In Focus

Three decades of dialogue on migration – where did the Budapest Process start and what has it become?

05 December 2023


On 5 December 2023, Budapest Process Senior Officials gather in Istanbul to celebrate 30 years of dialogue on migration. Initial discussions on the need for a migration dialogue within wider Europe started in the early 90s including at a Ministerial meeting in 1991 in Berlin. In February 1993, the Budapest Process obtained its name after its successful Ministerial Conference in Budapest. Ministers and delegates from 41 countries and organisations gathered in the capital and agreed upon 32 recommendations to take forward and implement jointly.

“It is safe to say that we, as ICMPD, would not have grown into the organisation that we are today. We owe a lot to the Budapest Process and are very grateful for your support and cooperation. […] Today, the Budapest Process is the longest-standing migration dialogue in the wider European context”, said ICMPD Director General, Michael Spindelegger during his address at the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM). 

In its first phase, the Budapest Process focused mainly on tackling irregular migration with recommendations at the time linked to the exchange of information, improvement of border management and legal harmonisation of crimes such as trafficking in human beings.

Over the subsequent Ministerial Conferences in 1997-2003-2013-2019, the dialogue expanded geographically eastward, as it sought to partner with neighbouring countries of the states already involved. The Caucasus and Central Asian countries were invited to join the dialogue. In 2006, Türkiye took over the Chairmanship of the dialogue and extended an invitation to the Silk Routes countries in 2010, to find common ground for cooperation in the migration field and to have stronger engagement with countries of origin, transit, and destination.

The Silk Routes Partnership for Migration
The “Silk Routes Partnership for Migration” was born and has been the backbone of the dialogue since the 2013 Ministerial Conference. The geographic expansion was paralleled by a thematic expansion, with dialogue partners discussing not only irregular migration but legal migration, migration and development, international protection, and integration among other topics. 

Even further, projects co-funded by the EU and EU Members States under the umbrella of the dialogue were implemented in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Pakistan responding to the needs of dialogue partners and the priorities set out in the 2013 and 2019 Ministerial Declarations.

The latest planned expansion of the dialogue to include Jordan and Lebanon opens new possibilities for cooperation. The link between the dialogue and the regions in which it operates should become stronger, bringing the dialogue to the Silk Routes region and the Silk Routes region to the dialogue. Discussions on the new Ministerial Declaration and Action Plan to be adopted in its upcoming Ministerial Conference in 2024 are set to begin.

The Budapest Process is an interregional dialogue on migration stretching from Europe to the Silk Routes Region - also covering Europe's Eastern neighbours, the Western Balkans and Central Asia. The dialogue provides a platform for dialogue and operational cooperation for over 50 governments and 10 international organisations and aims to strengthen regional dialogue and cooperation on migration and mobility. Furthermore, the dialogue partners are committed to promoting safe, orderly, and regular migration along the migration routes, as highlighted in the most recent joint political declaration.