On the 6th of February 2017, the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted a lecture by Dr. Joseph Licari, former Ambassador of Malta to Brussels, Strasbourg and Paris, under the title “Immigration, Security, the Southern neighborhood and Brexit: A view of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union”. Ambassador Licari’s speech was followed by a roundtable discussion featuring Amb. Károly Grúber, Head of Department for Common Foreign and Security Policy from the Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade; dr. István Balogh, Head of Department for Security Policy and Non-Proliferation from the Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Máté Szalai, Research Fellow of the Institute. The roundtable discussion was moderated by Anna Fülöp, Research Fellow of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

On the 6th of February 2017, the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted a lecture by Dr. Joseph Licari, former Ambassador of Malta to Brussels, Strasbourg and Paris, under the title Immigration, Security, the Southern neighborhood and Brexit: A view of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union”. Ambassador Licari’s speech was followed by a roundtable discussion featuring Amb. Károly Grúber, Head of Department for Common Foreign and Security Policy from the Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade; dr. István Balogh, Head of Department for Security Policy and Non-Proliferation from the Hungarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Máté Szalai, Research Fellow of the Institute. The roundtable discussion was moderated by Anna Fülöp, Research Fellow of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

 

 

In his keynote speech, speaking in his personal capacity, Dr. Licari delineated the achievements already reached by the Maltese presidency of the Council of the EU, including the decisions made by the heads of states and governments at their informal meeting on the 3rd of February in Valletta concerning the Central Mediterranean route from Libya towards the Southern European shores. Dr. Licari expressed his satisfaction with how the Maltese presidency has shown leadership in making decisions, such as allocating more money for upgrading and training Libyan coast guards or engaging with sub-national entities in Libya that have a role in people smuggling.

 

Dr. Licari elaborated three of the six declared priorities of the Maltese presidency – the question of refugees and migrants; the EU’s Southern neighborhood and the current security issues the Union is facing. He was of the firm belief of respecting and adhering to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees while managing the flow of people, but Dr. Licari also expressed his opinion about the need to be more rigorous about the asylum-granting and application processes in order to separate economic migrants from the people seeking refuge. He pointed out that the unprecedented migration flow has become a problem of national defense for some member states, and securing the Union’s external frontiers including the entry points is an undeniable right of the countries. But solidarity within the EU should be also an important component – in the form of burden sharing when it comes to distributing asylum seekers and refugees fairly among the member states. Security-wise, he also stressed the need to stabilize the EU’s southern neighborhood and to promote good governance and engage in development-inducing activities in North Africa within a solid framework of cooperation.

Dr. Licari warned against NGOs and other forces within the EU that were determined to weaken the member states’ resolve to defend their own frontiers. He referred to an interview given to the daily L’Avvenire, an Italian newspaper (23rd of November 2016), by the President of the European Court of Human Rights where he seemed to be inviting applications to his court by opponents of a state’s right to keep away undesired immigrants and to build walls on its frontiers to defend itself. This attempt to weaken a state’s defense of its land borders came in the wake of another attempt by the court to weaken the defense of sea borders in the Hirshi Jamaa case (23rd of February 2012) where the court based its judgment on information submitted by UNHCR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

 

Amb. Grúber expressed the Hungarian government’s satisfaction with the outcome and text of the Valletta summit, pointing out that Hungary was among the first member states stressing the need for external border protection enhancement, the stabilization of the neighborhood of the EU and the adequate reception and asylum application processing capacities in Libya to halt crafts towards Europe. He praised the successful Maltese Presidency to date and the directions spelled out, adding that the international development budget of Hungary has been doubled towards North African states.

 

Dr. Balogh explained the security policy priorities of the Hungarian government in view of the Maltese Presidency’s priorities. Both Hungary and Malta are supporting efforts to keep the migration question on the Council’s agenda with a strong focus on national security. He also touched upon the importance of the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, the Common Security and Defence Policy, the European Defence Action Plan, as well as the political content within which their content was agreed upon. The Hungarian government is very much in favor of the closer military and defense cooperation under the strong oversight of member states retaining more freedom and “sovereignty” on that matter. He underlined the importance of the Hungarian units assisting Western Balkan states and the 360° approach with the European Naval Force in the Mediterranean, the so-called Sophia Operation.

 

Mr. Szalai outlined four major attributes of the EU’s reaction and policy with regards to the migrant crisis: (1) the externalization of migration control; (2) the security dimension of border policy; (3) the conditionality towards third countries; (4) the absence of legal routes for asylum seekers. He called it beneficial in the short run, but also shed light on its drawbacks and shortages calling it tactical, rather than strategic. Mr. Szalai assessed the EU migration steps as placing too much emphasis on third countries with unstable regimes, and as written for the status quo for the past and present disregarding and not preparing for future unforeseen events. He also pointed out that 90% of the incoming people nowadays are classified as economic migrants, and concluded that there is still no single, coherent strategy, and many member states are left alone in their struggles, since the existing solidarity and burden-sharing mechanisms are far from sufficient.