EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL SEMINAR “The EU, Turkey and the East Mediterranean”

The Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence of the University of Athens organized an educational seminar titled “The EU, Turkey and the East Mediterranean”, and announced up to 30 scholarships.

The seminar took place within the framework of the European project “European Governance of Migration: The External Dimensions” (2017-2020), co-funded by the European Commission and the University of Athens. The Scientific Coordinator of the project is Professor Yannis Valinakis, President of the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence – University of Athens.

The course consisted of seven weekly afternoon meetings and was addressed to university students, graduates, researchers of relevant specialties students of police, military and coast guard academies, as well as to any interested person.

Overview 

Migration is a global phenomenon and various management efforts have been undertaken world- wide. This seminar focused on the roots of the massive migration/ refugee flows mainly from the East Mediterranean/ Middle East (i.e. Syria, Iraq. Lybia etc.) and their journey through Turkey to the EU. The seminar also examined the general theoretical and historical framework and the roles of transit countries, with the aim to identify the differences within the EU member states while further exploring Greece’s part.

Participants had the chance to be part of a research group and publish Policy papers or have an active role as rapporteurs. The programme also offered traineeship opportunities for university students, graduates, doctoral students or young professionals.

The lectures delivered in Greek and a distance learning option was also available.

Programme

Meeting Date Title
1st Monday 30/10/2017 Modern types of Migration- The general framework
2nd Monday 6/11/2017 Historical review of migration and refugee flows to the EU 
3rd Monday 13/11/2017 The 2015 migration crisis
4th Monday 27/11/2017 The EU crisis management
5th Monday 20/11/2017 The role of Turkey
6th Monday 4/12/2017 The special role of Greece
7th Monday 11/12/2017 Symposium: «Modern migration in Greece»

 

 

Modern types of Migration- The general framework

 

On October 30, 2017, the 1st session of the seminar entitled “Modern types of Migration- The general framework ” took place at the European Parliament Office in Greece.

Welcome speeches: Professor Yannis Valinakis, President, Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens,

Dimitrios Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship and Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice- President, European Parliament

Daniel Esdras, Chief of Mission, International Organization for Migration Office in Greece

Keynote speakers: Alexandra Tragaki, Assistant Professor, Harokopio University

Angelos Tramountanis, Dr., Researcher, National Center for Social Research

 

 

Historical Framework of migration and refugee flows to the EU

 

On November 6, 2017, the 2nd session of the seminar entitled “Historical Framework of Migration & Refugee Flows to the EU” took place at the Delegation of the European Commission in Athens.

 

Ms. Angeliki Dimitriadi, ELIAMEP Researcher and Migration Specialist “Greece, with one foot in European policies and one foot out, has a pilot role in the new EU policy on how hot spots can act as both points of arrival and concentration, as well as points of concentration and expulsion of immigrants».

As Ms Dimitriadi explained, European immigration policy is described on the basis of three axes, namely “deterring” the entry of irregular migrants, “arresting and detaining” and “returning”. These axes are incorporated in the context of migration security and the EU’s foreign policy with third countries. For the EU, strong external borders act as an embankment for migratory flows.

Describing the historical context in the EU, the researcher said that up to 2011, migration was not a priority for the EU, as there was a high demand for labor hands and an ostrich approach to the issue from the Member States. While in 2015 we have a European change of focus on managing refugee flows, human trafficking and enhancing external flows. We see an aggressive EU policy aimed at halting immigration flows.

 

The next speaker Mr. Angelos Tramountanis, Researcher at the National Centre of Research, talked about the interconnection of migration and security, which includes not only military, economic and political aspects, but also social and environmental security, according to the Copenhagen School.

 

He then related the new forms of security in tackling the migration issues with the concept of ‘securitization’ and its role in the development and implementation of the various immigration policies. Referring, in particular, to the case of Greece, he said that the construction of migration as a security issue that prioritized solutions based on the logic of securitizing, as well as the role of the media and political parties in this direction, ultimately worked negatively to the central objective of migration policy, that is, the reduction of migration flows and irregular migration.

 

Finally, referring to the historical context of Greek immigration policy, he outlined the legislative framework and legalization programs of the 1990s, which emphasized mainly on the restriction of immigration and the prevention of entry and residence of immigrants. Since the 2000s, the emphasis has been on integration, with the development of a Common European Asylum System as well.

 

The 2015 migration crisis

 

On November 13, 2017, the 3rd session of the seminar entitled “The 2015 migration crisis” took place at the Delegation of the European Commission in Athens.

