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Keeping a cool head: How to improve the EU migration crisis response

Helena Hahn

Date: 20/10/2022
One of the critical lessons learned from the 2015/16 migration crisis was that the EU’s crisis response suffered from lacking coordination. Instead of seeming prepared, it appeared to be ‘muddling through’, which resulted in ad hoc and reactive measures.

Now, six years later, Europe has seen a rapid succession of migration and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Belarus, and Ukraine, evoking memories of the challenges the EU and its member states faced in responding to the events of 2015/16. This Discussion Paper explores whether any lessons have been learned in terms of crisis coordination since that time – and if so, which ones. Crucially, it also engages with questions around how much flexibility versus consolidation of crisis structures and processes will be needed to strengthen EU crisis responses in the future.

There has been some cause for optimism in the past year. Between successful coordination efforts within the Solidarity Platform, established in response to arrivals from Ukraine, as well as increased international engagement and alliance-building, notably with the United States and Canada, there are several good practices to draw on.

Even so, these sorts of flexible and targeted coordination efforts should be complemented with further consolidation. Given that each migration crisis differs from the next, there will never be one single coordinating mechanism or entity. Yet, the EU should consider pooling and streamlining information around (potential) displacement crises at a designated ‘crisis hub’.

Importantly, more meaningful and constructive collaboration between the EU, member states, international organizations, partner countries, and affected countries is also needed. For this, the EU should consider replicating or continuing successful coordination mechanisms beyond the crisis moment, such as the Solidarity Platform, while ensuring a more proactive deactivation of purely crisis mechanisms. Internationally, the EU should continue building its engagement around migration and asylum issues. This would serve not only to foster longer-term exchange and crisis learning across boundaries (e.g., transatlantic exchanges on lessons learned and the way forward). It would also strengthen the EU’s global convening power and leadership at a time when migration crises are becoming increasingly complex and overlapping and therefore in need of joint efforts.

This Discussion Paper was developed in the context of the project entitled “EU Migration Policymaking in Crisis Mode: Has the EU found its blueprint for the future?” as part of the Think Tank School 2022, organized by the Think Tank Lab.

Read the full paper here.

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