The refugee crisis became, in the second half of 2015, the main issue of public debate in Europe. This was obviously reflected in media coverage. In terms of immediate reporting, it concentrated on the influx of migrants itself, and on Europe’s logistical and political unpreparedness to receive them. In commentaries, however, the crisis was often used as a rhetorical argument to support or oppose different governmental policies, and to advocate or reject alternatives. This talk will discuss the shortcomings of the current debate to address these issues. Further, it will look at the missed opportunities to build on the knowledge and experience gained during Europe’s previous refugee crisis two decades ago, when hundreds of thousands of people fled the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
Konstanty Gebert is an associate policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a journalist for Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s biggest daily. He was a democratic opposition activist in the 1970s, when he was also an organizer of the Jewish Flying University, an underground group that met in secret to study and discuss Judaism and Jewish culture. The university was disbanded after martial law was declared in 1981 and Gebert spent the subsequent decade working as an underground journalist. He has written more than 10 books, on subjects such as the Polish democratic transformation, French policy toward Poland, the Yugoslav wars, the wars of Israel, Torah commentary and post-war Polish Jewry. His essays have appeared in two dozen collections both in Poland and abroad, and his articles have been published by newspapers around the world. He has taught in Poland, Israel and the United States.