GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Isabella Webber

Google: an American Company in an International Context

In a world where the entire concept of the office is being reimagined, Google is a trendsetter. As Georgia Tech students, everyone hears about the computer science majors who snag a job at Google, Amazon, Apple, etc., not only because of the generous salary attached to the job, but also because of the famous office environment provided by American tech companies. The office in Brussels may be smaller, but the inside lived up to my expectations for what Google should look like. Our three young hosts, dressed in jeans, began the tour by showing us the “canteen” where all employees are provided breakfast and lunch each day. It was decorated like a traditional Belgian brasserie because Google tries to incorporate aspects of the culture of where the office is located—wherever it may be in the world. We then walked through a room with shelves of books and video games that was decorated to give it a nature-y feel: the floor looked like grass, the walls had plants growing on them, there was a large fish tank, the chairs were circular and white, and the windows stretched from floor to ceiling. Walking to the next room we passed a small gym where employees can workout whenever they feel like it, then go to the locker rooms to shower and get back to work. We stopped in a massive, open room that had a pool table, a couch, a large flat screen on the wall for video games, about 7 exercise balls, and a masseuse. Yes—a masseuse—so that employees could sign up for an hour-long massage after a tiring week of work.

Gaping, we walked back upstairs to the room we were briefed in which—of course—was mainly sleek and white with windows from floor to ceiling, multiple large screens, a ping pong table, a full bar, and large lettering on the wall that spelled “Goooooogle” to ensure it was picturesque. Since it was Friday afternoon, we had to keep the conversation short so that the Google employees could engage in a few intense games of ping pong and enjoy a Belgian beer together to celebrate the end of the work week. Seemingly over-the-top and ridiculous, what is Google’s reason for ensuring that their employees eat their meals together, workout whenever they want, play video games, pool, and ping pong together, and top off the week with a massage and a drink?  Despite criticism from people in grey suits in cubicles that the employees work at a playground, Google stands firm in their belief that people will be both more creative and efficient if they can take a break, take care of themselves, and spend non-work time with their colleagues than if they are forced to work through lunch. It may be that I just want to believe it, but it seems like it would be the “right environment to work well and be a happy person” as one of our hosts put it. Whether it works or not—Google can hire me any day!

Continuing with the trend of progressivism, upon entering the room for the second half of the tour we were introduced to Google Arts and Culture. Google partners with museums to digitalize art work and upload it online so that people can see “as much culture as they want” without having to travel to museums all over the world. Not only does this idea allow people to see artwork that they may never have had the opportunity to see, but the quality is so good that it allows people who have already seen the artwork in person to see more of it. I could not believe my eyes when they zoomed into a very intricate painting so that we could see the shadow of a person that I could not even see when looking at the whole painting. Not only is Google expanding their services online, they are also expanding the issues they’re expected to have answers to. In the past two years, there has been a convergence of every single social problem becoming an internet problem and Google—being the most used search engine in the world—is expected to find a solution. Google’s scope and influence is so large that it must be careful when addressing seemingly unimportant issues to most of the world like whether to call the Czech Republic “Czechia” or not because if Google calls it Czechia, the world calls it Czechia. This massive sphere of influence comes with massive responsibilities like finding an answer to the question, “What role does the Internet play in radicalizing terrorists?”  They said that these newfound responsibilities are contradictory because many people fear that Google is too big, but then continue to ask them to do more. Despite variations in public opinion, I think that Google welcomes their growing role and realizes that, in a globalized world, the Internet plays a vital part in both development and progress. The company is currently working to ensure that people in places like India, Africa, and South America have access to the Internet, and that with this development comes the presence of an ongoing global discussion to create a democratic forum for progress.

Turns out our hosts weren’t computer scientists, business majors, or engineers, but that they work in the realm of international affairs and politics—giving the INTA majors in the room hope that we too can work in a cool tech office one day. One of them focused on consumer protection and competition policy, dealing specifically with the European Commission and the member states on a daily basis to discuss their policy concerns and try to help them better understand artificial intelligence and its importance in the business world. The other two hosts worked for the European Parliament prior to Google, and therefore bring insight when dealing with educating member states on the importance of policies like the Digital Single Market. Just like any organization operating within the European context, Google Europe struggles to build consensus across the 28 member states in 24 different languages. To give a simple example of these challenges, they told us how they “can’t use puns” because everything is translated. However, there is some benefit to operating within such a complicated context—Google Translate draws much of their data from public translations done by European Institutions.

