    • decoupling of life-saving operations in the sea from bringing refugees into the EU.

    Implementing these measures would herald a major step in tackling irregular migration. Thanks to common efforts, the migration crisis of three years ago is under control. No masses of refugees and migrants are crossing the Balkans into Western Europe, and the EU’s border management is now better than ever – although there is still a lot of room for improvement.

    The EU is still searching for a recipe for cooperation with third countries on migration. The bloc is still struggling to mobilise finance, police the Mediterranean,  agree on internal distribution of asylum seekers, implement returns and fulfil its resettlement pledges.

    Develop expertise by starting small

    Some EU members are conducting pilot schemes in externalising migration controls. We should look closely at, and learn from, these experiments. They promise to result in much-needed European expertise that can serve the larger goal of bringing migration controls closer to the sending countries:

    • The EU-Turkey deal of 2016 should serve a major source of learning.
    • In Niger, an EU-financed ‘multi-purpose centre’ in Agadez provides information and assistance to migrants, registers migrants and allows opportunities for safe and voluntary return and reintegration in the home country. Military presence has proved necessary. In January this year, the Italian government sent some 500 troops to the country to suppress migrant smuggling and exploitation.
    • Also in Agadez and in other African cities, the French government has begun interviewing asylum seekers on a small scale. These individuals are typically returnees from Libya who have been pre-screened by the workers for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
    • Certain EU members, for example Denmark, have been allowing asylum applications at their consulates, although only in a third country, not in a country of the asylum seeker’s origin.

    The efforts conducted outside the EU borders have had a negligible influence on the numbers of people trying to cross the Mediterranean. But they send a message. Those with a credible claim have a chance of being granted asylum in the EU. Those without such a claim should not risk their lives with Libyan traffickers and smugglers.

    Also, let us not forget Europe’s operations on its own territory. Italy and Greece have run, with the assistance of the EU and UNHCR, ‘hotspots’ to process asylum claims during the refugee wave of 2105-16. Evaluating this experience should be helpful in setting up similar centres outside the EU.

    The Marshall Plan for Africa

    Migration control always consists of carrots and sticks. A ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa, advocated, for example, by Angela Merkel, would represent the former. The existing reincarnation of this plan, the Trust Fund for Africa, has so far been inadequate. Currently worth some €3.4 billion, the Trust Fund lacks public and private funds to make a real impact. But in the long run, helping Africa prosper – also by preferential trade tariffs – would motivate its inhabitants to stay at home.

    On the legal front, two alternatives offer themselves.

    Legal option one: reinterpret the Refugee Convention

    As one option, the EU member states may start reinterpreting the Refugee Convention of 1951. As it is individual states, not the EU, who have signed up to the Refugee Convention, a coordinated approach would be essential.

    Such a reinterpretation might be along the lines of the US and Australia. Australia does not apply the Convention outside its mainland territory. The US does not apply it outside its territorial waters. Both the US and Australia intercept unauthorised vessels. They save lives even outside their territorial waters but remove migrants to remote own or third-country territories, where lives are not in danger.

    The rescued individuals have a chance of obtaining asylum (in the US case, only in a third country). Australia and the US take a punitive approach to ‘spontaneous’ asylum claims launched by those who attempt to cross the sea, but, in collaboration with UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration, maintain resettlement programmes for those asylum seekers who enter through via regular channels.

    Option two: encourage third countries to implement the Refugee Convention

    A strategically more promising, although a much more demanding and long-term approach, would be to geographically extend the application of the Refugee Convention. With the exception of the Middle East, most countries in the immediate and distant EU neighbourhood are signatories of the Refugee Convention. Especially in North Africa though, official signatures on the Convention have not been followed up by setting up functioning asylum legislation.

    The EU might incentivise these countries to adopt asylum legislation in line with their commitments under the Refugee Convention.

    As one step further into the future, one can imagine the EU inducing neighbouring countries to buy into the EU’s ‘Dublin system’ of asylum seeker distribution. According to the Dublin rules, the first country of contact has responsibility for the asylum seeker who entered its territory.

    Supported and co-financed by the EU, extending a similar system to Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and North Africa would spread the burden of caring for refugees across many more countries than is currently the case. This would contribute to creating a supra-regional system of refuge governance in Europe and its surroundings.

    Vít Novotný Crisis Immigration Migration North Africa

    Vít Novotný

    Externalising Migration Controls? Think Big, Start Small


    29 Jun 2018

  • For centuries the Western Balkans region has been a place of origin for migration into Europe as well as a transit route to Europe for migrants coming from other regions of the world. The 2015–16 migration crisis brought the region into the spotlight as large numbers of migrants used the Balkan migration route on their way to Western Europe.

    Individual countries and the EU institutions developed weak and often contradictory responses to the crisis. This has had a negative effect on the Balkan peoples’ perception of the EU, which had previously been positive.

    On a symbolic level the migration crisis has revealed the fragile relationship between the EU and the Western Balkan states. In the future, EU policy should focus on developing an integrated strategy for managing its external borders and migration, one that prevents member states from pushing back migrants at their borders.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Emilio Cocco Balkans Migration

    Emilio Cocco

    Where is the European frontier? The Balkan migration crisis


    18 Dec 2017

  • Regional cooperation is mutually beneficial collaboration between neighbouring countries. This holds regardless of whether it is a matter of cooperation between the Benelux countries, the Nordic–Baltic states, France and Germany, or the Visegrád countries. The last-mentioned countries’ dismissive attitude to tackling the migration crisis has thrust them into the limelight.

    The most recent cooperative forums in the Central Eastern Europe region, such as the Slavkov Triangle and the Three Seas Initiative, evidence a new dynamic and a regrouping of forces on the basis of national interests and EU themes. Western and Eastern Europe have different approaches to the most pressing challenges, such as migration.

    These differences have caused deep divisions between their respective leaders. However, the disagreements on the migration issue and the future of the EU notwithstanding, regional cooperation among the Central and Eastern European countries remains valuable in areas that include the integration process, security and defence.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Viktória Jančošeková EU Member States Leadership Migration

    Viktória Jančošeková

    Regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe and its implications for the EU


    14 Dec 2017

  • In the years to come, Europe will face many difficult challenges related to migration. To cope with the increased flows emanating from the African continent, present policies will have to be adapted and new ones created. The EU must pursue a course that protects the integrity of free movement, secures the external borders and enables it to work with stakeholders, both in Africa and elsewhere, to avoid an unchecked influx of migrants.

    The article reviews important elements of the debate that has been taking place in the EU in recent years and shows that a new basis for the European Migration and Asylum Policy is needed to ensure that it has a more realistic chance of success. It argues that there is a need for a review of EU policies on migration and asylum, and for the development of more useful tools to disentangle the complex web of interests which today is ever present in the debate on the European Migration and Asylum Policy.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Tobias Billström Foreign Policy Migration North Africa

    Tobias Billström

    The end and the beginning: the EU, Africa and the need for a new migration regime


    30 Oct 2017

  • The EU is facing an unprecedented challenge on its southern borders in terms of instability in the region and increased migration flows. In its search for a solution that will meet with the approval of all member states, there is a new momentum for strengthening cooperation with neighbouring countries.

