“The consequences of the migrant and refugee crisis on local economies at the EU’s external borders” 30/4/2018

The third session of the educational seminar entitled “The consequences of the migrant and refugee crisis on local economies at the EU’s external borders” organized by the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence, University of Athens, was successfully held on April 30, 2018, at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry “Hermes” Conference hall, as part of the training seminar entitled “The Management of the EU’s External Borders in the Eastern Mediterranean”

Coordinator was Ms. Alexandra Tragaki, Assoc. professor of Demography Economics at the Department of Geography of Harokopio University. 

The first speaker Mr. Georgios Markopouliotis, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Greece, began his presentation by discussing the consequences of the refugee crisis in local communities and economies. He then focused his speech on three specific point. First with a review of the situation on the islands since the peak of the crisis in 2015 till today, concentrating on the differences that can be seen in the period between and after the EU-Turkey agreement and specifically in the way local communities dealt with the situation with the help of the European Commission. Secondly, with examples of actions targeted at the reinforcement of local communities and economies and finally providing the audience with recent research conducted by the European Commission examining the policies of 70 local communities in Europe, which resulted into the presentation of the best practices used. He concluded by emphasizing on the importance of refugee integration in Europe and Greece, specifically. 

Next speaker Mr. Michalis Aggelopoulos, Mayor of Samos Island, Attorney at Law, Athens Bar Association, referred to the multiple role of the refugee crisis characterizing it as local, regional, economic and ecumenical. He then stressed the key role of political will on the issue. Thus, the European Commission, despite its own will, usually loses its rights due to the member states’ policies that might be incapable, xenophobic and inadequate to face the situation. The situation on the island of Samos was extensively analyzed and the speaker concluded by focusing on the importance of the possibility of growth, which can be achieved by a real strategy in the light of the recent crisis. 

Ms. Konstantina Svinou, representative of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, member of the Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasting, referred to the difficulties that the refugee crisis imposed on the economy, which are still present and evolving. Ms. Svinou mentioned the geopolitical importance of the islands which has contributed to the existing situation and their role as first reception centers. She finally, stressed the fact that the five islands Mytilini, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos had to deal with the whole situation by themselves with the help only of volunteers and businessmen who were helping each on their own way, despite the arising economic problems.

Next speaker, Mr Harris Kokkosis, Professor, Department of Spatial Planning, Urban Planning and Regional Development, University of Thessaly who began his speech by stating that tourism is a very dynamic industry worldwide. He then proceeded by mentioning data concerning the tourist flows in Greece and Europe in general, focusing also on a shift in lows from Europe to Eastern countries. Mr. Kokkisis also talked about the power of instant information and its effect on tourism along with the negative results recent developments on refugee crisis can have on tourism. This can be considered a crucial factor, since travelers are mainly want to feel secure when travelling to a place. 

Ms. Evangelia Kasimati representative of the Economic Analysis and Research Department of the Bank of Greece in her presentation referred to the migration and refugee flows in Greece in the period of 2015-2017. Ms Kasimati who based her speech on the recently published article she and Ms Panagiotopoulou the next speaker wrote, talked about the evolution of migration flows throughout the country and how they can affect many different areas such as economy and employment. Concluding, she made a reference to other areas of interest regarding the refugee crisis, such as the EU funding toward Greece and the opinion of the local communities. 

The presentation was continued by Ms. Kalliroi Panagiotopoulou Professor Emeritus at the Media and Communication Department of University of Athens. Ms. Panagiotopoulou focused on the immediate benefits that the integration of migrants and refugees can have for a country. She specifically mentioned the example of Germany and the increase in births only two years after the mass income of refugees in the country. She then continued by stating that no policy can be successful if it is not based primarily on social acceptance. The speaker presented facts that prove the negative opinion Greeks have towards the refugee flows. She finally suggested that the public opinion has to change in order to be able to successfully tackle the refugee issue. 

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