International Conference

Refugees – Migration – Integration

Vienna, 24 June 2016

Angelino ALFANO, Wolfgang SOBOTKA, Wolfgang SCHÜSSEL

Angelino ALFANO, Wolfgang SOBOTKA, Wolfgang SCHÜSSEL

In June 2016 DER Think Tank and ÖAGVN assembled politicians and international experts in Vienna to discuss the main issue of our days – Refugees – Integration – Migration. There were four sessions on the following topics: the root causes of mass-migration: military conflicts, massive violation of human rights, socio-economic instability, efficient control of external borders, security requirements, limitations for migration, humanitarian relief for refugees, social, economic and cultural integration of refugees.

In their opening statements the Interior Ministers of Austria and Italy, Wolfgang Sobotka and Angelino Alfano, called the migration problem one of the most serious the EU is confronted with. Migration had a high impact on the outcome of the BREXIT referendum.

According to Minister Alfano, the recent flow of refugees to Europe – the largest since the end of World War II – endangers peace and stability on our continent. The cumulative effect of the economic and the refugee crisis has seriously weakened the EU. In order to overcome both crises, the EU must come forward with realistic initiatives. The EU should conclude agreements both with countries of origin of migration and transit countries based on the principle “more for more” (for the benefits these countries are receiving from the EU, they will prevent that their population leaves in great numbers for Europe). Minister Alfano described three different approaches to migrants arriving in Europe:

  • There are people who are welcoming every migrant entering Europe (this position is unaffordable and therefore irrational)
  • The other extreme is the rejection of all migrants including refugees (this is inhuman)
  • The right balance between rationality and humanity is to rescue migrants who risk to drown in the Mediterranean Sea and to resettle in Europe those migrants who are granted refugee status.

Minister Sobotka emphasized the need for a long-term strategy and a series of short-term measures. Europe’s relations with its Southern neighbors are to be reset around the goal of preventing mass-migration. Mr. Sobotka mentioned the intention of the EU- Commission to pull together and retarget around € 8 bn over the next four years from various existing EU funds. This should be reinforced over the long term by establishing a European External Investment Fund, which would try to raise about € 60 bn of mainly private money for projects that help tackle the root causes of migration. Among short term measures Minister Sobotka mentioned the closure of the “Balkan route” for migrants and the opening of the Joint Operational Office against Human Smuggling Networks in Vienna. Furthermore he referred to the proposal made by the Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, to send migrants back who illegally entered the EU, to establish registration centers for migrants outside Europe and to open legal channels for migration to Europe. Incentives for illegal migration to Europe (“pull factors”) must be eliminated.

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