European Migration and Diversity

EPC in the refugee crisis debate


The 2015 refugee crisis is increasingly being acknowledged as a pivotal moment for the European integration project. The unprecedented number of people asking for international protection in EU countries has been the source of tension, uncertainty, disunity, but also of innovative policy responses arising in record time.

The European Policy Centre (EPC) has swiftly adapted its agenda and working methods in an effort to analyse European and national responses to the crisis and to propose policy recommendations. The EPC is dedicating significant time and human resources to contribute to moving the European project forward during one of the EU’s most serious tests. Indeed, the current crisis confirmed what the EPC has been continuously signalling for the last couple of years: migration issues are horizontal and cannot be dealt with only from a home affairs perspective. They impinge across many policy areas (foreign policy, development, trade, integration, etc.) and disciplines (legal, economic, demographic, social, foreign affairs, etc.).

Therefore, EPC analysts are joining forces to provide well-informed policy analysis to a very complex set of circumstances. In this rapidly changing context, the EPC has placed itself at the forefront of discussions on the refugee crisis by:

Creating a platform for discussion

Through a series of events with relevant decision makers, analysts, journalists, academics and civil society representatives, as well as the media, the EPC is bringing stakeholders together to have an open debate about the possible ways out of this crisis and suggest pathways to solutions.

For a complete overview of past EPC events on the refugee crisis, go here.

For upcoming events on migration and refugee issues, please see the EPC's calender here.

Advising, warning, encouraging

EPC analysts are closely monitoring the work of the EU institutions, the intensive negotiations between governments, as well as the debates in the European and national parliaments, bundling everything together in regular policy updates. They react promptly to these developments with rapid analysis and publications. Widely read by decision makers, and extensively shared on social media, EPC publications stimulate the debate on complex issues, ranging from the way in which the new mechanisms put in place at EU level (hotspots, relocation scheme, etc.) will work, to their significance for the common future of Europe's member states.

From the beginning of the crisis, the EPC has been highly present in the media, analysing the tragic situation unfolding at Europe’s external borders and calling for more cooperation among member states and the adoption of a common European response. While remaining key interlocutors for the regular media followed by the major stakeholders in Brussels (Politico Europe, Les Echos, Huffington Post, EurActiv, Le Monde, Libération, Le Soir, New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Euronews, AFP, ORF, BBC,  etc.), EPC analysts have also significantly increased their presence in the media in new EU member states, especially Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania and Poland where public opinion remains extremely polarised over this topic.

In addition, EPC expertise and experience in migration-related issues is regularly solicited on an ad hoc basis by decision makers (EU officials, JHA counsellors in diplomatic missions, MEPs, policy advisors, etc.) and others (academics, researchers, etc.).

Proposing long-term solutions

The EPC continues to seek innovative ways to reach the ultimate objective of a common European migration policy, particularly through the Forced Migration Project: how can the EU play a greater and more coordinated role’. Through this project, the EPC is exploring new ground by trying to understand how other EU policies (agriculture, fisheries, development, trade, common foreign and security policy) influence the obligation or willingness of third country nationals to migrate to the EU. The aim is to come up with ideas on how the interconnection between policies should be reflected in the design of EU’s migration policy. More information about the project can be found here.

This project builds on the EPC’s Migration and Diversity Team previous efforts to propose solutions both in terms of strategic policy planning (Post-Stockholm Taskforce’) and migrant integration (Evidence on migrants’ integration in Europe’).

The road to sustainable solutions is long and the EU is likely to remain in the current crisis mode in the years coming. The issues that European leaders now need to reflect on are numerous: how will the relocation mechanisms work? How will member states manage the integration of the people seeking protection on their territories? What has the EU learned from this crisis? Is there a need to reform Schengen? How can the EU move forward and develop a truly common European asylum system and a common EU immigration policy? Would Europe be able to address the root causes of this crisis via a more harmonised foreign policy? Can the EU repair the damage done to its credibility and legitimacy at a time when populist anti-EU discourse is increasingly appealing to EU citizens?

The EPC will continue to reflect on all of these questions with a view to providing practical, long-term solutions for policy makers which can help the EU exit the current crisis and ultimately enable the emergence of a stronger, more integrated Union.