Accountability in Politics – Europe’s Refugee Problem
Populist parties construct a connection between a terrorist threat and refugees. Michael Georg Link, Director of ODIHR/OSCE, rejected this link as dangerous and irresponsible in an interview with FNF Western Balkans.
Communication is still key to finding both common European answers and national answers. The victory of France’s Front National in the first round of local elections indicates that populists benefit from the lack of response by democratic parties to the challenges of the refugee crisis. The Dublin system collapsed and even the Schengen system – one of the key achievements of the EU – is on the verge of failure. Thus, the refugee crisis exposed the weaknesses in the EU’s early warning system and the inability of EU member states to agree on further steps to “tackle” the crisis. But as Theodoros Skylakakis mentioned in his keynote speech, the refugee crisis offers a chance for the EU to embark on needed reforms and has triggered a discussion about what makes the EU such an attractive place.
The three-layered conference “Accountability in Politics – Europe’s Refugee Problem”, organized by FNF Western Balkans, addressed causes and symptoms of the crisis, shed some light on the current situation and dared to look into the future. Day after day more than 2 000 refugees cross the Slovenian border with Austria. Their destination is Germany. Their expectation: to start a new life in safety. But what you don’t see you might not perceive as your problem. Living proof for this thesis is ‘Miksaliste’. This is a civil initiative that has managed to set up a hot-spot for refugees in Belgrade and provides assistance to refugees crossing the Bulgarian-Serbian border.
While in summer the parks around Belgrade’s main railway station were full of tents, nowadays you can barely see any trace of the refugees. In Miksaliste, refugees from Afghanistan sit in a tent and write down their personal story while in a neighbouring cultural centre, they speak to a camera about their motives for leaving their countries, while the bulk of the refugees are taken by bus from Presevo, right to the border with Kosovo, to Sid, next to the Croatian border. Via Croatia and Slovenia, the refugees will finally reach the Austrian border.
But what will happen when Austria closes its borders with Slovenia? This might have a tremendous impact on the professional handling of the refugee situation along the “West Balkan Trail”. Is Serbia ready to integrate people from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan? Dusan Gamser, who moderated this conference, is trying to initiate a discussion on this question within Serbian society.
While a number of EU countries are reluctant to take in refugees, Germany is working for solutions on the European level which includes both EU and non-EU countries alike. Turkey will have to play a key role but, as Theodors Skylakakis stressed, every neighbouring state has good arguments and a bullet-proof belief in why it supports or opposes the factions in this bloody conflict. The refugee crisis is one of the biggest challenges the EU has ever faced. It offers chances to rethink strategies and to allocate accountability to the lowest possible level without neglecting a common European foreign and defence policy. The countries along the Western Balkan Trail should play a significant role in these deliberations.
Charles du Vinage, Project Director Western Balkans
Photos from the event:
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