The UNED inaugurates 'The challenges of the European Union in the management of migration and asylum', a seminar to discuss Brussels' border strategy

The European Union faces a new migration challenge

AP/OLMO CALVO - Rescued migrants disembarking at Algeciras

The European Union is once again going through turbulent times. Coordinating an effective response to the COVID-19 crisis and maintaining the cohesion of the EU-27 have been Brussels' priorities in recent months, but this period has exponentially increased the number of challenges facing European institutions. On the horizon for the next decade is strategic autonomy, a return to the geopolitical chessboard and, in addition, managing a new migration crisis.

The images of 2015 are still fresh in our minds. The outbreak of civil war in Syria resulted in the massive arrival of migrants on European shores, a delicate situation for European leaders. The initial timid openness and the subsequent commissioning of third countries to manage the influx of migrants, movements led by Germany, revealed the lack of planning and malpractice of member states. More than five years later, the Old Continent is facing a new migration challenge to make amends.

In this context, the National University of Distance Education (UNED) has inaugurated this Thursday 'The challenges of the European Union in the management of migration and asylum', a three-day seminar dedicated to the activity of the European Movement for the Conference on the future of Europe and the challenges facing the southern border of Europe, one of the focal points where the influx of migrants is highest, since it has a separation of only 14 kilometres between Spain and Morocco. A challenge that requires a multidisciplinary approach and not an isolated one, according to the UNED.


Among the extensive list of speakers, the first day was attended by the president of the Andalusian Council of the European Movement, María Cruz Arcos Vargas; the president of the Spanish Federal Council of the European Movement, Francisco Aldecoa Luzárraga; Juan Lozano Domínguez, head of Europe-Direct in Campo de Gibraltar and president of the Association of Municipalities of Campo de Gibraltar; Vincenzo Canderelli, advisor of the Joint Research Centre of the European Union and, lastly, the director of the UNED in Campo de Gibraltar, Rosario Arias Molina.

The opening session was opened by Arcos Vargas, who highlighted the importance of the seminar and listed the topics that will be dealt with in the three planned meetings. Francisco Aldecoa, the prestigious political scientist known as "Patxi" Aldecoa, took over and continued to stress the importance of the subject matter. "You [addressing the Algeciras audience] know this well. You are on the front line of such a delicate issue as migration and the management of asylum". Indeed, the Andalusian municipality is one of the areas that registers the highest volume of migrants not only in Spain, but also in Europe, mostly from the Strait of Gibraltar. 

The president of the Mancomunidad del Campo de Gibraltar, Juan Lozano, said that the challenge of migration is a common challenge that is especially present "in our land". It is part of one of Europe's borders, so the challenge must be faced directly. "We must analyse the migration phenomenon from a multidisciplinary approach", said the secretary general of the PSOE in Algeciras, as it cannot only be framed in a specific area, but also influences various areas of society.


In this sense, Lozano remarked that migrations "make us participants in the pain of the people who reach our coasts. Sometimes crossing deserts and jumping over walls, and facing concertinas and seas that do not allow them to float". An exhibition in favour of empathy, as it is an "uncertain exodus" for all those who decide to take the step. The president of the Mancomunidad del Campo de Gibraltar did not want to forget other sources of migrants such as "Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, DR Congo..." and was pessimistic about the news coming from Brussels.

The Italian Vincenzo Canderelli, advisor to the Joint Research Centre of the European Union, was in charge of opening the first block 'The Conference for the future of Europe, a tool for citizen participation in the construction of Europe'. Canderelli explained his position and the role of his organisation. "We are executors. We simply put into practice what society demands of the institutions," he said. His department is responsible for providing "the numbers, the data and the studies that allow us to put reality ahead of political discourse. We do not always succeed, but it is a worthwhile effort".

The Italian recalled that Andalusia hosts the fourth largest migration research centre on the continent. The location obliges Brussels to keep a close eye on the phenomenon, a subject on which Canderelli and his team are vigilant and which allows the EU to have a panoramic view of the issue, a different point of view from that of the European citizen. In this respect, the Councillor emphasised that "the disconnection between objective reality and perception is sometimes surprising" and that, on occasions, people develop a feeling of security that does not correspond to the real situation.


Francisco Aldecoa spoke again during the block on 'Migrations in the framework of the EU's strategic challenges', where he complemented Canderelli's words. Both agreed that the dream of Schuman, the father of Europe and a figure remembered by Ursula Von der Layen, is like the myth of Sisyphus: it requires constant effort. Europe also needs to remain master of its future without delaying to think about the adjustments necessary to be effective in the pursuit of the common project. "We cannot raise expectations that we will not be able to meet," said the adviser to the Joint European Research Centre.

"The new political cycle after 2019 has been fundamental, and what it reflects is a loss of populism and the extreme right," explained UCM professor Aldecoa. The movements that emerged as a result of the arrival of thousands of migrants in Europe have seen their influence reduced in recent months, which means that the EU enjoys a favourable political situation when it comes to designing a new reception policy. This is part of a promising context for Europe, according to Aldecoa. "Unprecedented decisions are being taken", and for the president of the Spanish Federal Council of the European Movement, this is good news.