    The EU is increasingly turning to third countries to manage migration flows and reduce the number of irregular migrants arriving in Europe. Nevertheless, there are serious constraints on its ambition. The EU has failed to offer its cooperation partners real incentives, while member states have been reluctant to coordinate their initiatives and become involved, thus undermining EU action beyond its borders.

    The result is slow progress and uncertain partnerships. It is time to address these limitations and make the EU a reliable and coherent regional actor, able to speak with one voice when addressing third countries on migration. This calls for stronger foreign policy on migration at the EU level, the deployment of a wide range of tools and incentives, and more committed member-state support for EU action.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Loredana Teodorescu Foreign Policy Immigration Migration Neighbourhood Policy Security

    Loredana Teodorescu

    Ambition versus reality: partnering with our neighbours on migration


    04 Jul 2017

  • This article looks at how the Greek, German and British press have addressed the issue of the refugee crisis in Europe. Using a mixed research approach that combines corpus linguistics and discourse analysis, this article examines 1340 articles that were published online between 20 March and 31 May 2016 in Greece (KathimeriniTo vima), Germany (Die WeltSüddeutsche Zeitung) and the UK (The GuardianThe Telegraph). The results presented by this article suggest that the press in all three countries mostly presented the refugee crisis in numbers. Geographical qualifiers were also deployed in the effort to broach this thorny issue, while the managerial aspect of the refugee crisis, the critical issue of child refugees and the EU–Turkey agreement were all among the most frequent topics covered by the press.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Stergios Fotopoulos Crisis EU Member States Mediterranean Migration

    Stergios Fotopoulos

    Media discourse on the refugee crisis: on what have the Greek, German and British press focused?


    07 Nov 2016

  • 25 years after the foundation of the Visegrad Group is a good time to evaluate its role and to take a look at its current functioning within the EU. A historic goal of the group was already fulfilled, as all four states; Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are now members of the EU and NATO.

    The Visegrad Group played an important role in 1998 when it strongly supported Slovakia, which was internationally isolated after the government of Vladimír Mečiar. Slovaks could thus catch up with the integration process. Later, they showed their will to grow in a regional context, but also to be credible, even if sometimes also difficult partners within the EU (particularly in the negotiations on the EU budget, or in pursuit of national interests).

    The Visegrad Group did not focus only on their interests, but also responsibly took on a regional role. Its support focused on the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership countries. European integration of those countries is a long-term priority on the Visegrad group agenda. It is no secret that Slovenia has tried for a long time to become a member of this regional club. This only demonstrates the weight and prestige of the club.

    Regional partnerships have a very strong tradition in Europe. Whether Benelux, Nordic cooperation or the Visegrad Group, all of them serve to strengthen the EU further. They create a balance especially between small and big countries. Every community needs such healthy tension, because it forces players to make compromises and seek the best possible solutions for the whole community.

    Unfortunately, any positive result of the Visegrad Group´s cooperation is currently overshadowed by its attitude to the migration crisis. The policy endorsed by the Visegard Group on the issue rightfully raises a concern. This attitude neither solves the problem, nor does it defend the countries and their citizens, as leaders of these countries like to present.

    The refugee crisis and its impact are not a short-term phenomenon. The problem will not be solved, on the contrary, it will deepen if they are not willing to listen to each other and patiently seek for a common solution from the very beginning. The consequences can be fatal for the entire community.

    The attitude of the Visegrad Group portrays them as fair-weather Europeans. They do not yet have the tools to deal with bad weather. Unfortunately, this is the reality, although the reasons of this attitude can be different, from historical to mental or political.

    Historically, it is well known that ethnicity was often a source of unrests in Central Europe. From a psychological point of view, the former Soviet bloc countries are still closed societies. There is a lack of education and a lack of system methods on how to integrate people from other cultures. We should not forget that these countries still have a huge problem with the integration of their Roma minority.

    Thus, it is difficult to imagine and even more difficult to implement the integration of people from completely different backgrounds. However, the most likely reason for this attitude is politics.

    The leaders of these countries selfishly abused the refugee crisis in order to gain political capital. Many of them have built their whole electoral campaigns and long term strategies with a sole purpose: to remain on the political scene for as long as possible. They do not struggle with the fact that, more than 25 years after the fall of communism, they have created a new enemy and they have showed their resistance to Brussels, in a manner that certainly pleases Russia.

    Regarding the quotas, there has already been a lot said. The Visegrad group countries, but also others who refused the quotas system should realise the fact that it is a temporary redistribution of burden, not a long term solution for migration.

    The proposed redistribution is very favourable for small countries. If they show a will to share the burden now, they will help create a space for a more conceptual, long-term solution for migration. Unfortunately, the quotas themselves put us into a vicious circle.

    Instead of focusing on protecting the EU external borders and seeking solutions how to prevent further immigration waves into Europe, we have focused on how to punish those who will not accept the quotas. I believe the latest proposal of the European Commission in this regard will increase the gap among EU countries.

    We all know we have a problem. The question is, where should we start tackling it from? Firstly, we should respond to three basic questions: Do we want to remain in the European club? What kind of club do we want? Are we willing to invest in this club? If so, it’s time for a compromise.

    The older members should listen more and try to understand the arguments of the new member states. I know that reconciling the heterogeneous interests of a large community is difficult, but this is the only way to keep the EU project alive. It is also important to show political will and initiative on the part of small and new members.

    Slovakia taking over the rotating Presidency of the EU this July is a good timing to do just this. They have an excellent opportunity to come up with solutions on migration issues and to build wide EU support for them. Denouncing and rejecting proposals is not a sustainable strategy: we must show that we are not only recipients of EU policies, but also initiators and contributors.

    Former Soviet bloc countries should inherently insist on maintaining a common European future. Regional cooperation is good and necessary; it can be meaningful and beneficial but only when its enforcement is not only regional, but also European. We should not forget that countries like France and Germany will cope with crises more rapidly than the rest of Europe. Small states near Russia however could quickly find themselves back to where they once were. I do hope that this will not be the case.

    Viktória Jančošeková EU Member States Immigration Leadership Migration

    Viktória Jančošeková

    Visegrad at 25: time to show European leadership


    08 Jun 2016

  • Most of the refugees arriving in Europe are fleeing civil war and unrest. However, it is important to recognise how the second-order effects of climate change—which can undermine agriculture and increase competition for water and food resources—are contributing to instability and decisions to migrate.

