On the 25th and 26th of January the Association of Diplomacy in Practice in partnership with the Tihany Center for Political Analysis held its conference event called the European Security Conference. During the conference, well-known experts on foreign policy and former diplomats shared their opinion about security issues regarding the European continent.
As part of his opening speech, László Csicsmann, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Corvinus University of Budapest emphasised, that the Association was one of the most active student organisations of the university, which regularly organises events regarding the field of international relations, often attracting international audience.
The first lecture was given by Mr Sándor Juhász, former Hungarian Ambassador to Nairobi. During his lecture, Mr Juhász emphasised that the problems of the European and African security policy are in deep relation with each other. In order to ensure the security of the continent, Mr Juhász placed extreme importance on supporting and widening the development policy of the European Union in the region, which can assist in solving the most urging problems of the region like problems of the infrastructure, unemployment, corruption, religious and tribal extremism, terrorism and migration. Mr Juhász also added, strengthening of the African economy by the European Union, widening of democratic development and eliminating poverty in the region is not only in the interest of the African continent, but that of Europe – thus, Hungary – as well. „The security of Africa is the security of Europe and the European Union.” – the former ambassador told the audience. According to Mr Juhász, the former colonist countries must take the greatest responsibility. As they have historic relations with the African continent, creating a developing and secure Africa is in their interest and obligation.
During the next lecture, Mr János Hóvári, former Hungarian ambassador to Turkey held a discussion titled „Turkey – The Next 20 Years Talk”. By Mr Hóvári’s lecture, the audience became familiar with Turkey’s civilisation and ideologic fracture lines, its economic potential, security issues and geopolitical significance. The main part of the lecture was introducing Turkey’s current predicament and possible future to the audience. According to Mr Hóvári, Turkey is in possession of numerous geopolitical advantages, which prove important concerning the area of European security. These advantages are the country’s huge economy, its industrial potential for growth, the importance of the Turkish markets and the country’s relations to Europe. From the point of view of security of the country and Europe, the biggest problems may be the country’s inner social tensions. The former ambassador emphasised, that the country was in the lack of a national compromise, as there are constant fracture lines between the former Khemalists and the conservative and moderate Islamists, between the Rhumelians and the Anatolyans and between the majority of the population and some part of the Kurdish population, which is unable to integrate into the Turkish society. According to Mr Hóvári, in order to solve the problems Turkey has to create the basics for national unity, increase its economic efficiency, implement good diplomatic relations with Europe, Russia and Azerbaijan, come to a compromise with the PKK and play an important role in solving the Syrian crisis.
The day’s last lecture was given by Mr Hakan Akbulut, scientific researcher of the ÖIIP about Turkey’s relations to the EU and NATO. According to Mr Akbulut, Turkey is one of the most complex areas of international relations, that drawed high attention following evolution of the migration crisis in Europe. As part of his lecture, Mr Akbulut emphasised that Turkey needs support from the EU to handle the crisis, and the solution of the crisis is far away. As for Turkey’s possible accession to the EU, the country is divided over the question, nonetheless many Turkish people feel the need for reuniting Turkey with the European continent. Speaking in economic terms, joining the EU is extremely important for the country – Mr Akbulut said, adding that with Turkey joining the EU, the political and economic balance and the cultural, demographic and religious composition of the Union would be changed, which can lead to serious problems in the society. In order to join the EU, Turkey has to deal with the „Kurdish question”, make its economy more transparent, standardise its economy to the norms of the EU and increase the quality of the country’s democracy and freedom of the press. As for the country’s relations to NATO, Mr Akbulut pointed out that the country is an important part of the NATO arsenal and strengthens the Western community in the Middle Eastern region. „Turkey is an important buffer zone between NATO and Russia” – Mr Akbulut said, emphasising the fact that Turkey – considering the migration crisis and the civil war in Syria will be a significant part of international politics.
On the 26th of January the first lecture was held by Mr György Odze, Director of Tihany Centre for Political Analysis, who gave a comprehensive overview of the current European political map from a historical perspective. He emphasised the various development models of the European countries throughout the 20th century, manifesting in the different foreign policy attitudes (for example towards Russia) and different cultural traditions. Mr Odze considered these factors to play a prominent role in shaping the political strength of the European Union of today. At this point he articulated his main argument, which is that due to the heterogeneity of the European nation states, they cannot form a common standpoint and therefore the EU not only lacks effectiveness, but has also reached the final destination of its journey towards further integration. He expressed his scepticism, by saying that the wish for nationalism is greater than the “wish for a community” in European countries, and he also criticised the EU for not being prepared for the refugee/migrant crisis, when he thinks it would have been able to do so. All in all, he identified the most burning issue of the EU as the lack of real cooperation (and not the refugee/migrant crisis), predicted more hardships for the European project in the coming years, and stressed that – considering the cultural divides of the continent – there is actually no need for deeper European integration.
After a short coffee break the next and finishing lecture of the day was held by Mr Gábor Szentiványi, former Deputy State Secretary and Ambassador to Great Britain, The Netherlands and Sweden. He began his talk by reflecting on the history of migration, with special attention to the great historical waves of migration, from the journey of the homo erectus, through the Hungarian settlement in the Carpathian basin, slavery, post-war resettlements, all the way up to the decolonisation and the current refugee/migrant crisis. He attributed the current, ongoing wave of migration to the security challenges of the Middle East and the population boom of the developing world, which produced a “surplus” of foreign labour force and which will see the population of Africa double by the year 2050 – meaning, that this is a long-term phenomenon. Mentioning ideological considerations and practical explanations, he finished the first part of his lecture by touching upon challenges facing the European community, such as issues around integration and the threat of terrorism. (He emphasised that the latter should never be automatically mentioned on the same page with the refugee/migrant crisis.) He continued by evaluating the current crisis, with regard to the existing treatments (the German, Australian, Hungarian methods were mentioned) and the ideal solution (which involves handling the crisis in its hotbed). He also gave explanation to the various national reactions to the crisis, and spelled out the goals of certain countries, depending on whether they are “first arrival”, “transit” or “receiving” countries. Mr Szentiványi shared his opinion, namely that Angela Merkel made a mistake by encouraging migrants to come indiscriminately, however he stressed that building fences offer so solution to the problem, either. He also expressed a deep worry towards the future of European Union and the survival of the Schengen area as we know it, stemming from the nature of the issue. This means that the rapid and uncontrolled inflow of refugees/migrants will limit the capability of nation states to integrate newcomers, potentially leading to the strengthening of the national sentiment, and even xenophobia and right-wing populism. Finally, he reflected on Mr Odze’s presentation, reiterating that the lack of effectiveness of the European Union is indeed due to different interests among its nation states.
The second day of the conference ended with a Q&A session and a lively discussion, with the active participation of the audience.