European Union External Action

MIGRATION - How CSDP can support

30/09/2016 - 18:20

In 2015, Austria was confronted with an unprecedented flow of asylum seekers and refugees, especially along the Western Balkans route. Since this challenged our capabilities, Austria called for EU action, including CSDP measures, as early as September 2015. A few EU measures have since been taken, but more should follow. Additionally, CSDP measures have exclusively focused on the central Mediterranean route. After accepting more than 100 000 asylum seekers in 2015, and more than one million refugees crossing Austrian territory, we were forced to adopt national measures in 2016 to slow down the flow of refugees. With the help of partner countries in the Western Balkans, it was possible to close the Western Balkans route on 9 March 2016. At the same time, the EU brokered an agreement with Turkey to prevent refugees from entering the EU from Turkey via the Greek islands, as well as to stop networks of smugglers from exploiting refugees desperate to get to Europe. Both measures resulted in a significant decrease of refugees arriving in Europe, but the crisis is not over yet. Therefore, Austria would still like to see more measures implemented. Specifically, a civil-military mechanism at EU level, ideally supported by all Member States, should be established to deal with rapid changes in the numbers of refugees arriving in Europe. Assistance should be available to EU Member States, as well as to immediate neighbours. Additionally, the EU should support bilateral and regional measures in order to nurture the population’s sense of security.

During the past year, the EU has been confronted with an unprecedented flow of refugees and migrants along the Balkan routes, and even before this, we had to contend with huge numbers crossing the Mediterranean to reach our shores. Unfortunately we had to acknowledge that the EU and its Member States were insufficiently prepared to successfully meet the challenges of the migration crisis.

In spring 2016, the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC)[1] drew up an option paper entitled 'Options aimed at supporting migration management with a special focus on the protection of the EUʼs external border and on humanitarian aid'. In this paper, thought was given to how CSDP instruments could be better used to complement the manifold efforts of Member States and the EU in tackling the effects of irregular migration, but also in preventing the root causes of migration in the first place.

Austria and the Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations organised a panel discussion on migration, which was held on 13 September 2016 in the Egmont Palace in Brussels. The event aimed to deepen the discussion on the way forward and give new momentum to the implementation of pragmatic solutions. All EU Member States and EU institutions were invited to send participants to the event, which was followed by a closed workshop session. The activity was conducted under the umbrella of the European Security and Defence College.


[1] The Central European Defence Co-operation is a platform which brings together Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary. Poland has an observer status. The CEDC was founded in 2010 with a rotating presidency. In 2016, Austria chairs this platform.