As we’ve learned throughout this entire trip, operating within the European context varies greatly from operating within an American one, so how does a company originating in Silicon Valley adapt in an environment like Brussels? The answer is to find a balance between conducting business as an American company while taking into account European consumer values. While  the American consumer values personal liberties and freedom of speech more than anything, the European consumer largely values their security. Due to history, Europeans are very skeptical over the government or large institutions having too much access to their data, especially the large American tech companies that control cyberspace.

This skepticism is shown in the European Commission’s close watch on these companies and their readiness to take action against them when they feel the European citizen is being compromised. Actions have been taken against Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google—including the most recent decision by the Commission to fine Google a record 2.4 billion euros for breaching their dominant position by promoting Google Shopping over other comparison shopping services. Google stands that they were not in the wrong because they don’t think people use Google Shopping when online shopping but instead go straight to determined sites. As they have been challenged by European values, their American values are tested when operating abroad too. For example, they recently lost a case in the Canadian Supreme Court where the court ruled they were obligated to remove websites promoting pirated products—not just in Canada, but universally. Google argued that this set a precedent that goes against freedom of speech, especially having to remove entire webpages worldwide, but the Canadian Supreme Court won on the premise that their argument was rhetorical and a similar situation would not happen again. Ironically, Google has already been forced by some European courts to take search results down due to a “right to be forgotten.”

Operating internationally, it is expected that a company coming from the U.S., a country with unique values, is going to face challenges. Although they do not win every time, the company does what they can to stick to their values like the practice of writing transparency reports to give the public information on how their government is interacting with Google and their decision to leave China, despite the massive market potential, due to the Chinese request that they filter out certain results. Google adapts some of their decisions based on where in the world they are operating, but in the end the decisions must be coherent and go back to their American roots because there cannot be ten different Google’s around the world. Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil” which although is somewhat comical, is actually perfect. For a company in a position of massive power and influence all over the world and operating in many different environments, “don’t be evil” is a simple way for the company to not forget their values.

“We have tried to define precisely what it means to be a force for good – always do the right, ethical thing. Ultimately, ‘Don’t be evil’ seems the easiest way to summarize it.”—Google co-founder, Sergey Brin

Bruegel: The Hippie Collective on a Mission

When we arrived at Bruegel, a European economic think tank, I was surprised that it was a somewhat obscure building that shared space with a handful of other organizations. Only half of us could fit in the elevator, and while the rest of us were waiting for it to come back down, a voice came up behind us and said “the adventurous ones can take the stairs.” Put that way, you really have no choice but to take the stairs, so I ran up the stairs into the conference room to learn that the voice came from Matt Dann, the Secretary General of Bruegel, and that that was just the beginning of the many interesting things he would say.  Of all of the tour guides, guest lecturers, and EU employees that we’ve heard speak throughout this trip, Matt was by far the most charismatic and entertaining of them all. Despite his obvious intelligence and success, he didn’t take himself too seriously especially considering his audience–a group of young college kids who were tired from weeks of travel. He broke things down and explained them in a way that would not only keep our attention, but at times provide comedic relief–a rarity when being briefed by important institutions. On the screen appeared Bruegel’s mission, four lines long, and he summed it up in three words: “improving economic policy.” In the true spirit of an economist, he got to the basis of the statement by eliminating distracting rhetoric.

What exactly is Bruegel?

Summarized well on their website:

“Bruegel is a European think tank that specializes in economics. Established in 2005, it is independent and non-doctrinal. Bruegel’s mission is to improve the quality of economic policy with open and fact-based research, analysis and debate. We are committed to impartiality, openness and excellence. Bruegel’s membership includes EU Member State governments, international corporations and institutions.”

