Migration and Religions 2016

Bilateral conference


Exchange of perspectives on the management of diversity in Austria and France

Date and location:

February 2017, French Institute for international relations (ifri), Paris

Organised and supported by:

austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (AFC), Vienna ; French Institute for international relations (ifri), Paris; Austrian Embassy in Paris


Background and objectives:

For the past two years, the European Union has been affected by a large influx of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean region, which is being reinforced by increasing uncertainty in the region of origin and the lack of prospects for the civilian population.

This phenomenon is already having first-hand short-term implications: the Union, split in coping with the "refugee crisis", contributed significantly to the weakening of its flagship initiatives such as freedom of movement (Schengen area) or the Dublin Regulation. Within the European Union, new borders have been established on the Balkan route and their Member States have deviated from their obligations. The crisis was finally discussed in public debates and fed the ground for eurosceptical discourses, which consequently plays an important role in the Austrian presidential elections and the Brexit referendum in 2016.

This influx also raises questions in the long run. Theoretically, it could counter the aging population of the continent and meet the needs of workers in certain sectors (provided that asylum seekers gain access to the labor market). At the same time, this migration stream poses a major challenge to secularized Europe, clouded by uncertainties and identity issues.

How do Austria and France, with their respective traditions, cope with the growth of cultural and religious diversity? How can the Union protect itself from increasing confusion, nurtured by the various populist movements in Europe with regard to Christianity and Islam, ethnicity and religion as identity-creating characteristics? Is an increase in tensions between religious communities or increasing contradictions between modern and religious norms to be expected? What impact will the refugee crisis have on the way European countries deal with globalized fundamentalist religious movements on their territory and abroad?

It is to answer these questions and fuel the debate that the CFA and Ifri will organize a conference on the crisis of migrants and the management of diversity in France and Austria.

Thèmes abordés:

Opening & Keynote

1st Panel : Managing religious diversity

  • Religion and Identity in France and Austria in the discourse on the migrations crisis
  • Secularism and religious sociology of the migrants
  • In France, what is the impact on the separation of state and religion?  Defense or challenge of secularism ?
  • In Austria, what is the impact on the  state pillarisation of religion?
  • Inter-religious tensions vs. tensions between modern and religious values?
  • Convergences / divergences between fundamental principles: human and women's rights and religious freedom
  • Exchange of experiences on the management of religious diversity in the framework of refugee aid

2nd panel: Ethnic-national populism and religious fundamentalism

  • Impact of the migration crisis on the European far-right (especially Front National and FPÖ)
  • Impact on the conceptualisation of european identity: contradictions between christian identity (as ethnic marker) and christian religion (religious marker)
  • Impact on the confusion of the markers (European values vs. islamic values)
  • Impact on the challenge or rejetion of secularism of different religious movements
  • What link between migration and religious fundamentalism?
  • Fight against radicalisation

Conclusion and reception

Conference organised by
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