04/2009: Gottfried Zürcher

APRIL 2009

Gottfried Zürcher
Director General of the International Centre for
Migration Policy Development (ICMPD, Vienna)


“Recent developments and outcomes
related to the Budapest Process”


Ü Eurasylum: The Budapest Process, whose secretariat is hosted by ICMPD, is a consultative forum of more than 50 European Governments and 10 international organisations, which aims to develop comprehensive and sustainable systems for orderly migration. In particular, the Budapest Process aims to exchange information and experiences, and to promote good governance, on such topics as: regular and irregular migration; asylum; visas; border management; trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants; readmission and return. Can you guide us through the key guiding principles, activities and outcomes of the Budapest Process since it establishment in the early 1990s?

Ü Gottfried Zürcher: The Budapest Process (BP) is the longest-standing cooperation framework on migration in Europe and its eastern neighbours. The extension of the BP to the countries of the CIS region several years ago has turned the BP into the geographically most important migration dialogue on the Eurasian continent. Currently some 50 states and 10 international organisations are participating. The Budapest Process has, during its 15-year long history, demonstrated its flexibility in responding to needs and priorities of participating states. Topics of common concern, as well as geographic and thematic priorities, are identified each year by the senior officials meeting, following up on the agenda set by ministerial decisions or conclusions.

The key principles of the Budapest Process are informality and flexibility. The Budapest Process provides a framework for states and other stakeholders to meet on equal footing, to address issues of common concern and exchange information in an informal setting. The Budapest Process has continuously contributed to the development of sound migration policies and exchange of experience between participating countries.

The overall objective of the working group meetings in the Budapest Process dialogue remains the discussion and information sharing among experts on a technical level and in an informal setting, and the contribution to more effective and efficient migration management systems throughout the regions covered by the Process. As mentioned, keeping with priorities of participating states is a key feature of the Budapest Process and has contributed substantially to its success.

At the same time, the Secretariat supports concrete outcomes and project follow-up to the working group meetings and facilitates further cooperation on identified topics among like-minded states. The summary and conclusions of the meetings describe not only the essence of the finalised meetings but usually also contain a plan for forthcoming meetings (thematic and geographic areas, topics for background research and surveys), possible project possibilities as well as ideas for new geographic and thematic directions of the working groups.

The specific objectives of the working group meetings are therefore to support participating states in implementing their migration policies through:

– providing a framework for discussion and creation of contacts with counterparts of third countries;
– sharing of national experience and practices;
– conducting in-depth surveys and background research;
– identifying areas of possible cooperation;
– facilitating the formulation of project initiatives; and
– liaising with possible partner countries.

The following thematic and geographic working groups are currently active:

– Working Group on Irregular Movements and Asylum, chaired by the Czech Republic;
– WG on Immigration and Admission Policies, chaired by Hungary, co-chaired by Slovakia;
– WG on the Development of Migration Management Systems, chaired by Bulgaria;
– WG on Irregular Transit Migration through the South East European Region, chaired by Croatia;
– WG on Return and Readmission chaired by Poland, co-chaired by the UK;
– WG on the Black Sea Region, chaired by Bulgaria; and
– WG on the Approximation of Penalty Scales for smuggling of migrants and trafficking of human beings, chaired by Belgium.

In summary, some specific aspects illustrating the added value of information and experience sharing within the Budapest Process should be mentioned:

– The BP is an important framework for dialogue and information exchange as well as for cooperation on concrete issues.

– The BP is a framework for states and other stakeholders to meet on equal footing, and address issues of common concern in an informal setting.

– The informality, technical focus and un-binding nature of recommendations, opens for discussion of sensitive issues that might be difficult to address in a more formal setting, as well as for discussions with a wider range of countries and other stakeholders.

– An informal process helps to spread the positive effects of good practices within one region to a wider range of countries.

– Efficient policies implemented within one group of countries could thus provide the basis for an effective response to certain issues in areas beyond the original region. Positive “ripple effects” can be created that reach beyond areas originally affected.

– Through its Working Groups format the Budapest Process is in a position to address a number of migration issues on a governmental level.

– Activities draw attention to the gaps in international cooperation and provide a platform for an active discussion and the elaboration of concrete initiatives.

Ü Eurasylum: Since the government of Turkey took over the rotating presidency of the Budapest Process, the focus of the Process’ activities has been broadened to include additional areas related to admission and immigration policies, labour migration, integration and re-integration. This was reflected, in particular, in the conclusions of the 15th meeting of the Budapest Group of Senior Officials, on 15-16 May 2008 in Trabzon, which stressed the appropriateness of opening legal channels for migration in order to tackle more effectively the problem of irregular migration, as well as the need to develop cooperative approaches in migration management, particularly as regards labour migration. Can you discuss some of the Budapest Process’ recent activities on migration management, and the policy relevance of such activities for government authorities in the CIS and South-Eastern regions?