Although we learned more specifics of how Bruegel is structured, how their research is conducted, who their fellows are, and more basics of their functioning as a think tank, their website is flawlessly designed as to provide all of this information in a much more effective and user-friendly way than if I went into the explicit responsibilities of each part that makes up Bruegel. Instead, I rather focus on the implicit responsibilities, what Matt said that wasn’t bulleted on the slideshow or easily accessible on the website: What really is the role of an economic think tank, and what is Bruegel’s place in the community of think tanks and in the world?

What are the internal workings of Bruegel like?

Matt described it as a “hippie collective” because it is essentially an organization of scholars who are given free reign in deciding how and with whom they want to conduct their independent research. Typically the people focusing on macroeconomic policy work together (because that is the nature of macroeconomics) and the microeconomic people tend to have more specific tasks (because that is the nature of microeconomics). Research can be conducted with whoever a fellow wants, even someone who does not work for Bruegel. Fellows are encouraged to share their work with their peers as often as possible to encourage creativity and constructive criticism, but the only time that everyone has to come together and work on the same thing is when there is a policy crisis and a comprehensive response must be produced as quickly as possible. Most of the research is done by surveying the literature and using pre-existing data sets as opposed to conducting original research. Although it is a researchers dream to be able to collect original data, unless you have excess time and financial means it will remain one. Furthermore, in today’s world it is arguably more important to survey the existing literature, separating real facts from alternative ones and reviving old concepts with new ideas–which is exactly what fellows at Bruegel strive to do.

Bruegel is defined as a public-private enterprise, but what does this mean in the context of a think tank?

On the most basic level, it is rooted in where the funding comes from—who the contributing members are. Bruegel is funded by 18 EU Member States, making up the public part, and by typical private companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. To ensure its independence, Bruegel utilizes two important independent safeguards: 1) Don’t take too much money from one place (the five largest state contributors—Italy, Spain, Germany, France, and the UK—all pay an equal amount no greater than 4.5%, and all corporations contribute €50,000) and 2) Employees must legally agree to a Statement of Research and Integrity and sign a Declaration of Outside Interests. The first safeguard is to avoid being influenced by a large stakeholder in decision making because Bruegel chooses to reach decisions collectively, whereas in the United States contributors typically are given a say in what their money is used for. Moreover, U.S. think tanks only release ambiguous reports of their contributors and contribution amounts, whereas Bruegel makes every contribution detail available to ensure the public’s ability to decide if there is bias in what they are reading. The second safeguard is not only to avoid major conflicts of interests, but these records are also available on their website so that the readers can decide whether the author of a paper they’re reading has a conflict of interest or bias towards the topic. I think it is important to contrast the U.S. and Bruegel’s levels of transparency because, in my opinion, for an intellectual entity and its ideas to truly be considered independent, they should prove that they are also transparent.

More interestingly is how being a public-private enterprise affects how Bruegel conducts business. Choosing to be non-partisan is not only an important aspect of the think tank, but also a smart move for any enterprise receiving money from both public and private entities. Non-partisanship does not mean that they refrain from communicating with political parties, because they have to to see if their ideas have a chance to be considered by policy-makers, but they do not outwardly state any kind of political affiliation. They do not engage in consultancy or lobbying, both of which promote private interests, but they do advocate their ideas to policy-makers so that they can achieve their mission which is to improve economic policy. It is easier for think tanks in the European context to appear non-partisan because there are many different parties, in contrast to the United States where there is a two-party system with very different political platforms which makes it easy to assume which way a think tank leans politically. Despite being non-partisan, there are benefits to ambiguity in the media concerning their alignment which they can play on to create their “brand”. Matt said that it is very important to have a strong brand with a strong brand voice, which understandably would be hard to do if there was no way to collectively define Bruegel’s work.

One might assume that being completely non-partisan would be beneficial to a company so not to drive away large segments of the consumer base, but in reality it might be detrimental if there is not a loyal consumer base. As Matt put it, “if your constituency is everybody, then it’s nobody.” Having the whole of Europe as their target audience is a challenge for Bruegel, especially when trying to communicate the same information to 28 member states with varying press and media structures, translate papers into 24 languages without getting (literally) lost in translation, consider the supranational, national, and regional contexts intertwined in the European system, and please both the busy politician and the nerdy policy analyst. Bruegel partially accomplishes these things through strategic design to segment the market. Just as Coca-Cola has four different markets for Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and Coke Life–which are all essentially the same product marketed differently–Bruegel presents their work in different ways to communicate the same ideas to a large variety of people.