    While migratory decisions are complex, climate change is an increasingly important contributing factor: it is threatening humanity’s shared interests and collective security in many parts of the world. The cumulative effects of these trends have serious implications for the stability of nations that lack sufficient resources, good governance and the resilience to respond.

    While there is a need for greater understanding of the detailed causes of migration, as well as the associated economic and political instability, a growing body of evidence links climate change, migration and conflict in troubling ways.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Michael Werz Max Hoffman Environment Migration Security Sustainability

    Michael Werz

    Max Hoffman

    Europe’s twenty-first century challenge: climate change, migration and security


    03 May 2016

  • What we are going through now … will change our country. – Angela Merkel

    We don’t want to change! – Viktor Orban

    Just like previous crises, the one about the refugees has highlighted a deep split among member states of the European Union. The Euro crisis seemed to divide the Union into North and South. This one goes East-West. It could actually become the most destructive split we have seen since the Union enlarged to 25 in 2004. Mind you, it is an East-West rift only on the government level. The electoral successes of national populists such as Front National show that the picture is more complex. So does the fact that in Central Europe, parts of civil society valiantly fight back against their governments’ tendencies. And yet, the conflict is now largely perceived as East vs. West, new vs. old member states.

    Why is this so significant? Because the Big Bang enlargement of 2004, and the two smaller ones 2007 and 2013, by taking in mostly former Iron Curtain countries, were the embodiment of a Europe Whole and Free. After the plus jamais la guerre entre nous (the prevention of war as the initial rationale for integration) of the 1950s, the year 1989 added a second grand narrative to European integration: The irreversible end of Europe’s postwar partition, and its firm anchoring in the West. This went along with the recognition that the essence of the West, and the optimal pattern for successful societies, were liberal democracy and the market economy – i.e. political and economic freedom, and their mutual dependence. This narrative of 1989 is now in jeopardy.

    That is because the rift is not only about refugees and immigration. It is ultimately about the question of how we define Europe in the 21st century: Who do we want to be in 20 years? Will we be globalised, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, or closed, white and Christian? Are we defined more by (maybe all too dark) fears, or by (possibly too starry-eyed) hopes?  And on that backdrop, a pattern is emerging in which the two sides also disagree about European integration, social norms, and the question of the type of democracy we should live in. None of these conflicts is really new, but thanks to the spat over refugees they have consolidated into a broad disagreement.

    On Europe, one side advocates moving towards stronger competences for EU institutions (Parliament, Council, Commission) where it matters: bigger on the big things, smaller on the small things. Opposing this is a movement to rather re-nationalise central EU competences, or at least not allow any further transfer of powers to ‘Brussels’. On norms, we have, most prominently, the remarkable changes on LGBT rights in many member states – which are resisted by those who define them as West European moral imperialism. On democracy, we see a sharp division emerging between the proponents of liberal democracy, i.e. free elections plus checks and balances, independent media and strong civil society – and on the other hand, those of an ‘illiberal state’ where the majority rules but institutional limits to its power are considered as only helping the rich, the liberal elites or the political Left. The governments of Hungary and Poland are excellent examples of the latter tendency.

    Like all meaningful political conflict, this here is ultimately about reality and about time. It is about who has their feet firmly on the ground of facts, and who lives in Lalaland. And it is about who is stuck in the past, and who owns the future. Consequently, Central Europe’s ultraconservatives and Western Europe’s national populists are regularly accused of living in a 19th or early 20th century mindset, and in denial of global facts, demographic necessities etc. Whereas West European governments and liberal elites in Central Europe are seen as stuck in the hippie dreams of the late 20th century, and in denial of the dangers of ‘anything goes’, the coming ‘migration of peoples’ and the decline of the West. So the rift is deep indeed.

    But if such sizeable parts of governments, elites and public opinion cannot agree on a common narrative for Europe anymore, hence, if the narrative of 1989 is no longer valid, then Europe is in deep trouble. So how can we make a revamped European narrative majoritarian again? This will be a major task for the upcoming years. And I see it going to the Centre Right in a very broad definition – Liberals, Christian Democrats and moderate conservatives.

    It must contain the universality of Human Rights and our commitment to human dignity – this is not negotiable. But regaining control of our borders is equally legitimate and in itself not to be confused with xenophobia. And: Europe will not be able to absorb all the suffering of the world. Liberal democracy is a form of government and not to be confused with liberal policies, and checks and balances are in no way negotiable. On European integration, subsidiarity should become the ruling principle: that includes referring some competences to national or regional levels, but increasing EU-level integration in defence, security and immigration policies, for example, because there is simply no progress on these topics for individual countries. Economic success will be key to regaining political majorities and weakening the extremes. And that means opening up, not closing ourselves in. It means fiscal consolidation (this is where the Left is useless) and constant modernisation. In immigration policy, we need to face up to the fact that we need immigration but we have to be in a better position to decide who actually joins us, and we have to become much more self-confident about the values that immigrants must accept if they want to be successful. What counts in 20 years is not how white or how Christian we’ll be but whether we’ll still be an open society. Much to learn here from North America and other immigration societies around the globe. Last but not least, a renewed commitment to the West as a globally attractive model, is necessary as well as possible.

    All this is just a sketchy outline of what is needed. But what may well be the most important element in the new rift on what Europe is really all about, has to do with language and communication. Both sides, at least among governments and ruling political parties, must calm down and return to a more rational dialogue. No one in Europe should accuse someone else of belonging to a different century or living outside of reality. If we could achieve that in the upcoming months, it would be a good start.

    [This text was written for the SAC Château Béla Central European Strategic Forum 2015]

    Roland Freudenstein European Union Foreign Policy Migration

    Roland Freudenstein

    A Clash of Cultures ? Refugees and the new East-West divide in the EU


    17 Dec 2015

  • Both the US and Europe are grappling with migration systems in need of reform and repair. The US has made several attempts towards a comprehensive reform of its immigration system, but partisan divides stand in the way. With large numbers of migrants and asylum seekers coming to Europe, EU leaders have been forced to address the broken Dublin system. It has become clear that the current refugee crisis is not just a European crisis. The US has also been facing a humanitarian crisis, one less noticed by Europeans.

    With an unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors trying to make their way to the US from Central American countries, the US, like Europe, is tasked with balancing humanitarian protection and border control requirements. In response, the US has employed policy responses to bring down the number of unaccompanied minors. These measures can provide insights for Europe.

    Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Astrid Ziebarth EU-US Immigration Migration

    Astrid Ziebarth

    Broken systems: the 2014 humanitarian crisis in the US and policy insights for Europe


    25 Nov 2015


    We are in a time of war, war not in Europe itself, but close enough to Europe to have led to massive outflows of refugees across borders and into Europe. I heard this described at the EPP Congress in Madrid as the “most serious crisis for the European Union since its creation”. This is not an exaggeration. This refugee crisis is on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War and the Spanish Civil war, because this is a war, in Syria and Iraq, of a ferocity and intensity not seen since then. 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian War. Most of these people are not coming to Europe for economic reasons, or because they are on a mission of any kind, but because they are in fear of their lives. They are seeking refuge. They are the human embodiment of the price of war. Their plight is a human manifestation of what the voluntary European Union was created to avoid in Europe itself: war.


