The International Mayors’ Conference NOW Athens
Greece, July 21st-23rd 2016
Opening Message and Greeting for the NOW Conference in Athens
“When the NOW Conference was taking place in Vienna in January, I had the pleasure to welcome you as host in the OEBB Austrian Railway factory halls in Spittelau, Vienna. I was very impressed by the spirit of empathy and cooperation, which connected the many mayors, local and regional politicians from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Austria, Germany and other countries, during these two days.
Mayors are practitioners who often act pragmatically, where others only talk. Mayors make our societies progress, where others only stoke fear.
I hope, no, rather: I am sure, that the NOW conference in Athens will be distinguished by a similar spirit to that of the Vienna encounter, one of magnanimity, rationality and pragmatic humanity.”
– Christian Kern, Chancellor of the Austrian Republic
Key Findings & Policy Recommendations
- Significant resettlement programmes, bringing refugees to Europe in relevant numbers, must start up.
- However, not only the political will is lacking here – so do the capabilities and capacities. The European Union is neither logistically nor otherwise prepared for resettlement.
- A group of top European decision-making politicians would be required to exert pressure to get things moving. Ultimately it is not something that one can either do or not do – it is a significant element of the agreement with Turkey.
- It would also be a necessary signal that the EU is moving things forwards – that practical solutions can be found.
- This would be an opportunity for politicians to distinguish themselves positively regarding foreign policy as well.
- Greece should organise the refugee aid so that it can have a positive economic impact – it should also receive much more financial and practical aid from the EU.
- The financial crisis and the agreements of the Greek government with its creditors prevent investments which could be beneficial to the refugees as well as to the local communities.
- The main burden in the establishment of registration hotspots is right now being borne by the Greek islands.
- With this the EU has created a highly bureaucratic process that does not work – in particular from an administrative perspective. Neither rapid asylum procedures nor distribution throughout Europe are working. The result is islands full of people who are literally “stranded”.
- Greece needs support for its public administration and its integration measures.
- The attempts of the Greek authorities to create “perfect refugee camps” are questionable, although certainly interesting – this should be carefully observed.
- The “One-for-One” rule – according to which one Syrian refugee relocated from Greece to Turkey is replaced by one refugee being granted permission to legally enter the EU – should be dropped. It was the daftest part of the agreement and never had any practical relevance anyway.
Contributors – Team – Organisation
International Mayors Conference NOW Athens
initiated by Act.Now | André Heller, Patricia Kahane and Elke Zuckermann
Curator responsible for the content:
Public Relations: The Skills Group; Elke Zuckermann, Out of the Box PR
Logistics: Büro Wien | Michael Müllner
Moderation & Consulting: complet | Ebru Sonuc
Graphic Design: Kerstin Heymach
Visual Recording: Harald Karrer
Editor: Robert Misik
Project Coordination and Administration: Act.Now GmbH | Catrin Neumüller, Robert Schafleitner