What is Bruegel’s role today in the modern world and what are their hopes for the future?

In order to survive in today’s globalized, digitalized world, any company knows they must develop an internet presence, at least via a website if not also through social media. Bruegel has realized how vital their digital presence is, especially as an independent enterprise attempting to sell ideas—the most commonly and easily shared things on the Internet. Matt spoke of the Bruegel website as his pride and joy, and rightfully so because over the past 11 years, Bruegel has redone their website eight different times—each update costing thousands of dollars–in order to keep up with the rapidly changing trends in technology and design. Their website is also their primary means of dissemination because it contains all of their publications, and it is visual proof of their transparency by including records of where all of their funds come from and the employees’ Declarations of Outside Interests, along with clear descriptions of the parts and functions of Bruegel. Because even the most impressive website isn’t enough for a company based on written word, Bruegel has a Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In to reach people of all ages and interests all over the world. The fellows and staff’s Twitter handles can be found beneath their biographies on the website—a vital move in not only increasing transparency but also a step towards creating a more consistent group of followers. Taking advantage of the cybersphere, Bruegel hosts web streaming events to start discussions regarding their work. This democratizes the entire idea of the think tank because it allows people to criticize their work, which allows Bruegel to challenge and defend their ideas or benefit from constructive criticism.

When asked “how big” Bruegel hopes to be, Matt did not have a definite answer, saying that the company wants to be bigger, but not too big. Rich U.S. think tanks provide an example of both the positive and negative aspects of being a big think tank: more money means more capability to do things like paying Twitter and Facebook for ad promotions, but it also means inevitable loss of sovereignty that smaller companies enjoy. Although they do not have the money to physically expand right now, their success has drawn more people to request work from them on untypical topics like labor markets, migration, global trade and inequality. The ability to research topics outside of the usual macroeconomic realm has been a privilege and a rarity to Bruegel in the past decade due to a semi-constant state of crisis. Primarily as intellectuals, they would love to be able to have the time to decide what topics are the most important and interesting to write about, but starting with the financial crisis in 2008 and now since Brexit and Trump disrupted the world order, they have little time to be “futuristic hippie researchers”  because they must address the issues being dealt with at present. This is evident when looking at the hot topics on the website which are exactly what one with basic knowledge of current affairs would guess they would be: Brexit, China, Inequality, United States, and European Governance. To emphasize how great of an effect these events have had on their work, Matt said “War did not unite the EU27 in the way that Brexit united the EU27,” and an event of such gravity cannot take the backseat to an intellectual debate on economic theory.

Why Bruegel?

While navigating their website, I found a page for awards and rankings and clicked on it out of curiosity, not sure what to expect as I am new to the world of think tanks. Truthfully, I was both very impressed and surprised at the obvious praise Bruegel has received.

The 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Report rankings:

#1 for best idea and new paradigm (worldwide)

#1 best quality assurance and integrity policies and procedures (Europe)

#2 top international economics think tank (worldwide)

#2 best managed think tank (worldwide)

#3 think tank in the world (non-US)

#6 think tank in the world (including US)

My surprise wasn’t due to a below-average briefing, it was actually quite the opposite, but rather because it took place in a humble setting and was given by a down-to-earth guy who never bragged about Bruegel’s renowned status on the world stage but simply focused on how important the company, its values, and its ability to make a difference were to him. As it was my first exposure to an economic think tank, and I have not read many papers published by one, I had no idea what made it successful or important. So, why Bruegel? I reverted back to focusing on the implicit responsibilities of a think tank and realized what makes Bruegel successful is actually striving to be what every think tank, NGO, political party, or any other organization in the business of influencing people, and thus the future, should be: transparent, focused, humble, conscious, real. Those words seem vague, but if you try to use all of them to describe rich American think tanks funded by massively powerful (and sometimes anonymous) corporations, corrupt NGOs, or a majority of politicians and political parties anywhere in the world—you can’t.