Ü Gottfried Zürcher: The strategic direction of the Budapest Process is set by participating partners in the framework of Ministerial Conferences and is followed up in Senior Officials meeting. Within this framework, specific objectives also set specifically for each working group in agreement with chairing and participating countries. As you have noted, the meeting of the Budapest Process Group of Senior Officials on 15-16 May 2008 in Trabzon, Turkey discussed the thematic and geographical development of the Budapest Process during the upcoming period.
thematic direction, understanding, mapping and combating irregular migration, border management and asylum will remain a priority, including sound return and readmission policies. In addition to the traditional topical areas, the focus should also be increased on matters related to:

– Managing labour migration.
– Integration polices.
– Re-integration.
– How to maximise the development impact of migration

The outcomes of the thematic working group meetings illustrate these thematic priorities:

– The Working Group on Immigration and Admission Policies, which also covers labour migration, has indicated as a priority for the next working group meeting to include also representatives of ministries of labour, in order to share experiences regarding the conduct of labour market surveys as well as experiences with a single procedure of admission for labour. The increased focus on managing labour migration is of high importance both for European states and CIS countries.

– The Working Group on the Development of Migration Management Systems will reflect both emigration and immigration perspectives in discussions on the development of comprehensive migration systems. This includes prevention of irregular immigration and trafficking in human beings as well as the development of systems for admission and residence. Issues to be addressed in an emigration context include return and reintegration, consular protection, counselling services, maintaining contacts with diasporas, the transfer of social rights, as well as the question of remittances.

– The Working Group on Return and Readmission has identified as priority areas for the next meeting of the working group sustainable reintegration after return, links between return and development policies and advisory services on migration for migrants and migrant communities in transit countries.

The geographical focus of activities will remain the CIS region, however at the Senior Officials meeting in Trabzon it was suggested to expand the scope of interest of the Budapest Process to the Black Sea Region and the Eastern Mediterranean Regions.

This interest in a broadened geographic focus was illustrated also at the first meeting of the newly established Working Group on the Black Sea Region in November 2008 in Sofia, where the participating countries asked the Secretariat to explore the possibility to include occasionally countries of origin and transit relevant for the migration routes in the Black Sea region (for example countries in the Middle-East and South Asia). The secretariat will carry this task forward this year in consultation with chairing countries.

Ü Eurasylum: ICMPD is currently supporting the Czech Presidency of the EU in the organisation of a Ministerial Conference on “Building Migration Partnerships”, which will take place on 27-28 April 2009. The conference, which will also lead to the adoption of a ministerial declaration, aims to support the implementation of the EU Global Approach to Migration in the Eastern and South-Eastern Regions Neighbouring the European Union. It will discuss, in particular, issues of illegal migration, return and readmission, labour migration, migration and development and integration. Can you highlight the particular role and added value of the Budapest Process in contributing to presenting and operationalising EU migration policy approaches to non-EU neighbouring countries?

Ü Gottfried Zürcher: The Czech Republic organises the Ministerial Conference on “Building Migration Partnerships” during its EU presidency. ICMPD supports the Czech Ministry of the Interior in the preparation of the Conference, but the Centre’s role in this respect is limited to technical and organisational assistance and does not relate to substantive discussions.

However, although the Ministerial Conference is not organised within the framework of the Budapest Process, it nevertheless builds on and applies Budapest Process principles and methodology and draws on Budapest Process experience and know-how. Especially the principles that states and other stakeholders meet on an equal footing, to address issues of common concern and exchange information in an informal setting. Furthermore the well-established Budapest Process network contributes to the organisation of preparatory meetings and the conference.

The Budapest Process will also be an important framework and platform for promoting the results and recommendations of the Ministerial Conference in the field of building migration partnerships.

In addition ICMPD is supporting the follow up to the Ministerial Conference within the framework of the project “Building Migration Partnerships”. The project is led by the Czech Republic, with Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia and ICMPD as partners. The overall objective of the project is to support the joint implementation of the ‘Global Approach to Migration’ to the Eastern and South-Eastern Regions neighbouring the European Union. The Ministerial Conference will endorse the principles and priorities of ‘Migration partnerships’ and serve as the starting point for following concrete policy developments at senior expert level. The areas of special thematic focus within the project are “Return and Readmission”, “the Fight against illegal migration”, “Migration and Security”, “Legal migration”, “Integration”, and “Migration and Development”.