5 October 2020

MP Open Call #1 – On European Migration Policy and Covid-19 Measures

On 1 October, the Open European Dialogue (OED) hosted its first MP Open Call. This new call series invites members of the network to join regular informal open-agenda conversations with their peers. The participants decide what they want to talk about and how they want to use the one hour on the line together, spontaneously.

On this first MP open call of the OED’s fall event series, policymakers from Germany, Austria, and Lithuania discussed the EU refugee policy and the state of Covid-19 responses in their countries.

The participants shared their thoughts around the topic of migration, and in particular the dire situation in the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos. Participants suggested that in the multilevel governance of migration (municipal, national, EU), refugee policy preferences of decision-makers are shaped by their level of government rather than their political camp. For example: several municipalities in both Germany and Austria have offered to take in refugees from the destroyed Moria camp regardless of their leaderships’ political affiliations. At the same time, national politics seem to emphasize a push for a European solution and thus hesitate to accept any uncoordinated relocation. There was also a shared perception of a policy deadlock at the EU level. While Germany has prioritized a common asylum policy reform for the EU on the agenda of its ongoing Council presidency, this initiative seems to receive little attention outside expert circles. Specifically, German politics seems more preoccupied with Merkel’s succession as chairman of the CDU, whereas in other European countries, the presidency is not getting much press as governments are struggling to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The second topic brought up by participants was the success of Covid-19 measures in their respective countries. Subjectively, there seem to be differences in how seriously the population and policymakers take the virus. While in Germany, thousands have taken to the streets to protest Covid-19-related policies, Austria does not yet have a protest movement of similar proportions. Even inside parliaments, there are differences as to how politicians have adapted their behavior in light of the pandemic, with one party group even doubting the effectiveness of masks and some Members of Parliament refusing to wear them in parliament. One joint experience of participants from Austria and Germany is that of complex federal structures administering the Covid-19 responses in both countries. The policymakers also discussed the effects of the virus on tourism and potential tensions between Austria and Germany. One participant reported a new testing method which is applied in Vienna and consists in bike-delivered “mouthwash” tests to allow for quick, decentralized testing without swabs. By introducing these new tests, the authorities hope to make testing less difficult for children in and more easily available at home.

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MP OPEN CALLS: your direct line to Europe’s policymakers

The new and improved MP Open Calls are an opportunity to connect regularly with other members of parliament from the network. The OED will allow its members to check in with their peers for one hour every month. We will act as hosts and facilitators, but it is the participants that will bring their questions and topics to the table. In the open agenda format, participants will be able to hear from each other and gain first-hand information on the political situation in other European countries. The next MP Open Call will take place on 2 November, 2020 at 08:00 a.m. CET. For more information, see below.

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