Annemie Turtelboom, a member of the Belgian Federal Parliament and 2017 Yale World Fellow, surprised her audience by beginning her talk on security, migration and the future of Europe by expressing her reluctance to give a consolidated presentation on issues as unrelated as migration and terrorism.
“99.9 percent of the migrants are not terrorists,” Turtelboom said.
The talk, which was hosted by the Macmillan Center’s European Studies Council, took place on Wednesday afternoon in Luce Hall. Drawing on her experiences as former Belgian Minister of Justice and Minister of Home Affairs, Turtelboom spoke about migration patterns, the conflicts surrounding the European region and the future of the continent.
She reflected on the exodus of refugees coming into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa, saying she understood the desire to migrate to a region with high government spending on social protection, a relative absence of conflict and lower poverty rates.
“You must be stupid not to try and come to Europe if you’re in that situation,” Turtelboom said.
She used a variety of graphs and resettlement statistics to provide context for current migration trends. She also explained that the reluctance in some European countries to accept refugees stems from an “emotional” outlook.
“When you don’t know the people, you say don’t come, but when you know the people, they are welcome,” she said.
Turtelboom emphasized the need for increased solidarity and cooperation among European nations and praised the “multispeed Europe” solution, which stresses that European nations affected by an issue should work together to solve it.
As the lecture transitioned into a question-and-answer session, the event began to closely resemble a debate, with the audience members — mostly other professors and World Fellows — questioning Turtelboom on issues like the resettlement of refugees, foreign aid, Brexit and the recent Catalonian referendum.
When questioned about Europe’s method of integrating refugees, Turtelboom said the solution involves working with the refugees’ countries of origin. Although she acknowledged that her plan is idealistic, she emphasized that “from time to time, people need dreams.”
“I am not pessimistic about the future of Europe,” Turtelboom said.
Still, she frequently admitted that she did not have solutions for every problem.
Despite the debate-like format of the Q&A session, the event’s reception among audience members was generally positive. Cristina Otero ’21, who attended the event, said that “it was refreshing to see a politician admitting that they don’t have all the answers.”
For David Cameron, professor of Political Science and director of the European Union Studies at Yale, Turtelboom provided “terrific coverage of a very important issue.”
And Weronika Betta, ’20, said she appreciated that Turtelboom dealt with migration and terrorism as two separate issues.
“Usually, in the media… those two are inseparable,” Betta said. “This was a more comprehensive outlook.”
Turtelboom served as the Belgian Minister of Justice from 2011 to 2014.
Aakshi Chaba | firstname.lastname@example.org