EU after Salzburg: Wrongs and Rights

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.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.