    If the EU is facing its most serious crisis ever, it is important that we keep a sense of historical perspective. Only thus can we realise how much is at stake. Over the past 2500 years, Europe has tried various methods to create internal security on this continent. The idea of European political unity of some kind is not something new. It was achieved, initially by force, in the form of the original Roman Empire.

    Because it was created by force, its unity also had to be maintained, from time to time, by force. When it came to an end there was a dramatic collapse in living conditions, because Roman money, as a continent wide means of exchange,  and access to silver to make it, was lost. Living standards in Britain, for example, fell dramatically in the 5th Century AD. There are lessons in this story for the 21st century.

    Later, from the Middle Ages up to the Reformation, there was a form of unity in Europe when, apart from his religious role, the Pope exercised, without the use of military sanctions, a role of arbiter between European states, analogous to that of the European Court of Justice, combined with elements of that of  the United Nations. Even after the Reformation and the Thirty Years War, a form of unity in part of central Europe persisted in the continuance of the Holy Roman Empire, until, after 100 years,  that was dissolved by Napoleon, who attempted to impose his own form of secular European unity by force of arms.


    When Napoleon failed at Waterloo in 1815, Europe entered the era on nation states, supposedly based on absolute national sovereignty and the balance of power. That era ended, after a mere 150 years, in the holocaust of two world wars, the last of which was preceded by an economic crash and the collapse of democracy across the continent.


    In response to that failure, something entirely new was attempted, a union of European states held together not by military force, or even by  religious sanction, but by a free and voluntary pooling of sovereignty, based on freely agreed rules. That in the European Union of today. There is much to criticise about the EU, and I will voice some myself this morning, but we should not lose sight of the bigger picture.

    The Union has attracted a stream of new member states, starting with 6, and which has now reached 28. Other federal unions and confederations, in other parts of the world, have not had that experience. It has created  a single market of 500 million consumers, although some barriers still remain.


    The EU has come through an economic collapse in Europe, similar to the one that occurred in the 1930’s, but , in contrast to the 1930’s democracy has been preserved in Europe, protectionism and competitive devaluation have been avoided, and, most importantly, European states are still at peace with one another.


    Now, just as it has begun to put in place a banking union to underpin its currency, and fiscal rules to ensure that this generation does not rob the next by excess borrowing, it now faces a challenge for which it seems quite unprepared, a flood of refugees fleeing war in their own countrie (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea) and impossible living conditions in the countries in which they originally sought refuge (Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey) who have so many refugees they cannot cope with them. 70% of Turks say the 20 million Syrians in their midst should go home.

    In an ideal world, one would say that this refugee crisis is a global one and all the countries of the world should come together to receive them on a shared basis.  But this is not going to happen. They are heading for Europe.

    Controls on the movement of people across Europe’s external borders, notably between Greece and Turkey, have broken down. As a result of that failure, barriers are now being re erected between countries within the EU, undermining one of the freedoms on which the EU is based, freedom of movement of people. If this persists, one could see it leading to interference with the freedom to move goods across Europe too.  This is an existential challenge.

    But a pooling of sovereignty can only work if states are able and willing to exercise the sovereign powers they have, one of which is controlling their portion of the EU,’s external border. So the next step will be a major EU border force, and EU reception centres where those who qualify as refugees can be separated from those who do not and the latter sent home.

    Those who are refugees will need to be shared among all 28 EU states, which will not be easy as living standards vary within the EU and refugees themselves will  all want to go to the more prosperous states. That said, I believe a majority of them will want to go home to their own countries if peace can be restored.


    Meanwhile the EU is moving too slowly in applying the lessons of the financial crisis. Most money in use is not coins or notes, but bank credit of one kind or another. So a currency union without a banking union never made sense.

    We have some elements of a banking union now, a single supervisor for most European Bank and a common EU rule for winding up banks. But these have not been tested yet. That test will come when the EU has to close down a bank in a member state, imposing losses on shareholders bond holders and even customers. Will the EU authorities have the political capital to do that?

    It will be particularly hard to do because Germany has resisted the idea of a common euro are wide deposit insurance system which would spread the losses. The burden will fall solely on the country in which the bank is being closed down. That is not politically viable….an EU institution closing down a bank, which it had supervised,  in a state and that state alone bearing the depositor insurance costs.

    There also may be problems with the Fiscal Rules designed to reduce the debt levels of EU states. These debts are just about bearable now, but if interest rates returned to normal levels, what would happen. For example, the proposed Italian budget for next year, which should be reducing the deficit, is actually increasing it. That may make sense in the context of Italian politics, but it undermines the rules, in the same way that France and Germany undermined the rules 10 years ago.

    Europe does not need to create a complete political or economic union to solve these problems. That is politically impossible. But the European Union does needs to come to a shared pragmatic understanding on all of these problems, and think out a long term plan that serves the interests  of a very diverse group of countries in a fair and speedy way.


    At a time when the EU is grappling with its own existential issues, it has the deal with one member state which wants to reconsider whether it should be in the EU at all or not. I will not say much about the details of the UK case, and will just make a few brief points.

    • At a time when Polish and Baltic state populations are being asked to accept refugees to relieve the pressure on Italy, Greece and Germany, it will not be easy to persuade them that their citizens should have less “in work” social benefits in Britain than locals enjoy, when Britain is exempt from taking any refugees because it opted out of the Schengen system
    • If Britain wants to be exempt from paying any of the costs of future EU banking failures, it is hard to grant it a veto over rules that might be designed to prevent such failures
    • On the other hand, British demands for a speedy conclusion of the TTIP agreement with the US, and for a completion of, the  long delayed,  EU single Digital and Services markets, are a big opportunity for Europe. They should be grasped with both hands.
    John Bruton European Union Immigration Migration

    John Bruton

    The challenges that the EU must meet today


    26 Oct 2015

  • Now that the wrangling about quotas for refugees among the member states of the Union is over (for the time being), and Europe is more focused on regaining control of our external borders, it’s time to look at some of the more long term questions concerning our identity.

    Most of Europe’s leaders agree that the current wave of migrants coming to Europe will change our societies. Some express fears (that Europe will lose its Christian identity), others hope (that more diversity will make us more tolerant, less nationalist, more open). Others are simply skeptical whether the sudden influx will be easy to manage without bringing our societies near breaking point.

    Let me first deal with two notions that I reject. The first one claims that the sheer fact that migrants come from a different culture and embrace a different faith, will put European civilisation in jeopardy. The other one says that a massive influx of people from other cultures automatically makes us better people because diversity is always good: the more multicultural our identity, the better we will become. Both notions are deeply mistaken.

