European Café: Storms Past and Storms to Come

On the 4th of May 2017 CEID organized an event of the Euro-Atlantic Café series with the title: Storms Past and Storms to Come. Panelists of the event were Ambassador Igor Slobodnik, Ambassador-at-Large for Migration during the Slovak Presidency of the European Council and Professor György Schöpflin, Member of the European Parliament (EPP/Fidesz). The event was moderated by Ms. Edit Inotai, Senior fellow of CEID. The discussion dealt with the predictions of the migration crisis for 2017: Is there a chance for a common strategy for EU member states and for the V4 countries? The event tried to answer what consequences we can expect from the lack of solidarity of some EU member states and whether the answers to the migration crisis lie outside the EU?

Evaluating the development of the migration crisis in 2017, the panelists approached the topic from different perspectives. Mr. Schöpflin used a more academic approach and claimed that the current situation is based on the emergence of an educated self-reproducing elite. The self-reproduction restraints social mobility and  leads to the exclusion of broad parts of the society from the decision-making processes. The results of this development can be seen in the perception of the society struggling  with its identity, questioning who they are, and where they want to go. Schöpflin sees the split approach to migration having its roots in this context. Mr. Slobodnik highlighted that this year fewer migrants can be expected than in 2016. The routes have changed: Refugees are now mostly coming from Africa rather than the Middle East. Law enforcing authorities became more active and sophisticated than before.

Ms. Inotai raised the next question about a common strategy in Europe. Mr. Schöpflin was aware of the disagreements in Brussels and said that, some countries could not  cope with the number of people taken in. He said that the societies are not ready to take such a high number of migrants. Mr. Slobodnik pointed out that several crises are hitting the EU at the same time.  A compromise can’t be accessible without a voluntary approach for the refugee quota. Solidarity is the key. This statement ignited a debate through the panel on solidarity. When the question of Hungary not relocating one single refugee was raised,  Mr. Schöpflin highlighted that the phrase solidarity was hard to define nowadays. One aspect would be respect, which – in his views – is lacking towards Hungary from Western media. He claimed that the debate on freezing the EU funds towards Hungary if it doesn’t accept the refugee quota puts a price tag on solidarity.

The last topic was about what can be done outside the EU for tackling the crisis and stopping mass migration. Mr. Slobodnik stated that not all migrants come from Africa or the Middle East. Common EU measures are needed to come to terms with the situation and the crisis couldn’t be managed from within the EU. Mr. Schöpflin stated that the pressure of migration will continue. Also the ethnical issue is still on. He highlighted that all V4 countries have missions in Lebanon for Syrian refugees to get job opportunities in the surrounding countries.

In the Q&A part, a vivid discussion arose. A commenter questioned the Hungarian policy towards Ukrainian migrants and the governmental campaigns. Currently the Hungarian government tries to attract Ukrainians to solve the problem of shrinking workforce. He highlighted the inconsistency of the government’s approach to migrants from the Middle East and from the neighboring countries by questioning to what extent Muslim migrants are threatening the employment market while Ukrainians don’t.

The term of solidarity was also picked up from the debate. The audience questioned Hungary’s solidarity and that of some other EU member states when refraining from refugees and migrants.

Slobodnik highlighted that the EU was based on solidarity. Whereas Prof. Schöpflin critically looked at it and brought into consideration that solidarity is a modern term. Being not mentioned in the bible, but rather came up in the French revolution, it is now beloved by politicians but has no concrete definition and is always adapted to fit best to the context. A participant emphasized that the EPP, the party Schöpflin represents, actually defines solidarity in its statutes.

Answering a question regarding the importance of the core-EU and V4 for Slovakia, Amb. Slobodnik underlined that if Slovakia has to decide between the two, it will unquestionably stay with the EU.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

The event took place in the framework of the European Café.

Stefanie Nestler