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Migrant crisis high on agenda at Crans Montana Forum, Vienna

Focus Africa

Politicians, business leaders, representatives of international organisations came together in the heart of Vienna, Austria, for the 27th annual session of the Crans Montana Forum.

The guests discussed a wide range of subjects from the role of women in decision making to renewable energies – the main angle being the rise of Central-Eastern Europe as a new power, and the migration crisis.

One of the most memorable comments was that of Gregory III, the Syrian Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem who had a surprising view on the reception of Syrian refugees in Europe.

“This is a double-edged sword. We are not happy when we hear “Syrians welcome” because we want them to stay home, especially when we see all the problems they have to go through. But I Think Germany, especially Germany and Sweden really invited people a bit too much. They should have been more circumspect at the beginning. My own parents lived in very good security conditions, under my own protection, and even they profited of this possibility to leave.” said Gregorios III

Most of the guests agreed that peace in Syria would be the long-term solution. Meanwhile, the outcomes of the crisis are far reaching – Tony Smith, the deputy director general of the international border control think-tank Borderpol, made a clear connection between the handling of the problem and Brexit.

“They voted to leave because they don’t feel that the EU is in control of its borders. And when they see images flashed across their television screens from different parts of the external frontier where people aren’t being properly checked, when they see terrorist attacks being perpetrated in places like Paris and Brussels by people some of whom have actually entered illegally via these routes or travelled and crossed borders without being identified – they are afraid.” said Tony Smith

Being afraid was also one of the keywords on the refusal of ex-communist Central-Eastern European Union members to take in refugees, as the former Hungarian prime minister, Peter Medgyessy apologetically explained.

“It is also a key factor, that these countries do not have a middle class, so the traditional attributes of the middle class, like empathy and helpfulness have no roots in society, because the socialist era did not allow these kind of initiatives.” said Medgyessy

One of the key subjects of the conference was the struggle of the European periphery towards integration and prosperity. The Western Balkan countries’ ultimate goal is still the EU, as the presidents of Montenegro and Albania underlined. This might be explained by projects such as the Silk Road, that would renew the ancient land route to China – and would vastly profit every country in between.

“The session was very important because it gave us the opportunity to of course underline the importance of these multilateral connections between huge consumers and huge producers of the world which in our terms (are) on one side Europe and the other side is China.” saidMaria Magdalena Grigore, Secretary of State for Transport, Romania

Building such a huge project is not easy. Getting finance for new infrastructure, tearing down commercial boundaries between countries – this kind of work takes time, and a lot of networking. The right people brought together can easily hatch new ideas or solve old problems – that’s where the founder of the forum, Jean-Paul Carteron sees their mission.

“The subjects we are proposing in the program have only one goal: they serve as a pretext to gather high-level personalities, and the only reason to do this is for them to meet among themselves.” said Jean-Paul Carteron

Central to Eastern European States represent a new World Power and the 21th Century Economic alternative #cmf16 pic.twitter.com/XAvci6AYTU

— ATA Macedonia (@ATA_Macedonia) 30 juin 2016

Crans Montana profited from this occasion to honour some of its high-level guests with the Foundation’s prize. Among people like Bujar Nishani, president of Albania and Mrs. Hakima el Haité, minister of environment of Morocco, they also recognized the work of rescue dogs, represented by Markus Bock, president of the International Rescue Dog Organization. The next Crans Montana conference on good governance will be held in October in Brussels.