    The fatalists claiming that European civilisation has now signed its own death warrant, might want to take a look at examples of successful integration in counter-intuitive places, such as the Vietnamese in the Czech Republic whose second generation is melting beautifully into Czech society. They are neither white, nor to any significant extent Christian.

    But on the other hand, the starry-eyed multiculturalists have a hard time defending the growth of parallel societies, in which the central values of our constitutions (equal rights for men and women, freedom of expression and faith etc.) are systematically disregarded: in places like Parisian suburbs, parts of Birmingham or Berlin-Neukoelln.

    All this brings us to the central long term challenge of the current wave of refugees, many of whom are here to stay for a long time: Integration. Looking back at different European strategies over the past five decades, none can be called fully successful. That has many reasons, but one of them is that too often, efforts to effectively integrate migrants have not been made, either because we denied that we are facing (and for demographic reasons, even need) immigration, or because insisting on values was somehow smacking of Western imperialism.

    It’s time to take a fresh look. Germany’s debate in recent weeks shows that. Germans continue to be more than willing to shelter those whose lives are threatened. But integration has become one of the hottest topics of German politics, thanks to the refugees. A whole group of politicians from the CDU and the Greens is now openly talking about migrants’ obligation to integrate. As wobbly as it sounds, and as hard as it is to enforce this, it will nevertheless have to become an indispensable part of ‘Willkommenskultur’.

    Public administration, social services, schools and civil society: they will all have to incorporate a much stronger emphasis on the central values of Western societies when dealing with migrants. This has to happen from day one of the asylum application process. Material success must be clearly and openly linked to successful integration. That means improving access to the labour market as much as a more intensive effort to explain our constitutions and the rights and obligations of citizens. Countries like Canada, Australia or the United States have some useful lessons ready. We should not be shy to use what is applicable to Europe, while knowing full well that we cannot copy 100 %.

    Angela Merkel’s ‘Wir schaffen das’ (We’ll manage) should not only refer to the immediate challenge of sheltering hundreds of thousands of people. It should also refer to the challenge of integrating many of them into a modern, open society. The stakes are enormous: if we manage this, the reward will be a younger population, possibly even a completely new link to Middle Eastern countries, as we already have forged new links to Turkey and the Western Balkans in recent decades.

    But if we fail, this could still ruin social cohesion, and bring Europe down for good. The question is not whether Europe in 20 years will have fewer Christians and more Muslims. The question is whether we will still be an open society. If that is what we want to be, we need to get serious about integration now.

    Roland Freudenstein Immigration Integration Migration Social Policy Values

    Roland Freudenstein

    Who do we want to be in 20 years? European identity and the refugee crisis


    01 Oct 2015

  • 340.000 recorded migrants crossed Europe’s border between January and June 2015: an unprecedented number for the EU. Conflicts and repression are raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, Yemen with a level of intensity that current EU defence, development and humanitarian mechanisms simply cannot cope with.

    Europe is left with simultaneous challenges: ensuring control of our borders, maintaining societal stability, honouring our values and living up to binding international commitments to help refugees.

    In the short term, that means protecting the Schengen perimeter by fighting smugglers more aggressively and preventing terrorist infiltrations. This defensive boost could materialise in three ways:

    [1] Common Standards for Border Management as legal chaos reigns today;

    [2] Frontex, Europe’s border management Agency, should be allowed to initiate return missions and not just stick to operational assistance;

    [3] A European System of Border Guards should be created, targeting sensitive spots where flows are not manageable by Member States.

    Listing those technical points, one still feels overwhelmed by the amplitude of the catastrophe. Those refugees bring up the best of our instincts but also the worst. If those negative reactions prevail over our values of humanity and solidarity, then we have lost the battle to the radical groups who are responsible for this horror. Refugees should therefore be rescued, bearing in mind also that some will have to be returned. Europe faces dire political and economic challenges, in addition to investing in more forceful civil-military responses to the ongoing conflicts.

    Leaving the big politics for later, we will now list civil society initiatives across the continent that demonstrate the values Europe is built upon. We used the internet and our own contacts all over the EU and found a lot of venues to help. They are obviously many more out there:

    [Photo: Haeferl, Wikimedia]

    Michael Benhamou Pavlina Pavlova EU Member States Immigration Migration Values

    Michael Benhamou

    Pavlina Pavlova

    More Europe, Less Egoism: European civil society to the rescue in the migrant crisis


    04 Sep 2015

  • If Greeks themselves do not trust their own government and their own banks with their money, it is difficult to expect the taxpayers of other countries to do so. Yet that is what the critics of the severity of the conditions imposed for the third Greek bailout seem to expect.

    The euro was not imposed on Greece. It was something that Greece joined of its own accord. The fact that the possibility of Greece leaving the euro was raised by Germany, has been greeted by some as dealing a blow to the euro, because it supposedly ended the notion of the euro being “irreversible”. But nothing in political life is irreversible, even though some things, like the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, did last a very long time indeed. “Irreversibility” was always a legal fiction, and fiction is not a sound basis for an economic policy. 

    The euro is a contingent compromise, where members trade some short term losses for greater long term gains. A euro, where rules were easily broken, would not endure. I agree with those who say that, eventually, some of the Greek debt will have to written off. That is both financially necessary and morally just. But that can only be contemplated when the Greek political and administrative system has reformed itself, and is capable of benefitting from a write off, and not looking at it as a precedent for a further write offs later on. We are not there yet. 

    The crucial difficulty seems to be that the Greek state does not work. The fact that Tsipras’ offer of reforms had to be crafted, not by Greek civil servants on their own, but with the help of French officials, tells its own story.

    Some complain that elements of the package involve intrusion on Greek “sovereignty”. But a state is only sovereign to the extent that it is capable of fulfilling the internal and international responsibilities of a state.  I believe Greece needs help in this regard, and it would be good if the World Bank, as well as the IMF, were involved in helping Greece reform its public administration.

    Recapitalising the Greek banks will be a major task. Interestingly the biggest national exposure to the Greek banks is  by banks in the UK. The UK is not in the euro, and is not contributing to the Greek bailout, which could be regarded as unfair.

    Some argue that the austerity, that Greece is going through to meet its international obligations, is damaging its economic growth prospects. In the short run, this is true. But fuelling temporary growth, by taking on even MORE debts, would not be an answer. That would weaken longer term growth prospects, because of the additional debt service it  would entail. This is the problem. The opponents of austerity never explain where the extra money would come from, other than from inflation and devaluation, and they solve nothing.

    The important way of  improving growth prospects is by  generating confidence. If people believe the future will be better, and can borrow money to invest in it, the economy will grow. With renewed confidence, some of the money that Greeks themselves have moved abroad will then come back to Greece. If the bailout terms are fully and quickly implemented, by both Greece and its creditors, that will restore confidence, especially if it is rewarded  by a prospect of some conditional and staged debt write offs in the future.