To clarify my point, consider the basic principle of economics that basically states if someone gains, someone else always loses. As commonly understood as other economic quips like “there is no such thing as a free lunch” and “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”–any economist would not deny its truth. Unfortunately, for those trying to please their constituents before an important election or those funded by a private corporation with something at stake, telling people they will inevitably lose is not in their best interest. Bruegel does not feign ignorance, in the wise words of Matt: “If someone says ‘this policy is going to be good for everyone’ it’s a unicorn.” They acknowledge that even with the most revolutionary ideas and policies, someone IS going to lose, but they then go onto ask themselves what they are going to do when the inevitable happens—and the hippie collective gets to work to find the next solution that could change the world.

High-level Conference on Migration at the European Parliament in Brussels

On June 21st, 2017, the Members of the European Parliament along with the President of the European Commission, the High Representative, and a variety of local, regional, and national public figures gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss the most pressing topic facing European Politics today: migration. Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, began his introduction to the meeting by pointing out how the date chosen for the conference, June 21st, 2017, was not random, but instead strategically chosen. The day prior to the meeting, June 20th, was World Refugee Day, and the bi-annual meeting of the European Council took place in Brussels the two days following the conference. He dictated a clear objective for the meeting, which was to make sure that their voices and opinions regarding migration and the refugee crisis were heard by the Heads of State and Government from all 28 member states right before an important discussion was to take place during the meeting of the European Council. A more specific objective of the meeting is given on the European Union website:

“The European Parliament will host the conference on migration management ahead of the EU summit to launch a platform for regular dialogue between all actors involved. It will address responsibility sharing among Member States, ensuring a stable and secure environment both in and at the external borders of the EU, and tackling the root causes of migration through cooperation with third countries.”

After listening to the introductory remarks from a variety of leaders, it was clear that they were going to stick to this objective and promote a more comprehensive discussion of the migration crisis.

Tajani named the three main goals of the EU at present: migration, the fight against terrorism, and youth unemployment. He honed in on the idea that people migrate for a multitude of reasons, such as climate change leading to desertification, and that in order to find a solution to the migration crisis the root causes must be identified. As for dealing with the migrants once they decided to migrate, he mentioned the importance of putting an end to the trafficking of women and children, calling it the exploitation of despair, and that a new distribution system with a new distribution key must be created so that Italy and Greece were not having to process a majority of the applications. The European Border and Coast Guard was implemented to alleviate some of the burden already faced by these border countries, and he said that a satellite system would help improve the situation also. Tajani then went onto confront the issues the EU was dealing with internally regarding the conflict, mainly referring to some member states misconduct in regards to migration policy and the rise of populism due to fear. He said that closing borders would only make the situation worse, and that strengthening their borders would not only help with the migration crisis but it was also necessary to protect the single market and the overall values of the European Union. A week before this conference, the European Commission launched infringement procedures against those countries that were not following the procedures regarding migration. To justify these proceedings, Tajani emphasized that it was not to punish those countries, but if you choose to be a part of the European Union you must follow the rules. To quote him, “Jean-Claude we [the European Parliament] support you, the Commission is not alone.”

Tajani used the latter part of his speech by delving into the topic that would be prominent during the remainder of the speeches: Africa. Africa is of utmost importance when it comes to discussing migration in the EU because not only are people migrating from different parts of Africa, but they are entering Europe through transit countries in the North of Africa who are alone not strong or stable enough to support migrants. He deemed the EU’s role in Africa to be to boost economic growth and alleviate poverty, not only to support the migrants flowing through but also to instill hope in the young people of Africa to build a stronger society for generations to come. In my favorite part of his speech, he warned against eurocentrism saying: “We shouldn’t look at Africa through a European point of view, but through the view of the African people,” and to “send a message to those on the other side of the Mediterranean that we are and always will be a friend.” I think it is especially significant that he included this in his speech, because it addresses those that are either wary of intervention due to Europe’s colonial past or who doubt the African people’s abilities in creating their own successful society by clarifying that intervention will not take the shape of forcing the pillars of Western European society upon Africa, but instead providing a solid support system in which the African states can build their own version of society. Lastly, to promote the importance and potential that lies within the Parliament and the EU as a whole, the President of the European Parliament blatantly said that politics and the formation of policies that will lead the way for other countries are absolutely necessary, and that the EU cannot continue to be perceived or to act solely as a massive bureaucratic body.