 

The first speaker Mr.Grigorios Apostolou head of the FRONTEX liaison office in Greece argued that in recent years there has been a huge improvement in the way FRONTEX operates, due to the change in internal procedures, flexibility in moving staff where needed and the new regulation establishing a European Border and Coast Guard Service, one of the Greek Government’s consistent demands for many years, as well as an increase in its staff (430 employees as permanent staff and about 800 border guards from Member States). Mr. Apostolou highlighted the need for cooperation with Turkey, as he characteristically said: “Turkey reacts best when European forces are involved in the Greek-Turkish border.”

 

Continuing, next speaker Mr Apostolos Veizis representative of the ‘Doctors Without Borders’ program accused Europe of grossly violating the human rights of refugees due to poor reception conditions, the detention policy adopted by many Member States, the opening and closing of the borders and finally the voluntary return policies. In his speech, Mr. Veizis pointed out that Doctors Without Borders contributed to the vaccination of the 83% of the incoming population. At the moment, he said, vaccination for thousands of asylum seekers is on the air, due to problems in issuing a Social Security Number (AMKA). Replying to a question, Mr. Veizis commented, “The way mixed migration flows are managed in Greece has been, is at the moment and will remain miserable. In order to be able to absorb money there must be a corresponding political will to manage the situation. ”

 

In her speech, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative Ms. Evi Savvopoulou acknowledged that international organizations were slow to respond to the 2015 refugee crisis. Speaking of the current situation in Greece, she mentioned that there are 32,000 immigrants in the Greek mainland for whom there are currently 18,000 apartments offered and 12,000 on the islands. UNHCR today calls for an extension of the duration of the relocation process, as Ms. Savvopoulou stated.

 

“Greek foreign policy suffers sometimes from bipolar political disorder syndrome” said Charalambos Tsardanidis, Associate Professor at the University of the Aegean, comparing the stages of the refugee crisis to the Greek foreign policy. The first period of the refugee crisis (January-September 2015) is characterized as an open door policy and the narrative of the power of political volontarism. Refugee crisis management has also been used as a negotiating paper with the EU on the issues of the economic crisis and at the same time it has been correlated to the energy and foreign policy issues of the country, in relation to Russia (externalization). At the same time, the refugee issue has also been used for the internal problems of the country (internalization).

 

European management of the migration and refugee crisis

 

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.

 

The role of Turkey (να βρούμε το Ελληνικό)

 

The fifth lecture entitled “The Role of Turkey” was successfully held on November 27, 2017, in the framework of the educational seminar “European Management of Migration in the Eastern Mediterranean: The EU, Turkey and Greece.”

 

Mr Panagiotis Tsakonas Professor at the University of the Aegean and President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Security Studies mentioned in his presentation that the phenomenon of migration is the product of processes and developments in the North African and Middle East region that will remain in the region for many years to come. Turkey plays a key state role in the region not only for migration but also for other issues in order to manage its position and develop policies in its interest. As Mr. Tsakonas explained, the EU took on the pressures of migration and turned them into policies but the burden of management eventually transferred to the frontline states. Concerning the EU-Turkey Aggreement, Mr. Tsaconas described it as an example of “off-shore management” of the refugee crisis, while the EU chooses to set up reception and identification centers outside its borders for the safe transfer of refugees to Member States. In general, thanks to this agreement refugee flows have been limited, but the results of management remain poor.

 

Mr. Manolis Kostidis, journalist at SKAI channel and Eleftheros Typos newspaper referred to the fact that the EU-Turkey dialogue and discussions on the migration crisis are still continuing, despite any problems arising, as Turkey has made the crisis a negotiating issue. In search for the reasons, Mr Kostidis referred to Turkey’s intention to play a significant role in Syria, while at the same time facing a refugee flow of 5.5 million refugees. Today there are about 3.5 million refugees in the country and only 227,000 of them in the 20 existing camps. Referring to the EU-Turkey Agreement, Mr. Kostidis stressed the positive results for both sides, as refugee flows were reduced and the issue of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens to the EU emerged as a “key”. as it is a matter of direct concern to the Turkish side due to the 2019 Presidential elections.

 

Mr. Dimitris Varouxakis, Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Coast Guard, presented the role of the Coast Guard and its cooperation with the Turkish Coast Guard. The key role of the Coast Guard lies in its full policing competence as it brings traffickers to justice and disrupts criminal networks.