    Meanwhile, Greece is in close proximity to the biggest refugee crisis in world history, caused by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars. More migrants are now arriving in Greece from the Middle East, than are arriving in Italy from North Africa. 65% of the arrivals in Greece are Syrian. Greece’s neighbour, Turkey, is already providing shelter at its own expense for 1.8 million Syrian refugees. Meanwhile most Western countries are reluctant to take in any refugees. Greece, because of its geographic position, does not have that luxury.

    The European Union should reorientate its Development Aid programmes to help middle income countries, like Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are facing major refugee inflows, to cope with that huge burden. Some EU countries, like Germany and Sweden, are hosting many refugees. But most are keeping their heads down and doing little or nothing.

    There should be burden sharing, based on relative income and population. Countries that are receiving the largest proportionate number of refugees should be getting direct ongoing cash help from those that are receiving the least.

    John Bruton Crisis EU Member States Foreign Policy Human Rights Migration

    John Bruton

    Greece and the refugee crisis


    14 Jul 2015

  • In recent times, there is no shortage of people who check data and figures used by politicians in their electoral pledges. In this post I would like to carry out some kind of ‘theory checking’ regarding certain economic claims of anti-European leaders. In many cases, these claims have been found to be utter non-sense in economic theory since the time of Adam Smith, who is not exactly the most recent student of economics. Let us take, for example, the opposition of Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, to trade liberalisation and her ceaseless calls for an ‘intelligent protectionism’ behind national frontiers.

    Now, it turns out that no such thing as ‘intelligent protectionism’ has ever existed beyond the confused fancies of its upholders. ‘It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family’, Adam Smith wrote almost 240 years ago, ‘never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. […] What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom’. In fact, the argument for free trade between states parallels the argument for interpersonal exchange within a state. They both depend on individuals freely deciding whose products meet their preferences best and thus directing societal resources to their most effective use. Who can possibly make that decision better than them?

    Equally puzzling is the opposition of Eurosceptics to the free movement of persons within the European single market. It gets particularly entertaining when put forward by people who like to brand themselves as ‘classical liberals’, such as UKIP leader Nigel Farage. The dreams of this valiant orator seem to be haunted by hordes of Bulgarians and Romanians on the verge of invading the UK. Here again, the facts are known and there is no need to recap them (http://bit.ly/SAbLO1). The theory is more interesting. Labour is a factor of production, so there is a market for it. The bigger this market is, the higher the chances will be of an effective match between the demand and supply of labour. Within the European single market, the most effective match is sometimes likely to imply the utilisation of cheap labour, for example from new member countries, whose wages are still significantly lower than in Western Europe.

    Why shouldn’t entrepreneurs buy from ‘foreigners’ what it would cost them more to buy from nationals, Adam Smith would ask? Because by pursuing their own economic profit, someone may answer, they will depress national wages and destroy national jobs. However, that’s not what economic theory predicts. If production costs decrease thanks to cheap labour, in the medium run prices in the affected industries will tend to fall relative to other prices, thus increasing people’s purchasing power and effective demand. This is likely to create new jobs, not destroy them, and to bring about a more effective use of societal resources. We can expect society at large to be better off, not worse off. It must be stressed that it is the entrepreneurial lure of profit that tends to bring prices down and make them converge towards the marginal costs of firms. Therefore, if competition is absent or insufficient in national markets, there is no way in which this virtuous spiral can be triggered. This conclusion is quite significant: the initial argument against the free movement of persons becomes an argument for more competitive national markets.

    Let me consider for a moment the other usual objection against the free movement of persons, namely that it encourages ‘welfare shopping’, as they call it, in the EU. In other words, people are thought to resettle in countries where they can enjoy high welfare benefits and live a parasitical life off state finances. As above, I will put aside facts and focus on theory. If EU citizens take up jobs anywhere in the Union and contribute to public finances as much as nationals of the host state are we really to argue that they should be discriminated against just because of their nationality? I doubt that even the most hardline Eurosceptics would put forward such an argument.

    The assumption must then be that they will not take up jobs and pay taxes, but simply stay idle and enjoy benefits for which nationals of the host country are paying. However, even if it were true, that is no argument against the free movement of persons either. At best it points to shortcomings in the way national benefit systems are structured and it should be addressed by redesigning them. After all, a system under which one, either national or not, can live for a long time off the public purse inevitably discourages everybody to actively look for jobs. That may be as true of some non-national EU citizens as of some unemployed citizens of the host country, who do not contribute to public finances either and may well remain unemployed for the same opportunistic reasons. Therefore, there would seem to be no reason for discriminating against foreigners as such.

    My understanding is that any discrimination in the provision of welfare benefits based on nationality would hamper the working of the common market for labour, which represents the most powerful microeconomic justification for the free movement of people. For that market to work properly there must be no difference between the incentives to take up jobs for nationals and non-nationals from EU countries, except those inevitably implied by such issues as physical distance and language barriers. Only in this way can we be confident that the matching between demand and supply of labour will tend towards the best use of societal resources on the continent, and that competition will spread the benefits of this process to the highest number.

    Federico Ottavio Reho Eastern Europe EU Member States Migration Social Policy

    Federico Ottavio Reho

    ‘Theory checking’: is unconditional free movement in the EU beneficial?


    05 Jun 2014

  • Over the past 17 years, the EU institutions have been issuing non-binding guidance documents on conceptualising immigrant integration. An analysis of the successive iterations of these guidance documents reveals both continuity and change. During this period, the Commission and the Council have attached different meanings to the concept of a two-way process of interaction between the host society and the newcomers. In documents issued in 2004–5, the two-way process contained the requirement for both immigrants and citizens of the receiving country to accommodate each other. Following shifts in public opinion and disquiet about problems with migrant integration in the 2010s, the European Commission adjusted its guidance. In a definition formulated in 2020, ‘mutual accommodation’ gave way to an emphasis on the adaptation of migrants to the receiving society and the obligation of the host country to help migrants integrate into the mainstream culture. In the current parliamentary term (2019–present), the von der Leyen Commission has promoted the overarching concept of ‘Our European Way of Life’ to accompany the new understanding of the two-way process of migrant integration. This concept is anchored in the EU’s secular values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law, and bears a strong resemblance to the European Leitkultur, or ‘guiding culture’, of respect for the constitution and the values of the Enlightenment, as coined by the author Bassam Tibi in 1998.

    Integration Migration Values

    ‘Our European Way of Life’ as the Guiding Principle: Shifts in the Understanding of Immigrant Integration at the EU Level


    16 Nov 2022

  • The challenge of irregular migration has left policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic bewildered about how to respond coherently in a way that is effective and angers the fewest people. The migration surge on the southern border of the US has peaked at its highest level ever, at nearly 1.7 million encounters in one year. In the first 10 months of 2021, there were 184,000 illegal border crossings into the EU, mainly through the Central Mediterranean and the Western Balkans routes. This represents a 45% increase on the pre-pandemic year 2019.

