On September 23, 2015 the Project for Democratic Union co-hosted a panel discussion together with AEGEE-Budapest on the Hungarian refugee crisis in light of the EU’s current migration policy. By Veronika Czina
The conference held at Corvinus University in Budapest featured PDU’s patron, Professor Péter Balázs from Central European University, who is also a former Foreign Minister of Hungary, Dr. Carlos Puente, Doctor in Economics and Attorney at Law, and András Kováts, Junior Research Fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Director of the Menedék (Shelter) – Hungarian Association for Migrants.
The roundtable was received with huge interest from the student- and academic circle of Budapest; more than a hundred people came to participate at the event. The session began with the opening remarks of Péter Sczigel from AEGEE, then Veronika Czina from PDU, who also acted as panel chair, introduced the Project for Democratic Union and the speakers as well. The discussion started with short remarks from all three speakers on the topic of the Hungarian and European migration situation.
Carlos Puente argued for the need of solving the crisis in a way which complies with the current EU and international legal regulations such as the Geneva Convention of 1951 and the Dublin III system. Moreover he called for the cooperation of the whole international community and reminded that the responsibility of the West in destabilizing the Arabic countries is part of the reasons that have led to the current situation.
Professor Péter Balázs called the refugee crisis the „first big test of the EU” in a very long time. He highlighted the tendency that the EU is very efficient in solving self-made problems, such as the Eurozone crisis, but the current situation poses a real, perhaps unprecedented, challenge for the EU as a whole. Partly, he sees the root of the problem in the lack of a middle ground in handling the refugee crisis: the citizens and the policy-makers are all considered to be either „pro-refugee” or „anti-refugee” and this political stigmatization makes solving the problems very difficult. Although the Hungarian government reacted in a very questionable manner and treated the refugees with methods lacking solidarity, the fault also lies in the European Union which clearly can only function under favourable circumstances, but gets shaky whenever a storm comes. The Professor praised Germany for its efforts in solving the crisis and called for the participation of all Member States in a joint action.
András Kováts spoke about the refugees from a different perspective than the other two speakers, because he represented the on-field experience. As member of a civil organization, he spent a huge amount of time among refugees stuck both in Budapest and at the borders. He criticised the Hungarian political scene for not using proper terms for migrants and confusing such concepts as refugee, asylum seeker or immigrant. He argued that the main failure of the Hungarian government lies in the fact that they did not take the initial signs of a mass influx of immigrants seriously, despite the early warnings already coming at the beginning of 2015. However, he also added that after the initial confusion and the very bad rhetoric of the Orbán government, Hungary did a considerably good job in registering the migrants and trying to normalize the situation at the borders.
The opening speeches were followed by many questions coming from the audience mainly concerning the potential Islamisation of Europe and the future of the current situation. About the first topic, the main view was that people coming from different cultures would comprise such a tiny portion of the European population that we would not have to fear that the so-called ‘European Christian culture’ and value-system would be in danger because of them. Moreover, multiculturalism is one of the assets of the European society and in some countries where the population is shrinking, such as in Hungary, the integration of foreigner in the society would actually be very beneficial from an economic point of view. Even though speaking from different perspectives, all speakers concluded that Europe has to come up with a coordinated solution which is based on equal participation from all EU Member States and solidarity.