“European management of the migration and refugee crisis” 20/11/2017

On November 20, 2017, the 4th session of the seminar entitled “European management of the migration and refugee crisis ” took place at the Delegation of the European Commission in Athens. 

Mr. Panagiotis Ioakimidis professor emeritus of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of the University of Athens focused his speech on the failure of the European Union to formulate a common immigration policy.

As Mr Ioakimidis argued, while the European Union, at institutional level, reacted immediately to the refugee crisis of 2015 by formulating a comprehensive proposal and concrete measures under the European Migration Agenda, the member states failed to formulate a common immigration policy of burden-sharing and solidarity, as defined in the Lisbon Treaty. This failure can be attributed to the short-sighted and conservative perception of mainly Eastern European countries, led by Poland, but also to the complete absence of France in the whole process, with Germany lifting the burden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel saving, as she characteristically stated, “the honor of Europe”. Concluding, Mr. Ioakimidis emphasized that majorities are not easily achieved in order to move forward with a common immigration policy. He emphasized, however, that the EU countries simply cannot fail to apply European law while he stressed the need for stricter terms and conditions, which should also include suspension of the funding to the EU member states. 

The representative of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Mr. Dimitrios Pagidas, acknowledged that from 2015 onwards, the European asylum system has been under tremendous pressure resulting in emerging shortcomings in the common European asylum system. Mr Pagidas clarified that EASO is signing annual business plans with the member states, so it does not come to any member state to impose its own proposals. It is the responsibility of the member state to identify which areas are in need of assistance and then EASO is providing advice and solutions. As for Greece, the previous business plan was signed last December and now the two sides are in negotiations to sign the next one. It contains a wide range of actions in support of the Asylum Service, First Reception and Identification Service and the Appeals Authority. In addition to enhancing staff skills through training, additional experts are provided who either come from Greece or member states.

Mr. Angelos Pagkratis, Special Coordinator of the European External Action Service of the European Union, referred to the global dimension of migration and its relation to development policy.

At EU level, United Nations principles and mechanisms have been put in place to integrate actions through the Sustainable Development Goals. The European Union’s polar response to increased migration flows is the long-term economic growth of the countries of origin.

Therefore, the EU’s main objective is the coherence of policies to tackle the root causes of migration and synergy with existing policies; its role is focused on attracting private sector funds while serving the common European interest.

Mr Kyriakos Yaglis, Director of the Greek Division of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), emphasized the fact that in the future migration flows to Europe will have  mainly mixed migration characteristics. As explained, the DRC’s role in responding to the migrant crisis in Greece since 2015 is to deal with emergencies (eg in the Greek islands), to help integrate and find solutions for migrants (eg relocation, voluntary return) and legal support. Mr Yaglis mentioned that although a large sum of money had been offered to the Greek state, the Ministry of Migration Policy was completely unprepared and had limited capacity to manage the money allocated to it. Finally, Mr Yaglis stressed the lack of a plan to integrate refugees / migrants in the Greek approach to immigration. In contrast, the example of Denmark was cited, where the Danish government finances municipalities to manage migrants resulting to a rapid integration of immigrants into society.

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