Migration: Let’s get to work!

After the Dutch and German foreign ministers spent the morning answering questions of young Europeans, former Dutch prime-minister Jan-Peter Balkenende shook up the diplomatic atmosphere by promptly asking participants of the Dutch-German Forum 2017 about the main challenges of migration and how to move forward.

Forum participants raised fundamental questions, such as:

Why does polarization between different groups in society occur and how do we prevent them in the future?
What is migration and where does it start and end?
We have been talking about this migration issue for a few years now, why are not making progress?

Jan-Peter Balkenende, in response, called for more humanity and concrete results.

Instead of framing the issue as refugees: for or against, the member of the Dutch Christian-Democratic party encouraged people to think critically about how to treat migration issues and to consider how this relates to human beings. There is a need to see the people behind the numbers, he said. Being a trained historian, the former prime-minister recalled the long immigration tradition of the Netherlands – the 17th century French Huguenots, 1 million Belgians in the 1940s and people from Surinam – and called for a continuing to see the humanity in those from other nations. Instead of approaching migration in a black-and-white manner, the complexity of the topic needs to be taken into account by looking at its different dimensions and its interrelations with other topics, Balkenende said. He left the forum participants – who will deliberate on the EU’s discussion on external borders, asylum, integration and the future of Emigration – with an ambitious assignment. “Tomorrow, we need to know how to move forward!”

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