Balkan Summit: Strengthening the region’s partnerships

Balkan Summit: Strengthening the region’s partnerships

On Tuesday 18th February Professor Heaven Crawley took part in the annual Balkan Summit organised by Friends of Europe and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Brussels to explore the relationship between the countries of the region and economic, social and political progress towards EU enlargement. Heaven was on a panel discussing ‘The Refugee crisis, the Ukraine and ‘Destination EU’ with the Deputy Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, the Slovak State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Slovenian Secretary of State at the Ministry of the Interior.

The audience consisted of more than 300 senior policy makers, politicians, business leaders and Ambassadors from across Europe. Drawing on the preliminary findings of the MEDMIG research, Heaven challenged the idea of the crisis being caused by the movement of people and suggested that as countries of significant outward migration due to poverty and high unemployment (40% of all asylum applications in Germany last year were made by nationals from Albania, Serbia and Kosovo, almost all of which were refused) the Balkan states might want to argue for a different approach to migration based on legal access to protection and work.

It was an uphill struggle … the focus was almost exclusively on securing Europe’s external border and it was evident that in the Balkans, as in the rest of the Europe, refugees and migrants have become political pawns in a wider struggle over the membership and values of the European Union. There is limited interest in better understanding the dynamics of migration or in the fact that EU policies are failing precisely because they are out of sync with the factors that shape people’s journeys and destinations (fear, need, hope).

There is also a podcast that you can listen to here.