Berkeley: The Role of Austria in the European Refugee Crisis

IES opened its Fall 2016 program with a lecture given by Michael Freund, Professor Emeritus at Webster University, Vienna, and a board member of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, organized in cooperation with the Austrian Marshall Fund. To start off, Freund provided an overview of various refugee crises that Austria has faced both historically and in more recent years. Through these examples, he showed a change in attitude of the Austrian people towards the arrival of refugees, which shifted from one of unquestioned solidarity in the case of Hungarian refugees in the 1950s to increasing animosity in the case of Middle-Eastern and African refugees today.

Prof. Em. Michael Freund (Webster University) and IES Director Jeroen Dewulf.

Prof. Em. Michael Freund (Webster University) and IES Director Jeroen Dewulf.

Following this overview, he explored the ways in which this evolution of public opinion can be traced through mediums such as election results, newspaper headlines, and reactions on social media. While he claimed his talk had no definitive conclusion, he did emphasize that Austria could serve as a miniature testing ground for what is to come as the whole of Europe seeks to overcome the challenges it faces in its efforts to adequately address the current situation.

Many questions were raised after the talk, some of which sought to compare the Austrian and European attitudes with the American attitude towards accepting refugees. Between Freundfs intriguing insights and the sheer number of Berkeley faculty, students, and community members present in 201 Moses Hall, this opening lecture has fostered a lot of excitement for the semester to come!

Click here to watch the video of this presentation.

Hannes RichterComment