After an impressive introduction came the most important speaker of the meeting and the most influential leader of the European Union: Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. Juncker’s term lasts from 2014 to 2019, and therefore he has not only seen the worst of the migration and refugee crisis play out, but is also expected to lead the Union in finding a solution to their most pressing issue. Juncker, a Luxembourgish native and member of the European People’s Party, is an extremely experienced actor in European politics, having represented Luxembourg in the Council of Ministers for half a decade before assuming the role of Luxembourgish Prime Minister for almost two, and his contribution to the European Union has been significant as he was involved in the construction of both the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties and the President of the Eurogroup, the Ministers of Finance from the Eurozone, from 2005 to 2013. I mention this to emphasize the importance of his voice as the main leader of the EU in such an important time in its development. The three key values of his campaign platform (experienced and efficient leadership, solidarity amongst people and nations, and a strong vision for the future) remain more relevant than ever three years later as he tries to not only achieve his ten priorities but more specifically to focus on migration, an issue that I doubt he thought would be his top priority for the duration of his term.

To preface the short speech he gave at the conference are two previous Juncker quotes used on the 10 priorities outline regarding migration:

“The recent terrible events in the Mediterranean have shown: Europe needs to manage migration better, in all aspects. This is first of all a humanitarian imperative. I am convinced that we must work closely together in a spirit of solidarity to ensure that situations such as the one in Lampedusa never arise again.”

“I also believe that we need to deal more robustly with irregular migration, notably through better cooperation with third countries, including on readmission.”

His speech was brief, focusing on the progress being made and actions being taken to address this crisis—while reiterating the same beliefs he has held regarding migration throughout his presidency. When discussing the implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard, he said that there are 1600 guards currently deployed, and 1600 standing by ready to be deployed when needed. He also said that the number of refugees coming into the country who were registered has gone from 8% in 2015 to 100% now, and that since the agreement of the EU-Turkey Statement, the number of refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey has gone down 19%. He made clear that the EU had no intentions on leaving any country behind where there are people in need, reminding the audience that behind the statistics are men, women, and children who would rather stay in their countries—and are leaving because they have to, not because they want to. Juncker then discussed the recent infringement procedures the Commission had started against the member states who are not following procedure, saying “[he] believe[s] solidarity must first come from the heart,” but if the states do not cooperate then it is necessary for the Commission to take action to ensure that the procedures are followed. Just as the Commission is responsible for ensuring that the member states behave accordingly, the member states all have their fair share of responsibilities when it comes to dealing with the migration crisis. He closed by mentioning actions the EU is taking for the future, including conducting negotiations regarding readmissions into Morocco, Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, and discussing the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

The third person to speak was Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for CFSP and Vice President of the Commission. Mogherini is a key player in the migration crisis because she is the head of the European External Action Service, chairs the Commission Group on External Action, chairs the Foreign Affairs Council, and chairs meetings of the Defense and Development ministers. She is essentially the Secretary of State of the European Union and the head of all foreign affairs, so the influx of migrants and refugees is one of her most important tasks. She specializes in working with the African countries to combat the root causes of migration, which is clearly reflected in her speech. At the beginning she criticized the EU’s initial response to the crisis saying, “some people were ashamed of the numbers being hosted, I am ashamed of the deaths the EU refused to see.” She said that in the past, dealing with migration was an exclusive national competence, but now people were coming to Europe, not one specific country. Therefore, Europe as a whole now has to address the problem and find a solution, in the words of Mogherini it is a “global phenomenon that requires unified external action.” Following the tone of both Tajani and Juncker, she said “if you’ve ever seen a woman put her children’s lives at risk, the push factor is much larger than the pull factor,” meaning that people are leaving because they have no better choice. Pointing out how people are often only concerned with those migrants coming by sea, she reminded the audience that there are lives to be saved as well as criminal networks to be dismantled in the desert too. Mogherini also warned against eurocentrism when discussing solutions to the issue, saying that some people have compared what the EU is doing for Africa to the Marshall Plan but a better name would be the “European Plan for Africa” which would be more of a partnership and an effort to empower instead of contributing money in exchange for power and influence. In order to support Africa’s development and resolve the migration crisis, she said it is necessary to combine both geography and ideals. Below is a map showing common routes migrants take from the Middle East and Africa, showing how crucial they are to finding a long-term solution to the problem.