    The difficulty of managing irregular migration is but the latest in a series of issues that have strengthened the nationalist tendencies which over the past decade have overwhelmed the political establishments in the EU and the US. Although not the only driver, the perception of uncontrolled migration adds strong fuel to the fire of the new nationalist parties and leaders that seek a fundamental revision of foreign policy. It has thus weakened the ability of the transatlantic community to act collectively on other strategic issues, such as how to deal with Russia and China. Irregular migration is closely related to the concept of ‘Westlessness’, as coined by the Munich Security Conference in 2020, which describes a divided and unconfident West that is having difficulties finding an international foothold.

    This paper aims to distinguish between three broad measures that could help policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic structure their response to irregular migration. These measures are (1) making deals with third countries, (2) enforcing sovereign borders and (3) adapting legal interpretations. Clarity about the pros and cons of each policy measure, and their combinations, could help decision-makers find a workable compromise that reaffirms both the sovereign right of democracies to control who enters their territories and the humanitarian concerns that will always be an essential part of what the transatlantic community stands for.

    Migration Transatlantic

    The Transatlantic Perspective on Migration: Attuning Migration Policy to National Politics


    25 Jan 2022

  • The Geneva Convention, adopted 70 years ago, was created as a tool for war refugees from Europe. Only with time did the Convention lift its geographical restrictions and established a universal nature of refugee protection. Today, some blame the Geneva Convention for causing the European asylum system to be unduly permissive with regard to access to asylum and other aspects of international protection.

    Based on an analysis of relevant case law and international comparisons, the paper asserts that the Geneva Convention itself cannot be linked to certain overly generous interpretations and that such an outcome was not intended by the framers of the Convention. Rather, supplementary judicial and legislative interpretations, which have accumulated over decades, have caused Europe’s asylum system to become permissive in certain aspects, compared to those of other major democratic jurisdictions.

    The paper offers several alternative views on how one may assess the differences in interpretations of the Geneva Convention between the EU, on the one hand, and Australia, the US and Canada, on the other. An examination of these differing perspectives allows us to advance operational efficiency of the EU’s asylum system by moving it closer to the original intention of the Geneva Convention.

    EU Institutions Human Rights Migration

    Back to Geneva: Reinterpreting Asylum in the EU

    Research Papers

    11 Oct 2021

  • The issues of subsidiarity and member state autonomy in asylum and migration policymaking have been present in the background of the political and legal conflicts among the EU member states. This paper demonstrates that treaty provisions on subsidiarity have been ineffective as safeguards of member state autonomy on immigration and asylum.

    Nevertheless, the treaties do endow the members with expansive autonomy in this policy area. The paper argues that this autonomy manifests itself in two different regimes that govern decision-making: intergovernmentalism and supranational consociationalism. Outside the scope of the treaties, inter-governmentalism has been effective in preventing irregular migration movements from outside the EU territory. Within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty, member states developed supranational consociationalism, an ultra-consensual decision-making regime that was first introduced in deeply divided societies. Applying this method in the EU context, the national elites have bypassed majority voting on asylum in the Council and resorted to consensus on ‘sensitive’ matters, where it is the governments affected that decide whether a given issue is sensitive.

    This paper argues that the current combination of intergovernmentalism and consociational arrangements should be maintained as it upholds political peace between the members. Nevertheless, given the ongoing problems with the rule of law in the area of immigration and asylum, the European Commission should limit member states’ non-compliance with the existing legislation.

    European Union Future of Europe Migration Subsidiarity

    A Brussels-Based Dictatorship or a Paradise of Subsidiarity? National Prerogatives and EU Migration Policy

    Future of Europe

    08 Sep 2021

  • The New Pact on Migration and Asylum represents a welcome step in the reform of Europe’s asylum and migration policies. By favouring a reduction in irregular migration headed to the EU, repatriations of irregular migrants, increased refugee resettlements, greater external border protection and more efficient asylum procedures, the Pact represents a step towards a sustainable interpretation of the Refugee Convention by the EU and its members. The Pact also offers new ideas on burden-sharing which may be more acceptable to the EU members than the previous proposals on permanent mandatory relocations of asylum seekers.

    Although following the publication of the New Pact all the member states have indicated a willingness to negotiate, it is going to require considerable patience and goodwill to reach an agreement that will satisfy national sensitivities while also serving the overall EU interest.

    EU Institutions Migration

    The New Pact on Migration: A Set of Innovative Proposals with an Uncertain Outcome


    05 Nov 2020

  • Unless you live in Malta, you might not have noticed an unprecedented search and rescue crisis that has revolved around this island nation since April of this year. What in normal circumstances would have occupied headlines across Europe, has nearly been driven into the background by the dramatic events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic both in Europe and globally.

    This crisis has been spurred by a progressive increase in illegal border crossings from Libya towards Malta and Italy. In turn, this increase is a result of at least two factors. The first is mass joblessness among Libya’s large migrant population, caused by an economic decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict inside the country. The second is a resumption of the activities of migrant smugglers, tolerated by the officially recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). The health crisis has confirmed Libya as the main North African country serving as a departure point for Europebound irregular migrants.

    The pandemic and its consequences for irregular migration are highlighting the challenge that Libya, as a relatively wealthy but dangerous and conflict-ridden country, continues to pose to European politicians 

    Crisis EU Member States European Union Migration

    COVID-19 and the Old-New Politics of Irregular Migration from Libya


    02 Jul 2020

  • This policy brief analyses the current efforts by the EU and its member states to provide development aid to third countries. It concentrates on the Marshall Plan with Africa. Proposed by Germany, this plan is intended to bring cooperation between Europe and Africa to a new level. The study examines this plan in light of debates on the impact of development aid on third countries in general, and on migratory dynamics in particular. The specific focus is on aid conditionality related to cooperation on migration. The brief shows that increasing development aid does not necessarily lead to a decrease in migration. The available evidence suggests that conditionality in the provision of development aid is not effective in reducing the propensity to migrate. 

    The policy brief makes recommendations for future EU–Africa cooperation. It suggests that, to ensure a regular dialogue between the two continents, Africa should remain high on the agendas of both the EU and member states. Following the approach taken by the Marshall Plan with Africa, the brief argues that migration-related conditions should be attached to the provision of development aid only with caution. Aid ought to be primarily targeted at creating good governance and strengthening public services.

    The views expressed in this paper are the sole responsibility of the author. They are not necessarily shared by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies or the European People’s Party.

