Who is responsible for refugees? The second day of Visegrad Summer School

The second day of Visegrad Summer School found its participants looking further than Visegrad. Students were discussing global issues strongly interconnected with each other: international security policy and responsibility for refugees.

The understanding of problems and challenges on both national and Visegrad level would not be possible without being familiar with global processes shaping the reality of today’s Europe. This might explain why the first regular day of Visegrad Summer School wears the title Global perspectives.

“We need NATO”

“Security strategy of NATO undergoes significant changes as a new domain appears in its agenda: cyber space” – said General Mieczysław Bieniek, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Commander of Transformation. Being specialized among others in international security and cyber security, Mr. Bieniek explained that cyber space can and should be perceived as a threat and also as an opportunity. He also pointed out that the biggest question concerns the ownership of cyber space, although international law is has not yet been able to answer it.

Mr. Bieniek also addressed the problem of an imbalanced NATO, originating from the fact that it’s members have unequal rates of spending on military investments. “There are consumers and providers of security within NATO”- he said, adding that this will be one of the issues on the agenda of the next NATO summit, which will be hosted by the United Kingdom in September this year.

For one question from Csaba Németh, a participant from Hungary addressing the clearly visible dominance of the US in NATO Mr. Bieniek somewhat by-passed the answer, saying: according to his personal impressions “one shouldn’t believe that American society wants their government to take the lead in NATO”. Then he added: European Union has to acknowledge that “we need NATO”, as security and the competitiveness of a national economy or the EU have always been interconnected.

Who is responsible for refugees?

The second lecture before the lunch break couldn’t be more connected to the first one, it is not difficult to acknowledge. On behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Katarzyna Oyrzanowskalead an inspiring discussion between the participants – although according to the program it was supposed to be a lecture, the flood of questions from participants turned into a discourse.

Indeed, it’s high time to talk about refugee issues. There are more than 50 million displaced people in the world, who had to flee for one reason or another from their homes, 33,3 million of them are internally displaced, and more than 15 million are refugees – seeking asylum in some country, very often a developing country, facing also many problems itself. Just to imagine how serious this business is: this number of displaced people is the highest since the II. World War.

“The integration is the responsibility of the governments” – said Katarzyna Oyrzanowska. The UNHCR – she explained - has an advocate’s role, lobbying at the state level for the better implementation of the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees. The practices concerning refugee affairs may differ from each other very much in various countries.

Probably the most questionable one of these practices is the establishment of immigration detention, which is the policy of holding individuals suspected of entering illegally to the country in detention until a decision is made by immigration authorities to grant a visa and release them into the community, or to repatriate them to their country of departure. “We understand that the authorities have to be concerned about security as well” – Oyrzanowska said, “but the UNHCR’s official standpoint is that detention, that is the serious violation of the freedom of movement of mostly ingenuous people, should be the last measure used by immigration officers” – she added.

The second half of the second day of Visegrad Summer School was the time to start the student projects of this year. The political workshop takes the V4 cooperation into reality, the media and writing workshop builds bridges between the public discourses of the respective countries of participants, while the photo workshop is breaking (visual) stereotypes of the city of Kraków.

What do these slightly metaphoric descriptions mean? I’m afraid you have to read on the reports till the very end of Visegrad Summer School to get the answer.


Eszter Neuberger