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Report: Political Science Conference "National, European, and International Challenges of Refugee Flows"

The Political Science conference on Europe’s challenges arising through the refugee influx took place on May 6th and 7th at the Freie Universität Berlin. The organizers Arthur Benz, Thomas Risse and Rainer Schmalz-Bruns brought together a wide range of scholars adding up to over 50 participants. During the conference, researchers shared in-depth views on this important and up-to-date topic. Participants originated from all over Germany and Switzerland and especially young researchers were encouraged to take part in this conference.

News from May 30, 2016

The conference was divided into three plenary discussions, during which solidarity and institutions in the European Union, challenges for political science as a discipline, and possible failure of elites in handling the refugee crisis were discussed. In-between plenary sessions, the participants divided up into two groups that simultaneously discussed topics ranging from comparative analyses of the refugee crisis and constructions of refugee-realities (“Flüchtlingswelten”) to migration as a challenge for political theory, for the EU, for the public sector, and for democracy.

The role of a state during the refugee crisis has been an important question broadly discussed by participants. Refugee flows have brought various challenges for states, and problem-solving strategies are in great demand. At the conference, three levels of state action came into discussion: communal, national, and transnational.

An important consequence of the refugee crisis at the communal level is the close cooperation between authorities, administrations, and civil society actors; particularly evident during the planning and construction of accommodation for refugees. At the national level the question about inclusion and exclusion, or rather about the border, appears to be quite essential. For instance, Julia Schulze-Wessel (TU Dresden) pointed out that the border as a place of mobility control, and thereby inclusion and exclusion, has developed into a geographically wide “Grenzraum”.

However, the refugee crisis is not only a national challenge. Many speakers focused on the European dimension of the issue by comparing it with crisis management during the European crisis. According to the findings by Frank Schimmelfennig (ETH Zürich), Philipp Genschel (EUI Florenz), and Markus Jachtenfuchs (Hertie School of Governance, Berlin), the temporary solution for the Euro crisis included further steps of institutional integration. However, the opposite can be observed in the EU’s failure to cope with the historic influx of refugees, to which member states responded by unilaterally reintroducing border controls and violating rules under the EU’s Common Asylum System. Yet, deepening integration is neither an option and could make things even worse. Tanja Börzel (FU Berlin) argued that depoliticizing controversial issues by delegating decision-making authority to EU institutions has fueled politicization and Euroscepticism rather than silenced the controversies over EU policies and the EU as a whole.

The KFG was happy to host this important conference with many renowned scholars. We hope that the conference was able to contribute to the international discussion about migration and integration in political sciences. Please find the program under this link.

Please also find the blog entry (in German) from Burkhard Conrad here.

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