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Young European Council – Migration negotiations

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Having been inspired by last night’s Eat and Meet, the delegates returned to migration negotiations yesterday morning.

The Migration and Home Affairs delegates had experienced a chaotic first day yesterday, but were hoping to come to a mutual understanding by the end of today. Reaching such an understanding was going to be a challenge, though: not only did the delegates have limited time, their views on the theme were also very different.

Despite the limited time at hand, negotiations started off at a calm pace. It took until after a short break and some informal negotiations to get things going. In the morning, only a handful of delegates participated in the discussions – afterwards, nearly all of them shared their opinions and weighed in on the debate. This was a huge relief to Sweden’s delegate Eira Fallen, who in the break mentioned that she was hoping for more informal negotiations.

The complex and very current theme of Migration and Home Affairs proved a very tough nut to crack for the Young European Council. Logically, the theme focused mainly on the current refugee crisis. Delegates from all across Europe expressed the very real, but also differing challenges and problems their countries face. For most of the delegates, it was the first time experiencing this type of negotiations. Some of them expressed that they had had to lower their expectations: “I was expecting a stronger will to solve the problem at hand,” the Swedish delegate, shared.

Alpha males and power women

These delegates may very well be the next generation of European politicians. During negotiations, I was puzzled by the lack of a British accent at the UK delegate. She later told me that she is actually a French citizen, but has been studying in the UK for a few years now. She was by far not the only delegate to represent a country other than their home country. France was represented by a Finn, Malta by a Greek and since the Greek delegate had to leave early, by the end of the day her colleague from Italy represented both countries. It’s impressive to see that these delegates are not just able to represent their own country’s foreign policy (or the youth’s perspective on it), but to do the same for another country. Chair of the Migration & Home Affairs negotiations, Clément Doit, agrees that “the delegates are very involved and want to find a solution. Some people want to destroy the EU, these delegates don’t. They all agree that we need a stronger European Union.” When asked if the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have influenced the debate at all, Doit admits: “The negotiations focused more on security at the external borders and the impact of the refugee crisis on solidarity in Europe. Terrorism threatens the Schengen Treaty, but we agree that we must remain in solidarity with the treaty.”

Connection between EU and youth

However, several delegates expressed their concern about the lack of connection between the European Union and the youth in their country. “Debates in The Netherlands focus mainly on national politics – even at times of EU elections. Being here provides me with the opportunity to experience first-hand how difficult it is to get things done,” says Dutch delegate Selahattin Topal. He believes that the EU should reach out to the youth more: “By visiting universities, for example. I think that many young people aren’t familiar with the way the EU works. The political system is very different from the Dutch political system. Yet we still talk about EU-related topics from a national viewpoint: the Dutch government failed to do something. But Dutch political parties aren’t part of the same coalition in Brussels as they are in The Hague: they are often part of an EU-wide coalition of Greens, Liberals, or Labour Parties.”

Heated debate

As negotiations came to an end, the debate got more heated. Due to a lack of time, several important issues, such as negotiations with Turkey, were only mentioned as something ‘to get back to at a later stage’. Although happy with the progress that was made, the delegates were slightly disappointed with the small number of steps that were taken.

“I’m glad I don’t have to present the end result to the youth in my country, because I would be so embarrassed,” Eira admits. The final communiqué will be presented tomorrow at the closing ceremony, and will include a recommendation to create external ‘hotspots’ for refugees. At these ‘hotspots’, they would be able to apply for asylum before entering the EU. This recommendation is aimed at saving refugees the long and dangerous journey to their country of preference, and providing the EU with the opportunity to divide the refugees. More on this, and other recommendations, in tomorrow’s report on the YEC’s Closing Ceremony.

Words by Lisanne Oldekamp

Picture from Young European Leadership

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