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Mar 02, 2016

Conference on the Migrant Crisis

On 2 March, a daylong conference entitled “Migration – Conflict or Cooperation?” was organized in Stefánia Palace, Budapest by the Scientific Research Centre of the General Staff of the Hungarian Defence Forces and the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade. The patron of the conference is Minister of Defence Dr. István Simicskó.

On Wednesday morning, Lt.-Gen. Dr. Zoltán Orosz opened the Budapest symposium entitled “Migration – Conflict or Cooperation?”. The primary aim of the conference is to present a comprehensive picture of the roots of the contemporary migrant crisis, the current situation and the expected tendencies. The Deputy Chief of Defence said that by now, everybody has realized how significant the challenge is, and the conference may give rise to proposals that the Hungarian Defence Forces can put into practice.

Zoltán Orosz pointed out that we are talking about a phenomenon that has been with us since ancient times, and the basis for the social integration of new arrivals has always had to be created. The current wave of migrants presents the European Union with new challenges, because for the time being, there are no clear responses to be given to the issues faced by the community. For now, we don’t know what kind of tasks migration will impose on the social-political host communities and the system of EU institutions, and we cannot evade the issue of characteristic sectarian structures and the question as to what extent the crisis will change the religious-social-ethnic proportions of Europe as well as its social and cultural order.

The lieutenant-general emphasized that the motivations of people who are forced to leave their homes and society these days cannot be reduced to a single factor, because besides religious, ethnic, political and economic reasons, there also appear some further motives that are unacceptable to host societies. The latter present the greatest security challenges and risks to the European Union – including Hungary –, while the continent is unable to deal with the situation not only in social and economical but also in cultural respects. At the same time, Zoltán Orosz pointed out that the government of Hungary, the law enforcement organs and the Hungarian Defence Forces have taken quick and right action, which shows that European states do have the proper means.

Nevertheless, independent of the above, the problem has led to the most serious ever crisis of the European Union, as it poses a lot of social and moral dilemmas, while there are no uniform EU regulations for solving the crisis. Differences between host nation capacities and the migrants’ expectations may generate tensions, and it would be essential to handle illegal migration too, so the responsibility of Brussels and the “gateway countries” has special significance. The issue of solidarity, the erosion of multicultural societies, the aggression of the Islamic State and the growing hostility of the host environment may equally lead to conflicts. The lieutenant-general pointed out that as a transit country, Hungary must continue to act in a complex way, avoiding extremes, and of course this is also true of the Hungarian Defence Forces.

In his welcome speech, Márton Schőberl, Director General of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade said that the experts present at the conference formed three parallel panels to discuss a wide range of topics, from the connection between migration and terrorism to the chances of integration and the possibilities of humanitarian aid to climate migration. At first blush, this might seem a little chaotic, but it is not the symposium that is chaotic, but rather the situation itself, which has by now developed into the worst crisis of the European Union. The director general pointed out that hypocritical behavior, raising false hopes, finger-pointing, threats or opinion leaders drowning in political correctness will certainly hinder the solution of the problems in this situation. He noted that instead of these, he sees the way out in clear speaking, facing the situation and realizing the challenges and possibilities. 

Using an example, Márton Schőberl said that “A doctor is not a good one if he doesn’t want to hurt his patients by telling them that they are ill, and the scientist-analyst will not be any greater if he finds an expression for a fence that is even more politically correct than “folding gate”. For this reason, he encouraged the participants to conduct vigorous debates, express conflicting opinions, and ask the relevant questions. 

As he said, Europe must somehow handle the current circumstances at any rate, while the development of the situation is not our sole responsibility at all. At the same time, the EU was late to respond from the beginning, and to date it has not formulated any uniform strategy or action plan. The Visegrád Four (V4) countries, however, have taken a uniform and clear position since the start of the crisis, which is that we must regain control over the borders and the process. By now, virtually everybody has come to agree to these goals, in spite of continuing attacks. 

The Hungarian and foreign experts participating the three panels of the daylong conference are analyzing the current situation in detail from various aspects. For example, the speakers talk about the lessons learned by the police in handling the migration pressure, the historical dimensions of the issue, migration-related aspects of climate change, the security threats, integration tasks and chances connected with migration, and also about the role of the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy in handling the crisis.