The information collected is also sent to the other Member States through EU cooperation procedures. Moreover, protection of human life without discrimination is the priority of the Coast Guard. Most importantly, however, the maritime field is not an appropriate field for managing refugee flows and protecting human life because of the dangers that arise.

Finally, Mr. Varouxakis stressed that following the implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement, the Turkish coastguard has stepped up its operational action and this is also reflected in the statistics, which of course does not mean that there is not much room for improvement.

 

As noted by the last speaker, Mr. Efstathios Poularakis, lawyer and advocate for the rights of “Doctors of the World” – Greece, Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, 50% of which are children. Mr. Poularakis referred to the temporary and international protection provided by the neighboring country, while analyzing whether it fulfills the legal requirements to be considered a safe third country. In particular, he focused on Turkey’s geographical restriction on the Geneva Convention, which deprives non-European populations of the opportunity to become refugees. As a consequence, he added, Syrian refugees can only be granted temporary protection, which proves to be fragile since it could be revoked by a simple decree. Concluding, Mr. Poularakis described the implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement as unsuccessful and considers it to be part of the wider policy of deterrence adopted by the EU. on the management of the 2015 refugee crisis.

“The special role of Greece”

 

On December 4, 2017, the 6th session of the seminar entitled “The special role of Greece” took place at the European Parliament office in Athens.

 

Hellenic Police Lieutenant General Zacharoula Tsirigoti stated that “There is a need to establish a European Return Mechanism with the aim of increasing returns to countries of origin of the new incoming populations”. Hellenic Police’s contribution to the dismantling of organized trafficking networks, in cooperation with EUROPOL is of particular importance. With regard to returns, the Hellenic Police is seeking effective implementation of the Return Directive as stated in the Malta Declaration in February 2017. In collaboration with IOM Hellenic Police aims to increase voluntary returns, an important aspect of EU policy. It also wishes to work closely with Turkey through three legal texts (ie Joint Declaration 2016, Bilateral Greek-Turkish Return Protocol and EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement) despite the latter’s negative stance. The main policy of the Hellenic Police is to cooperate with the various organizations involved, to exchange information, experience and best practices.

 

The Director General of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, ELIAMEP Mr. Thanos Dokos, in his speech he emphasized on the difficulties and challenges that the EU is going to face (and Greece in the future), regarding the major issue of population movements. As he said, the global population is projected to increase in the future with a corresponding increase in migration trends. The example of African countries (Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, etc.) is typical. Effectively, Europe will be called upon to handle large numbers of migrants in the future, despite the xenophobic and racist tendencies that are developing within its borders.

Concluding, he mentioned a possible scenario – a nightmare, in his view, for Greece, considering the possible future destabilization of the Egyptian state, due to various internal problems and terrorism. In this case, the flows that Greece will have to face will be enormous, due to the country’s geographical proximity to Egypt,

 

Mr Christos Poulianitis, Lieutenant General in the 1st Branch (Operations) of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff (ΓΕΕΘΑ).

In his speech he mentioned that even before the problem escalated, the Armed Forces were assisting other state agencies, in line with state guidelines. Institutional involvement began in February 2016, with Law 4368/16. The Contribution consists of the Directorate (not Administration) and coordination in cooperation with the Asylum Service and the First Reception Service of actions to address effectively the issues arising from refugee and migration flows, exclusively with regard to transport, accommodation, food and health care.

In a question about NATO’s involvement, Mr Poulianitis replied that the action plan was drawn up in line with Greek proposals, despite Turkey’s reactions and it  includes border surveillance, early detection of illegal migrants and people at risk and full respect to sovereign rights (Greece and Turkey).

In his speech, Mr. Andreas Iliopoulos, Lieutenant General, Director of the Department of Reception and Identification of the Ministry of Migration, stressed that local communities should they are willing to help with tackling the migration issue. He praised the difficulty of the project, as conditions change daily and data cannot be safely stabilized. Flexibility, immediate response and efficiency in changing conditions are also necessary. First Reception and Identification Centers provide health and pharmaceutical support regardless of whether they are refugees or immigrants and pay particular attention to vulnerable groups. As for the operation of the centers, he claimed that they lacked the necessary staff. However, the staff contributed to the rapid recovery of the damage (estimated at 43,000 euros) caused by minors (migration and refugee population) on 19 November 2017. He finally mentioned that “winter is coming and prayers are not enough”. In the unusual cold, people sleep in tents and light fires to warm themselves and warm their babies.

