Vienna Migration Conference 2019

Breaking the gridlock and moving forward: Recommendations for the next five years of EU migration policy


2019 was a pivotal year for drawing up Europe’s future policy directions, especially in the area of migration, which remains a top priority and major concern for the European public. Following the European elections, a new leadership is now tasked to build on progress already made and move past the current gridlock. The momentum of the elections and the establishment of a new Commission should shape the way forward for European migration policy as well as for cooperation within the EU and with its close partners. At this pivotal moment in time, ICMPD convened key with the aim to reflect upon strategic options and to discuss pragmatic, constructive and forward-looking recommendations for the next five years of migration policy making in and for Europe. In its 4th edition, the conference gathered more than 500 high level participants ranging from politicians and policy makers to opinion leaders and experts from governments, international organisations, the private sector, and civil society organisations. 

The VMC2019 started in the evening of 21 November 2019 with a High-Level Political Panel gathering political decision-makers from EU Member States, non-EU partners and EU agencies, discussing the political priorities that should guide a future European migration architecture. On 22 November 2019, three Thematic Panels continued the discussion on overarching goals, policy convergences, divergences and delivery gaps, as well as innovative practices to deepen cooperation with the neighbourhood and along migration routes. Prior to the main programme, the VMC2019 held five senior level invitation-only roundtables, complementing the Thematic Panels of day 2 and reflecting the need to discuss a wide range of more detailed issues and priorities.

Discussions at the VMC2019 were dedicated to the overarching question of how to break the current gridlock and move forward. Participants highlighted that five years after the emergence of the so-called refugee crisis, the European Union is still struggling to find a common, unified and cohesive answer on what form its common migration and asylum policy should take in the future. Nonetheless, a general willingness and commitment to cooperate with the new Commission on exploring new ways of working together was underlined by all panellists and speakers. Particular emphasis was given to the need to find better solutions for the Member States situated at the external borders of the EU, tackle the root causes of displacement and irregular migration, expand migration partnerships with neighbours and along migration routes, and enhance legal pathways for skilled migrants and labour mobility within Europe. Finally yet importantly, there was a wide consensus that the EU and the European governments must invest much more time and energy in discussing and explaining their policies to the public. The EU needs a new narrative, a new understanding and a new vision on migration.

ICMPD Recommendations for EU Migration Policy

ICMPD’s publication “Breaking gridlocks and moving forward. Recommendations for the next five years of EU migration policy” proposes 70 recommendations across eight thematic fields to give impetus for the forthcoming EU Pact on Migration and Asylum. It focuses on overcoming the current gridlock and move forward with a reformed agenda on the EU’s migration policy in the following areas:

1.Renewing a common vision for the future of international protection in Europe and beyond

2.Securing borders and safeguarding Schengen

3.Making return policies and practices more effective

4.Creating better functioning and proactive labour migration policies

5.Putting integration back on the European agenda

6.Integrating enlargement countries in Europe’s regional migration system

7.Broadening cooperation agendas with partner countries

8.Applying a whole-of-migration-routes approach

The new political leadership in EU institutions and the shaping of the new Pact offers a chance to press the political reset button and re-define the course forward for the coming five years. It is a chance to go beyond the crisis management mode and focus on building a more coherent and long-term system of regulating and managing migration. 

ICMPD prepared the recommendations based on a consultation process with its Member States and engagement with other partners and stakeholders. ICMPD believes that it needs one objective, namely “Breaking the gridlock” and action on three levels: A reconfirmation of a joint vision and overarching goals, prioritising implementation and delivery on existing instruments as well as more emphasis on innovative technical and operational cooperation between states. The 70 recommendations in eight thematic areas will contribute to unlock the gridlock and move forward.

Roundtables - Vienna Migration Conference 2019

Reflecting the need to discuss a wide range of issues and priorities, this year’s Vienna Migration Conference will hold five senior level roundtables, on 21st of November.

These invitation-only roundtables target around 15 senior-level officials and experts who, over the course of an afternoon, will delve deeper and broader into the discussion on constructive, forward-looking and viable recommendations for the next five years of migration policy developments in and for Europe. Each roundtable is expected to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what we need to do in these five areas of policy and practice.

The thematic focus for the five roundtable discussions is based on selected issues at stake as identified in a forthcoming publication on ICMPD’s recommendations for the next five years, which will be first presented at the Vienna Migration Conference.

RT 1: Geopolitical Outlook: Migration trends and regional responses

RT 2: Getting to a credible narrative on migration and migration policies

RT 3: The Way Forward on Skills Shortages and the Global Competition for Talent

RT 4: Secondary Movements – Dimension, Motives & Possible Solutions

RT 5: A complementary migration research agenda, quo vadis for the next five to ten years?

Video of the Vienna Migration Conference 2019

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