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Prague Process updates amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

4 June 2020

On 6 April 2020, Mr. Tautvydas Tamulevičius, Vice-minister of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania, as the current Chair of the Prague Process Strategic Group, informed the 50 participating states about the joint decision to reschedule all face-to-face activities planned before summer due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Strategic Group instead tasked the Prague Process Secretariat at ICMPD to launch a series of online (remote) activities within the three Specific Objectives of the ‘Prague Process: Dialogues, Analyses and Training in Action’ initiative, implemented as Strand C of the MPF II project.

Following up to this decision, the Secretariat launched a webinar series, inviting various migration experts to, amongst others, address the different implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on migration and mobility. To date, three webinars took place. The recordings of all webinars are available at the Prague Process website. Their short- and full-length versions can be accessed in English and Russian.

On 16 April, Mr Glen Hodgson (Founder and CEO of Free Trade Europa) assessed “The possible impact of COVID-19 on the EU’s demand for high-skilled migrants”, offering an analysis of the ongoing pandemic and its potential future impact on the EU’s labour market. The webinar looked in particular at the possible short and mid-term impact of COVID-19 on labour shortages in the EU and the future of skilled work; the existing shortcomings of the relevant EU acquis through the COVID-19 lens and possible solutions; the ongoing swift digitalisation and the need for high-qualified migrants to support industries; and the migration management tools to sustain national economies and welfare systems in the post-coronavirus period. Mr Hodgson also authored the Policy brief “Intra-corporate Transferees (ICTs): The benefits for the EU and the opportunity cost”, published within the Prague Process Migration Observatory in March.

On 15 May, Professor Rainer Muenz (former advisor to President Jean-Claude Juncker) provided for an analyses on “The impact of the Corona-crisis on migration”. Mr Muenz discussed possible scenarios of how labour migration may evolve in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and thereafter. Particular attention was given to the following aspects: migrant workers prevented from leaving or entering a country because of travel restrictions; migrants becoming unemployed as a result of the recession triggered by anti-COVID 19 measures; and irregular migrants living in COVID-19 affected countries. Professor Muenz further discussed how past labour shortages in many countries of destination are to be understood in the context of the simultaneous explosion of unemployment rates and rapid digital transformation of work. Finally, he also compared the current situation with related experiences from the financial, public debt and banking crises 2008-2010. Shortly before the webinar, Professor Muenz authored the Policy brief ‘How will migration to Europe look in the Future? Trends, open questions, and four plausible scenarios’, released in May.

On 28 May, Ruslan Minich and Pavlo Kravchuk (Europe without Barriers) discussed “The Impact of COVID-19 on Ukrainian Labour Migrants in the EU”, presenting the main findings of their recently published Policy brief. They reflected upon the situation of Ukrainian labour migrants, who constitute the largest group of migrant workers in Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary, as well as inside the EU as a whole. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, labour migrants lose their jobs and livelihood, overstay their visas, residence and work permits, whilst also encountering various challenges in their attempts to return home. Meanwhile, the host countries suffer from the lack of migrant farmworkers who are essential for the food supply chains. The speakers outlined which of the migration policy measures introduced in response to COVID-19 had worked and which had not, proposing some practical solutions that could inspire other countries as well.

Apart from the mentioned publications, the past months saw the release of several other Policy briefs, as well as the ICMPD Background Note ‘Migration and Mobility in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: What to expect in times of COVID-19?’.

Meanwhile, the ‘Online Training on Identification and Profiling on the Border’, taking place on 9-10 June, will constitute the first remote training organised within the Prague Process Training Academy. It is targeting front line officers responsible for the first line border control, including border guards, border police, law enforcement agencies or migration authorities. The training will also touch upon the impacts of COVID-19 on their daily work at the border.  

The Prague Process work plan for 2020 currently foresees the following activities:

    • 18 June: 4th Prague Process webinar ‘Assessing the EU’s External Migration Policy’, with Mr Kristof Tamas
    • 2 July: 5th Prague Process webinar ‘The Future of Labour Migration within the Prague Process Region’, with Mr Andrea Salvini
    • 6-8 Oct (Minsk, Belarus): Workshop on Posted Migrant Workers and Social Portability;
    • 20-22 Oct (Durres, Albania): Training on Identification and Profiling on the Border;
    • 16-17 Nov (Nuremberg, Germany): Senior Officials’ Meeting. 

Due to the persisting uncertainty whether the events foreseen for autumn can be indeed be realised, we would advise you to regularly check for updates at www.pragueprocess.eu.