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On 9 May 2017, ELF in cooperation with the Institute for Politics and Society and the Republikon Institute held a business breakfast debate called “How Liberals Perceive the Challenge of Migration”. The event focused on how we define migration, asylum seeker and refugee; as well as the discrepancies between EU-level policy and Member State actions.

Panelists and experts included: Dániel Mikecz, a Researcher at the Republikon Institute in Hungary, Lucie Sládková, Head of the International Organization for Migration’s Prague office, and Jan Kovář, a Researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.

Anna Shavit, a political scientist with Charles University, moderated the debate.

The panel conversation began with addressing how we address and define the multiple facets of migration including economic migration and asylum seekers. Ms. Sládková, emphasized the importance in understanding the different terminology of migration in order to contextualize the current political climate in Europe. She also discussed the challenge the EU faces in terms of establishing proactive policies to address a migration crisis such as that seen in 2014 and 2015. Her assessment stressed that the EU does not have proper proactive initiatives, but rather enacts reactionary policies to attempt to ease the surge in migration, particularly in asylum seekers.

Mr. Mikecz focused on the current atmosphere in Hungary and the Orbán administrations’ success in promoting a populist framing of the migrant crisis. While the illiberal Hungarian policies appease the fears of individuals, they do not promote the ideals of the civil society. Mikecz noted that liberal parties in Hungary have struggled to develop an opposing narrative to the populist response, which has led tan increase in the number of Hungarians who oppose migration. Additionally, Mr. Mikecz discussed the importance of media framing in order to improve the situation and mitigate the opposition in Hungary.

Finally, Mr. Kovář reviewed the development of migration policies at the EU-level.  While EU policies are more liberal, Mr. Kovář noted that some Member States, particularly the V4, are moving away from liberal policy toward more populist ideas. This creates tension at the supranational level, which he noted, causes challenges with EU-wide integration policies in each Member State.

The event concluded with questions from the audience, which became focused what policy options could improve how the EU addresses future migration crises. A discussion on temporary protections followed, leaving the debate to consider why this option was not enacted in 2014-2015.