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Global Economic Symposium Calls on Europeans to Embrace Migrants

One of the most anticipated topics at the Global Economic Symposium (GES) 2015 was migration and the multitude of issues it has thrown up—like dealing with integration, labor migration, refugee crises, and different cultures and values. In particular, the question about how to handle different values and whether it is necessary to teach migrants values like democracy or gender equality fostered the debate at the Symposium, organized by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

Economist, journalist and author Philippe Legrain called on European nations to view migrants and refugees as an economic opportunity, not as a burden to be shared within the EU. He said it was “perverse most European countries prevent asylum seekers from working.” Then again, he conceded, the Canadian or Australian way of “picking highly skilled migrants only is not helping the problem.” That would only lead to PhD-holders driving taxis. &ldquoWithout migration, the working population in Germany will shrink by one sixth by 2030.” At the same time, he stressed, refugees and migrants should not be reduced to an economic factor; accepting refugees constitutes a humanitarian act.

Frank Laczko of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) spoke about technical issues of migration. He advocated strongly for a new legal framework for migration. “More important than relocation is to locate migrants right from the start in specific countries.“ Especially important, in his view, is to find legal paths for labor migrants: “We need to make sure the asylum system is not used in the wrong way.” In a similar way, William Lacy Swing, Director General of the IOM, argued that Governments will have to continue to offer protection to refugees. But at the same time, new ways would have to be found to ensure safe regular migration – for workers of all skill levels, as well as for families looking to re-unite. His contribution came in form of a paper submitted to the GES.

Safet Gerxhaliu, President of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, stressed the importance of values for young people to stay in their home countries. “We need to build a future in Kosovo to prevent young people from leaving. We need to build trust. We need transparency, we need to discuss”. The rule of law in the Balkan states will in his opinion solve most problems, including that of young people leaving despite even having jobs. Gerxhaliu called on Europeans to be more active in Kosovo.

Dennis Snower, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, used his opening address to consider the positive effects of immigration on the economy and society: „Europe's refugee crisis should be viewed as a golden opportunity to initiate the educational, legal and cultural initiatives required for perspective-taking beyond our current national, cultural and religious borders.”

Session organizer Matthias Lücke of the Kiel Institute argued strongly for funding by the European Union to solve the current refugee and migration crisis. In his solution proposal he argued that centralized responsibility for the processing and welfare of migrants would end the mismatch between the much-vaunted freedom of movement in the EU’s Schengen area and the so-called Dublin III Regulation, which demands that asylum seekers be administered by the member states in which they first set foot. It would foster joint responsibility, common standards, and real burden-sharing among EU members. EU-Funding would also ease the many fears associated with the issue.

Find the program of the GES 2015here.