EU after Salzburg: How to Keep the Single Space

_ Maria Apanovich, Senior lecturer at the Department of Demographic and Migration Policy, MGIMO-University. Moscow, 27 September 2018.

On September 19-20, Salzburg hosted an unformal EU summit – yet another meeting of the heads of state, dedicated to the common and the most acute issues – first of all, migration crisis and Brexit. It is important to underscore the role Austria played and the attempts to move both problems from the deadlock.

Let us start in order. Since 2015, the EU has been trying to overcome the migration crisis, partly caused by its “open doors” policy and its unwillingness to notice the problems of borderline countries like Italy and Greece caused by the influx of refugees and economic migrants from developing states. Take the tragic Lampedusa case (an accident, when a ship with migrants crashed off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, caused 366 people dead): that was in 2013, long before the critical peak, but the EU did now draw any conclusions from the tragedy, and the same cases with refugees and illegal migrants repeated for the five years that followed. In autumn 2015, the position of Austria regarding this “sudden” influx of migrants was quite tough. It was possible to predict the flow to increase by a comparative analysis of the indicators from the beginning of 2015 with the similar indicators of 2014, but that was neglected. It is quite obvious that summer weather improvement creates more favorable conditions for migrants to cross the border. It resulted in toughening of Austrian national legislation in 2016. To date, we can talk about the outflow of indigenous population from big cities to the “quieter and safer” countryside.

The second issue on the summit’s agenda, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, was equally complex and controversial. On the one hand, Brexit has nothing to do with the influx of refugees, but on the other, remember the rhetoric used to persuade British citizens voting at the referendum – that is the migration issue. How can we prevent the wave of refugees from the continent, how can we stop or contain the influx of migrants as a whole? Theresa May’s answer sounded like that: Britain must shape a migration policy of its own, different from the continental Europe. The number of migrants in the country and the high level of unemployment among them in recent years that caused a high level of criminalization in the eyes of the average citizen increased the probability of voting for withdrawal. However, Brexit is related to a number other problems, like the border with Ireland.

Regarding these two main aspects of the Salzburg summit, the context of the meeting is also significant. It was obviously important for Austria to find certain compromises and to begin solving the issues. The summit was preceded by the following chain of events: in late August, President Vladimir Putin held an unformal meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister (at the wedding celebration) and then with the Prime Minister of Germany. There is no doubt that these two topics were touched upon in informal talks, too. Russia clearly took a course toward rapprochement, while Austria and Germany are ready to have a dialogue with Moscow. On the eve of the summit, Theresa May said that the Skripal affair would be discussed. The March issue with Skripals gets its continuation in September. Will Austria look back at the UK and the US as its closest partners? In this context, Austria would have many difficulties with finding a balance and especially taking steps forward. As a result, summit did not bring any results.

What is next, though? Both Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk talk about the need to hold another summit this autumn, but the question is how these negotiations could be effective if the parties retain their current positions. Unfortunately, the liberal approach and human rights issues (regarding the migrants) lead Europe to a dead end. It is only by toughening stances and imposing restrictions that the deadlock can be broken, but the strengthening of border controls, which is under discussion, could provoke other “Exits”. For that, the EU is not ready financially, and it would destroy the very idea of ​​a single, homogeneous space.

_ Olga Gulina, Founder & CEO of the RUSMPI – Institute on Migration Policy. Moscow, 28 September 2018.

On September 19-20, 2018, an informal meeting of EU leaders was held in Austrian Salzburg. Three issues – migration, internal security and the consequences of Brexit- initially did not promise unity of opinions between the leaders of EU states on the announced agenda.


The peak of migration occurred in Europe in 2015. Since then, the statistics of 2017 – 2018 inexorably confirms a 90% reduction in the flow of unauthorized migration to Europe. However, this dynamics is not significant and indicative for some EU leaders, and therefore the EU migration strategy still remains a puzzle, which solution of is fraught with a number of difficulties, such as the lack of unity of views on humanitarian migration management mechanisms and the lack of working monitoring programs to control unauthorized flows of migrants, mainly from Africa and the Arab East.

The tough line on migration management of Austria, Hungary, the Visegrad group only aggravates these difficulties. On the one hand, Austria points out, that the integration of refugees and persons under subsidiary protection is an important component of the country’s migration strategy and a decisive prerequisite for obtaining the right to reside. At the same time, the government of Sebastian Kurtz reduces the number of state-sponsored German language courses for humanitarian migrants, although it determines the receipt of benefits depending on the level of language proficiency.

Every day it becomes more and more obvious that the solution of the migration dilemma of Europe lies both inside and outside the EU. That is why the great achievement of the informal meeting in Salzburg is the agreement to hold a joint EU-Arab League summit on migration in February 2019.

Internal security

The internal security of the EU member states is another sensitive and politicized topic. On the one hand, almost all the EU member states, except Italy, support the Frontex budget increase from 13 billion to 34.9 billion euros. They agree with the need for additional hiring of more than 10,000 new employees for border control, and the allocation of additional 12 billion euros to find the best IT solutions for EU migration management.

On the other hand, a number of EU countries – Hungary, Greece, Spain and Italy – oppose the transfer of functions to protect national (internal) borders to the area of European responsibility and Frontex control. Prime minister of Italy Conti offered to invest not in the EU budget increase, but in Africa. Hungary was the most oppositional on the issue of a unified approach to pan-European security, saying that Hungary’s borders will be protected only by the national police and other authorized national services that are “defenders and patriots” of their country.

One way or another, the leaders could agree on mutual bilateral and multilateral operations of the EU member states on border protection, as well as on strengthening of joint work to prevent undocumented traffic of migrants to the EU countries. This is a very important area of joint cooperation, because now 95% of migrants arrive to the EU countries outside legal migration flows with the help of mediators, and the turnover of criminal business on unauthorized migrants trafficking in the EU is more than 6-8 billion euros.


Brexit is a complex and painful topic for the European Union, but the roots of these complexities are mainly organizational and administrative rather than substantive. During the informal meeting in Salzburg, 27 EU leaders unanimously agreed on the need to work on a joint political declaration between the EU and Britain on possible ways for future cooperation, the preparation of legally binding documents on mechanisms to support Ireland, and determined the schedule for further negotiations.


After Salzburg two scenarios of the events development are possible – hard and soft. A hard scenario presumes, that the domestic interests in managing migration, protecting the national borders will be above the interests of Europe, regardless of the declared goals, objectives and ideals. This is a very problematic scenario, because the internal political situation within the individual countries of Eastern and Central Europe, combined with the hyperactivity of the EU’s “core” – Germany and France – can lead to the disintegration of the entire Union.

A soft scenario – the establishment of a new European humanitarian order – will require from member states to place human rights at the center of their migration policies, setting the priority of pan-European control and regulation of external and internal borders. This is difficult. It is already obvious that the core of Europe – France, Germany, the Benelux countries – have different opinions on Brexit, migration management and border control than the satellite countries. The implementation of a soft scenario will require from the “core of Europe” to convince the satellite countries of the EU, that the formula “the two greatest mistakes of the EU are not keeping the UK inside, and migrants outside the EU” is wrong.


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