Although Tajani, Juncker, and Mogherini were the three main speakers, they were followed by short speeches given by a variety of people which I have summarized below:

Fayez al-Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya set up by the United Nations in 2015, was invited to speak due to Libya’s strategic role in handling migration into Europe because it is a transit country. As a transit country, many migrants are moving through it to reach Europe. It is in the EU’s best interest to strengthen these transit countries so that they can take better control of the migration through their country and so that more people will stay in Libya instead of continuing on to Europe. In Libya specifically, not only do they lack the resources to attend to the health needs of migrants, but they are also suffering from a drug problem which exacerbates the situation greatly. He emphasized that irregular immigration cannot be resolved by security policy alone, and that the transit countries’ economies and social policies must also be boosted so that they are capable of dealing with the situation. In order for this to happen, help must first be concentrated at the Southern border of Libya, not the coast where the migrants are leaving from, and within the countries that it neighbors because that is where the migrants are entering the country. He mentioned how Libya is working bilaterally with Italy to address the problem and that Libya has now sent an official application to the United Nations to lift the embargo currently placed on Libya so that they can begin to make progress.

Louise Arbour, the United Nations Special Representative for Migration, discussed concepts that those working towards a solution must first understand. This includes realizing that people are not migrating for one reason, but there are complex, multi-layered reasons to migrate. She also referred to the New York declaration and how it declares migration should be voluntary, not forced, and that there needs to be a global compact facilitating safe migration instead of halting it altogether. Furthermore, there needs to be an increase in the variety of pathways in which to migrate into a country and domestic labor markets must integrate migrant labor. On the issue of migrant labor, she discussed how important our perception of migrants is, and that it is necessary to integrate them into our society. Overall, she called for human mobility in a safe, orderly, and regular fashion.

Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, spoke very shortly. He said it was necessary to reform the Dublin Rules, which are part of the Common European Asylum System, and state that a person seeking asylum can only apply for it in one member state of the EU. The current problem with these rules is that the most common way to decide which country processes the application is based on the first EU country the asylum seeker enters, which has been Italy or Greece for a majority of the migrants since 2015 and they are therefore bearing an unfair amount of burden from the migrants. He also said that “when we speak of migration management we must also speak of integration of migrants” which refers back to the common theme of integrating and accepting migrants into society instead of preventing them from entering to start a new life.

Georges Dassis, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, discussed how many people’s perception of migrants has been strongly influenced by media and politics and is not based on fact. He also said that we are obligated on moral and legal terms to take in refugees, and that the legal terms were set in the Geneva Convention when the EU was dealing with refugees from Eastern Europe, pointing out the irony that now Eastern European countries in the EU are rejecting refugees. To close, he called for an overall holistic policy that included conflict resolution and state building, promotion of democracy and human rights, and development of civil society.

In conclusion, the conference was very interesting to take part in, not only because of the speakers who attended but also because of the way that the leaders came together and essentially delivered the same message to the European Council, and to the world, on their position on the migration crisis. In order to address this issue, the Common European Asylum System must be reformed including a new distribution key and changes to the Dublin rules, root causes for regular and irregular migration must be identified, transit countries in Africa must be supported with the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and through long-term plans for sustainable development, bilateral and multilateral agreements concerning issues like relocation must be negotiated between member states and transit countries, and the attitude of EU member states as a whole must reflect solidarity and an agreement to support those in need by not only providing them with physical security but also by willingness to integrate them into their own societies. Overall, I think attending this conference was beneficial as an introduction into the European, as opposed to American, view of the migration crisis and will be an effective lens in which to learn about European Security.

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