Dean Lee Feinstein presided over a discussion in New York City on March 21 about Europe’s future with ambassadors from England, Hungary and the Netherlands in a session presented by the Council on Foreign Relations. Feinstein sat down with Matthew Rycroft, ambassador and permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations; Henne Schuwer, the Netherlands ambassador to the United States; and Réka Szemerkényi, Hungary’s ambassador to the United States for CFR’s continuing series “The Future of Europe.”
Feinstein started the discussion by asking about the European Union’s recent agreement with Turkey to limit the illegal immigration flows to Europe in exchange for visa-free travel for Turkey. Schuwer said the agreement was much needed in order to solve the two main problems plaguing the refugee crisis – the uncontrolled flow of refugees coming into the EU, and the equitable distribution of the refugees over EU countries.
As for the agreement’s potential for success, Schuwer said it was too early to tell.
“I think it will depend very much on the willingness of the Turks and the Turkish government to work with us.” he said. “It will depend very much on the willingness of Europeans to put a border security guard in place.”
Rycroft agreed with Schuwer, saying Turkey was vital in making what he believes to be the three major steps in resolving the refugee matter: solving the political crisis in Syria, keeping as many refugees and migrants as close to Syria as possible in order to rebuild the country once the crisis is over, and putting human traffickers out of business.
Along with the recent EU agreement, Feinstein asked about the Schengen area, which allows border-free travel within 21 European countries without a passport. Rycroft said it might make sense to reevaluate Schengen in light of the recent influx of Syrian refugees to Europe. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” he said, “and so having some form of flexibility at difficult times in order for individual nations and states within the Schengen area to reestablish those border controls makes sense.”
Szemerkényi agreed with her colleagues and said European countries, such as hers, which are receiving refugees are faced with the difficult task of organizing logistical help to face a crisis for which they were unprepared. “There is such a massive range of challenges that come with this massive wave,” she said. “We have to be understanding every single one of them to develop the right answers.”
Feinstein’s discussion is available to stream on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website.