 

Symposium: «Recent migration in Greece»

 

The first round of seminars on migration management was completed with the Special Event: “Recent Immigration in Greece”

 

“It is important to identify people crossing European territory as well as identify vulnerable groups, such as minors, pregnant or heavy mental illness cases, for their subsequent treatment and for the safety of the hot spot.” This was stated, by the Head of the First Reception Center (KYT) of Kos, Ms Maria Kritikou, at the Special Seminar entitled “Modern Migration in Greece” in the framework of the Educational Seminar “European Management of Migration in the Eastern Mediterranean” which was held on the 11th of December 2017 at the office of the European Parliament in Athens. The event was co-ordinated by Antonis Kontis, Professor of the University of Athens and Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Migration and Diaspora.

Ms. Maria Kritikou shared her experience through the daily hotspot of the island. The purpose of the First Reception Centers is to manage mixed refugee and migration flows, while the procedures followed before and after refugees arrive thus, First Reception Centers are of great importance of the identification procedure. Ms Kritikou described the contribution of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Police and Frontex throughout this process as determinant.

 

Next speaker, Ms Geli Aroni, Coordinator of the Department of Management, Coordination and Monitoring of the Refugee Education Team of the Hellenic Ministry of Education stated that “In order to educate refugees we must also educate Greeks”. Ms. Aroni also referred to the misconception that exists in Greek society that all underaged refugees are a cohesive group, with more or less common characteristics. In fact, the refugee population is very heterogeneous and many different ethnicities, different educational backgrounds and cultural backgrounds can be met. Ms. Aroni proceeded by presented her work at the Ministry of Education and the difficulties she encountered in practice. A key point in Ms. Aroni’s speech was the presentation of the hierarchical goals of the Refugee Education Coordination teams: the primary goal of integrating children into Greek school is to restore some kind of regularity into their lives. Then comes their education and their performance. The problem, as she pointed out was twofold: on the one hand, refugee parents had to be persuaded that their children had to attend school in Greece, when the majority of these families did not want to stay in the country – on the other hand, Greek parents had to be persuaded, but in many cases also the teachers themselves were concerned about the right of children to education.

 

Ms Alexandra Tragaki, Associate Professor at Harokopio University, in her presentation talked about the way migration can be used as a demographic policy tool. Although 20th century has been marked by rapid population growth, after the 1970s data seems to be reversing. As the decline in fertility, coupled with an increase in life expectancy, have created a major demographic problem in Europe, and have also led to population aging, a situation which seems to be irreversible. The new demographic reality, therefore, creates the need for new ways of dealing with challenges. As Ms Tragaki pointed out, by 2050, not only will Europe’s population have shrunk, but it will also be marked by strong geographical divergences with Southern and Eastern Europe facing major demographic problems from Northern and Western Europe. Referring to Greece, the Professor pointed out the extremely low fertility rates and the strong tendency for the population to shrink. She then identified three demographic factors that could play a decisive role in changing the proportion of age groups: fertility, mortality and immigration.

 

Mr. Vassilis Papadopoulos, Coordinator of the Legal Service of the Greek Council for Refugees and an expert on immigration law referred to the first experience that Greece experienced with the refugee in 1920, which shaped the modern form of the Greek state. But “in 2015, the refugee crisis shook Europe and shook its legislative pillars.”

He then referred to the various immigration flows that Greece received in the 1980s and 1990s and their legalization waves, and then mentioned the mixed migration flows since 2004. Mr Papadopoulos pointed out that the EU must continue to handle the issue with respect for European values ​​and human rights, while insisting on the criticality of managing irregular migrants who fall – usually – into economic exploitation and the need to gain access in all social protection structures. Finally, he pointed out that there are three challenges for future management: the need to provide social protection to the migrant population, the management of illegal immigrants and the management of refugees.

 

Mr Nikitas Kanakis, Head of the Doctors of the World, criticized the European Union’s stance on the problem of managing the refugee crisis, assessing its actions such as the Europe-Turkey Agreement as attempts to renounce its responsibilities in the face of the problem. the main conclusion to the peek of the refugee crisis in 2015 was that it was met with some success, but by the actions of Civil Society and its organizations, and less so by the state and the official structures. And, despite his relative satisfaction with the reception of the streams, he finds the plan from now on to be particularly problematic and inadequate. With regard to the issues of the permanent establishment and integration of newcomers into European societies, Greece and the EU seem to be unprepared. As measures to improve the situation with regard to migration and population movements Mr Kanakis suggested: conducting a public debate that will then conclude on specific policies, ensuring access to health for all, and finally the introduction of state rules that treat all people equally.