Implications of migration and refugee crisis for the European security discussed at OSCE-ELIAMEP event in Athens

By SSharma

Challenges posed by the migration and refugee flows and their impact on European security was the focus of an event jointly organized by the OSCE and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) in Athens on 10 May 2016. The security implications of mass movements of people for regional and sub-regional stability, the role of international organizations, and co-operation and co-ordination among relevant actors, were among the issues highlighted.

Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Xydakis opened the event, which brought together over 90 participants from the Greek Foreign Ministry and Athens’s diplomatic, academic and media communities.

In his keynote address, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier warned that migration had emerged as a new fault line cutting across Europe. “As the representative of an Organization that traces its roots to the successful attempt of over forty years ago to overcome the divides of the Cold War, I cannot but underline the need to build bridges – not walls – to protect our common prosperity and security,” he said. He underlined that beyond the humanitarian emergency and short-term responses, we needed also long-term approaches to address the root causes of migration. “On the strength of its comprehensive approach to security, the OSCE intends to play its part in avoiding the emergence of new dividing lines in Europe and in working towards effective solutions to migration-related challenges,” Zannier stressed.

Zannier’s remarks were followed by a panel discussion among Claude Wild, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the OSCE and Chair of newly-created Informal Working Group on Migration and Refugee Flows; Nina Suomalainen, Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje; Saban Kardas, Director of Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies in Ankara; and Monika Ekstrom, Head of Political Reporting and Policy Analysis of the Representation of the European Commission in Greece.

Panelists agreed that the phenomenon of migration will most likely be an issue for decades and emphasized a need for long-term solutions and enhanced co-operation among relevant national and international actors. “Today we are experiencing a migration governance crisis as we were not prepared for this challenge. What we need is a comprehensive ‘smart’ response that reconciles both human and state security,” Wild said.

Suomalainen added that the OSCE was already doing a lot in the field of migration but what was needed in many areas was refocusing or updating of available mechanisms and tools.

Turning to larger geopolitical implications of the current crisis, Kardas noted that the reactive manner in which the EU had handled the instability in the Middle East and the resulting refugee crisis had weakened not only the internal solidarity within the EU but also its external credibility. “As a result, the erosion of trust between the EU and Turkey hindered a more effective and constructive partnership between the two actors in addressing the refugee challenge,” Kardas said. He stressed the importance of strengthening the resilience of local communities and infrastructure which are struggling to manage such a large influx of people.

This event in Athens was organized on the initiative of H.E. Dora Bakoyannis, former OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and currently member of the Greek Parliament and of the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security. The event contributed to an evolving dialogue on migration trends in and around the OSCE area launched at the OSCE Security Days in Rome on 4 March 2016.

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