If we follow the routes populists are proposing, we end up in the dark past
On 17 May 2018 Commissioner Avramopoulos took part in a Citizens' Dialogue at the University of Vienna, Department of Political Science. The Dialogue focused mainly on the EU migration and asylum policies as well as on concerns related to the rise of nationalist and populist forces in the EU.
In his introductory remarks Commissioner Avramopoulos explained the current challenges the EU was facing and were part of his portfolio: migration and asylum, security, anti-corruption and anti-drugs policies. With regard to migration the Commissioner recalled the progress the EU has made since the events of 2015, when "we started to build the architecture for EU migration policy from scratch", based on the Geneva convention and on the principle of solidarity among member states.
These efforts resulted in the EU being much better prepared now. He warned however against using migration as a scapegoat and against simplistic questions. The most affected countries had to be guaranteed EU support.
One student voiced his concern, that when negotiating with certain African countries, the EU was at risk of providing support for dictatorships or failing states. The Commissioner stressed that democratic systems could not be installed from outside. The EU – a major donor of development cooperation – had to engage in political dialogue with third countries, in order to fight terrorism and radicalisation for instance. This did not mean the EU was legitimising dictatorships.
Another student asked how the EU is handling the rise of domestic nationalist and populist political forces and what the Commissioner expectations were in view of the Austrian EU Presidency. The Commissioner replied that while the EU was not supposed to interfere with domestic politics, it had to promote an informed debate. Austria had since its accession played an important role in bringing forward EU integration.
Hence, he expected it to stick to its European orientation when presiding over the negotiation on, for instance, the reinforcement of the European coast guard, better entry controls and safeguarding of Schengen. The Commissioner also agreed with a student stressing the need for enhancing economic cooperation with African countries, in order to tackle the root causes of migration.
With regard to the ongoing negotiations on a new asylum system, the Commissioner stressed that all EU member states needed to be part of a common solution, a common European asylum system, which he hopes would be adopted during the Austrian EU Presidency.