The New Europe: Migrations, Integration
The East Forum 2016 will examine the theme of “The New Europe: migrations, integration and security”. The focus will be on the migrant crisis, the main challenge facing the Old Continent today and one that involves further challenges: the social integration of new arrivals and the question of guaranteeing security across the European territory, especially in light of the threat of Islamic terrorism.
At the same time this crisis seems to be threatening the future of European integration: will Europe be able to provide an effective response to a challenge of global dimensions or will centrifugal nationalist forces prevail, leading to the fragmentation of the continent in defence of now dated forms sovereignty?
Migrants today make up approximately 3% of the world’s population. The overall increase in the number of migrants over the last 100 years can be traced mainly to two facts: the world’s population has quadrupled, and since 1900 the number of countries has increased from 50 to over 200, with the consequent proliferation of national borders.
Europe is undoubtedly facing a refugee and migration crisis of unprecedented proportions.
The majority of arrivals have been displaced by the Syrian conflict. Nevertheless, violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, poverty in Kosovo, Albania and Eritrea and terrorism in Nigeria, are all contributing to a phenomenon on an epic scale.
Given its geographical position, Greece is the country most exposed to this irregular migration, while Germany is the country that received the highest number of asylum requests in 2015 and Hungary has received the highest number of new requests in proportion to its population.
Overall, Europe’s response to the crisis has so far been fragmented and ineffective. The plan approved in September 2015 by the Internal Ministries of EU countries to alleviate the pressure on the worst affected member states by relocating migrants according to obligatory national quotas, has failed to come to fruition. At the same time, no agreement has been reached concerning the revision of the Dublin Regulation. Then there’s the agreement reached in mid March between the EU and Turkey to reduce the number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkish territory, in exchange for a package worth six billion euros plus European political commitments (including kick-starting the process for Turkish accession to EU): this agreement, in addition to provoking fierce criticism from NGOs and many professionals working with migrants as well as opposition from some EU governments, risks
being scuppered by a number of obstacles concerning its implementation.
Further complicating this picture are some national initiatives: first of all, the unilateral reintroduction by various member states of national border controls. The has resulted in limiting the freedom of movement of European citizens, hindering the EU economy while also fuelling the populist and nationalist attitudes that are a key political problem for Europe today. This situation has been made even more testing by the need to develop not only solutions to the migration crisis but also measures to counter Islamic terrorism in order to guarantee the security of Europe’s citizens.
The East Forum 2016 aims to examine these themes, highlighting the extraordinary opportunities that facing Europe from a political, social, economic and demographic point of view. The conviction underlying the work of the Forum is that Europe faces a challenge that will have a decisive and long-term impact on its future and its role in the world: a new Europe will be defined by the responses that it provides to the current crisis.