    Development European Union Migration

    Development Aid, Migration and Conditionality – The Case of the Marshall Plan with Africa

    Policy Briefs

    05 May 2020

  • There is a good reason not to reach straight for the panic button as a reaction to increased irregular migration flows from Turkey. Since signing the migration deal with the EU, Turkish President Erdoğan has been trying to rattle the European’s nerves with threats of a new migrant inflow. However, the EU’s position vis-à-vis Turkey is not as weak as it appears. 

    The Turkish government has, in fact, expressed strong interest in continued European financial support for Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. Also, the EU and Greece are better prepared for a migration crisis, than they were in 2015. The worst-case scenario of hundreds of thousands making it from Turkey to Greece is very unlikely. Even if such a scenario were to happen, the EU could unilaterally abolish its customs union with Turkey, terminate the preferential treatment for Turkish agriculture products and halt arms exports to the country. Given the undesirability of this scenario, diplomacy is a much more preferable option. 

    European Union Foreign Policy Immigration Migration

    The EU and the Prospect of a New Migration Wave from Turkey


    10 Jan 2020

  • Search and rescue (SAR) in the central Mediterranean continue painting a disturbing portrait of European disunity on disembarkations and relocations of the rescued passengers. This research paper provides a more optimistic outlook. It argues that, despite the inter-governmental conflicts, which remain unresolved, the EU states have been developing a two-segment policy which has greatly reduced the numbers of irregular maritime arrivals via the central Mediterranean route. The European policy segment has consisted of SAR operations by the individual South European member states, ad-hoc arrangements following disembarkations and a coordinated withdrawal from the Libyan SAR zone.

    The EU’s Afro-Asian policy segment has been based on the prevention of illegal border crossings and support for Libya and the other North African countries in running their own border control and SAR operations. The EU should be moving towards a policy that balances the traditional rights-based SAR system that primarily guarantees the rights of individuals with a functioning rules-based system that encourages adherence to international norms by all the countries around the Mediterranean. The EU needs to continue addressing the human rights abuses in the Libyan detention centres, without compromising on the imperative that the Libyan coastguard should continue bringing the rescued migrants back to their country.

    Human Rights Mediterranean Migration North Africa

    Rescue Operations in the Mediterranean: Towards a Reliable EU Policy

    Research Papers

    13 Nov 2019

  • The current refugee crisis is primarily one of collective action between the EU’s national governments. This In Focus argues that without cooperation between the EU states, the situation is not going to improve.

    Among the EU institutions, the Council, that brings together the heads of state and government, plays the decisive role in showing direction and facilitating agreement. As for specific policies, the EU’s dysfunctional asylum system, which is based on 28 national systems, needs to be reformed, including by allowing asylum applications in the countries of origin.

    Member states need to start supplying Frontex, the EU’s external border agency, with personnel and equipment so that the border can be better protected. Turkey, which hosts the highest number of Syrian refugees, is the EU’s main partner in the Middle East.

    The EU also needs a new deal between host countries and newcomers on the refugees’ integration into European societies. One side of this deal is for European governments and societies to demand that newcomers respect basic values, such as freedom of speech, equality between men and women and individual liberty. The other side of the deal is that those who are granted asylum are given opportunities in employment and civic and political life.

    EU Member States European Union Integration Migration

    The Refugee Crisis: Towards better cooperation between Europe’s national governments


    16 Oct 2015

  • The success of national populists in European Parliament elections in France, the UK and Denmark poses an increased risk for the EU freedom of movement. This new briefing comments on claims about the so-called welfare tourism in several Western European countries. It argues that there is very little substance to the allegations about the abuse of benefits by migrants from Romania and Bulgaria. It calls for mainstream political parties to confront the populists with facts and stand behind the basic EU principles.

    In FOCUS is a new series of commentaries, in which the Martens Centre looks closely at current policy topics, dissects the available evidence and challenges prevailing opinions.

    EU Member States Migration

    Free Movement: Is One of the EU’s Freedoms at Risk?


    05 Jun 2014

  • The labour market varies very widely across the EU’s member states. While unemployment rates in Greece and Spain have soared above 20 percent in the wake of the financial, economic and sovereign debt crises, other countries such as Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium are struggling to find skilled labour. In theory, this should make it very attractive for job-seekers from the particularly badly-hit regions to migrate to countries where their skills are needed. But despite this, there is little mobility between EU countries. This is illustrated by the fact that there are more Mexicans living in the USA than EU citizens living in another EU country. There is no doubt that the crisis has triggered an increase in the numbers of people migrating between the various EU countries, but if we ignore the movement of citizens from the new EU member states of Bulgaria, Poland and Romania, the number of people migrating as a result of Europe’s economic imbalances remains very low. The proportion of workers in the EU who are citizens of another EU country has significantly increased, but the increase in those countries that are particularly suffering from a shortage of skilled labour is less than the average. So it seems clear that the imbalances between the European labour markets have only had a limited effect on this increase.

    EU Member States Jobs Migration

    Jobs without Frontiers: the Potential of the Single European Labour Market


    06 May 2013

  • Improving the political integration of immigrants is an important task for the European Union. The number of people with an immigrant background in the EU is gradually rising, a trend that is expected to continue. As a result, immigrants and their descendants are likely to play an increasingly significant role in the political life of Member States, as well as at the European level. Nevertheless, political parties in the EU seem to have neglected this phenomenon. Immigrants from third countries and their descendants rarely appear as party members; party leaders at the local, regional, national and EU levels; or as paid officials or candidates. Political parties should therefore consider more carefully the political potential of immigrants and their descendants.

    Immigration Integration Migration Political Parties

    Migrating towards Participation: Immigrants and their Descendants in the Political Process

    Policy Briefs

    01 Nov 2012

  • A consensus is emerging across Europe that the EU needs a much more effective and coordinated maritime border control policy, enabling national and EU law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies to work more closely in tackling emerging threats and challenges concerning irregular migration. Policymakers stress that more effective border controls and maritime security depend both on new equipment and enhanced operational capabilities, as well as on achieving tighter cooperation and interoperability between maritime players within each nation and in coordination with EU agencies.

    For the first time, almost all nations now agree that the maritime environment must become a controlled one, similar to air space. This represents a substantial shift in thinking. Migratory pressures on the southern European border pose a tremendous challenge to European policymakers. So far, the development and strengthening of the EU bordermanagement strategy has been framed at the official level as a key policy priority on the EU agenda.

    The EU has managed to construct the first generation of Integrated Border Management (IBM). This includes a common codification of the acquis on internal and external borders, the Schengen Borders Code; the creation of Frontex, an EU agency tasked with coordinating operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security; and a commonly agreed definition of what IBM means at a European level.

    The EU model of border management defines Frontex as the main institutional actor in charge of putting the integrated and global paradigm into practice. Frontex encapsulates the need to have a common European approach and to promote European solidarity in addressing the challenge of irregular migration

    Immigration Mediterranean Migration

    Addressing Irregular Migration in the Mediterranean

    Research Papers

    01 Jul 2012