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By Jonathan Brooks
On Wednesday the 7th of January the Henry Jackson Society hosted Dr Michael Spindelegger for an informative event titled ‘Migration to and through Europe: Challenges and Management’, on the kind invitation of The Rt Hon. The Lord Risby. Dr Spindelegger is the Director General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and has extensive experience in international relations through his work in the Federal Government of the Republic of Austria. In 2000, he was elected as representative of Austria to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe where he led the Austrian delegation from 2002 to 2006. During this time period he represented Austria at conferences on migration issues. As Minister for European and International Affairs, Dr Spindelegger worked closely with international organisations in the field of migration and contributed to the policy debate during the Third EU-Africa Summit in Tripoli. After he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the Republic of Austria, he created a State Secretariat for Integration within the Austrian Federal Ministry of Interior. At this time he worked closely with the Ministry of Interior on asylum and labour migration issues while also negotiating a readmission agreement with the Afghan Government.
Dr Spindelegger began his talk by conveying the harsh realities of contemporary mass migration to Europe, and articulated on the issues faced by both the migrants travelling perilous journeys to the continent and the countries struggling to accommodate the influx, quoting 700,000 asylum seekers coming to Europe in 2017 alone. He argued that there can be no absolute control of Europe’s borders, but instead nations should pursue methods of better managing the flow. From this point, Dr Spindelegger explained the need to understand the motivating factors for migration, and used four ‘root causes’ to expound this; war and conflict, economic disparity, socio-economic disparity and the demographic differences. Indeed, it is through research that we can come to understand the causes so that both the countries of origin and the destination countries can better tackle the migrant crisis he explained. Dr Spindelegger argued that it is through an integrated cooperative effort that the irregular migration can be curtailed, and European countries should coordinate with each other more effectively and strike up more operative and creative partnerships that incentivise those states along the migration routes before Europe to act as part of a unified form of migration management. He then used an example ICMPD initiative which incentivises European-based companies to invest in countries which see large amounts of irregular emigration, and to the hire unsuccessful migrants (who would ordinarily be forcibly taken back) as skilled workers in their countries of origin. This Dr Spindelegger concluded, worked as part of a creative and cooperative immigration strategy that better managed migration flows to Europe with the support network of global partners working together.
After of The Rt Hon. The Lord Risby and the audience had thanked Dr Spindelegger, the floor was opened up to questions, which explored various different issues in relation to the migration and European immigration controls. One such question asked how the migrant crisis had affected the cohesiveness of the European Union, and whether unsuccessful initiatives and discordant responses from member states had resulted in a policy paralysis from the supranational body. Dr Spindelegger called upon his time as an Austrian statesman to answer, giving insight into the internal political pressures which influence international responses, and underlying the importance of finding collective grounds to address the issue.
The Henry Jackson Society would like to thank everyone would could attend the event, and especially thank and congratulate Dr Spindelegger for giving such an interesting and insightful lecture on the topic.