The Refugee Crisis as Crisis of Policy and European Values

Academics and civil society members from EU and Western Balkans met on Wednesday, 7th September 2016, to analyze and discuss the impact of the refugee crisis on the political discourse of the countries within the Western Balkans and the EU. Academics and experts from Germany, Austria, UK, Hungary, Croatia, Monte Negro and Macedonia together with civil society representatives from Macedonia (LEGIS), Serbia (Miksaliste) and Hungary (MigSol, MigrantAid) were brought together by the Centre for Research on Democracy and the Western Balkan Studies at the Andrássy University in Budapest, in order to meet and discuss the perceptions and the realities of the refugee crisis, offering a brought view on the situation in the affected countries.

The focus was put on the Western Balkans, as region confronted with numerous social, political and security issues in relation to the huge numbers of (un)registered refugees traveling through, the challenges coming from structural and financial limitations to respond in timely and dignifying manner, and the consequences of the refugee/migrant issue on the political system of this countries, as well as the EU.

The humanitarian opportunism of the governments of the Western Balkan countries was discussed, as well as the lack of integration and miss-implementation of migration policies, which made the western Balkan countries non-attractive for refugees to stay. The slow reaction of governments and authorities to the so called Crisis of Policy rather than refugee crisis in the Western Balkans led to overburdening of the CSOs in attempt to respond to the massive influx of people coming from war-thorn and unstable regions, in search for protection guaranteed by international law. The lack of contact between refugees and citizens due to the peripheral positioning of the route as well as the eventual formal concentration points contributed to the perceptions and often ignorance of the citizens of the western Balkan countries, which was only emphasized by the media in the Western Balkans and the lack of in-depth local reporting in comparison to the high international media attention and scrutiny. 

Refugees you are no longer welcome in Europe and the Crisis of European Values and Policy was emphasized by the experts coming from EU countries, presenting the change of heart and mind by EU policymakers seen through change of discourse and radicalized rhetoric, the gradual but stable tightening of asylum policies, justified by overburdening and lack of capacity to handle such an influx and, not less often (and in some cases exclusively), with incidents and attacks that, whether connected or not, were associated with refugees and migrants, leading to rise of fear and xenophobia within the European citizens, which influenced them  to digress from open hearths to closed borders. The influence of the European Countries on the closure of the Balkan Route that led to rise in criminal activities connected to smuggling and trafficking in persons was discussed, and the impossibility to stop migration with this restriction, that only raises the danger the people coming from war-thorn countries are in.