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As part of our Monday Talks series, we conducted an interview with Mr. Theo Francken, Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, to discuss one of the most important matters in Europe today: the migration crisis.

The Secretary of State shared his vision for a new migration policy at the European level, discussed his controversial use of social media and the future of his political career.

When asked about the potential link between his popularity and comments on social media- where many people consider him as the Twitter champion of Flanders or the Flemish version of President Trump due to the way he uses the social media, Theo Francken said that he does not take the comparison as a compliment. He is part of a “new generation of politician” and therefore uses social media to “express [his] visions on society”.

When specifically asked about the backlash vis-à-vis his recent post on male lingerie, which resulted in tremendous criticism, and whether he thinks that his controversial use of social media is in line with his official responsibilities, the State Secretary answered that he feels there is “a lot of support within Belgian society” for what he does and what his vision is, but highlighted that he “never had the intention to provoke the LGBTQ community”.

On the Austrian Prime Minister’s call for a discussion on illegal immigration with Italy and Germany, the potential involvement of Belgium within such a debate, and his expectations from it, Theo Francken reassured us that Belgium would be “very active on the European debate on migration”.  Today’s situation is “playing with the future of the European Union” as well as the future of the Schengen zone, which is “really dangerous for European values and for European unity”. In Francken’s opinion, “the current migration policy is a big failure” which, according to him, Mr. Kurz agrees on.

When asked about his idea to apply the Australian type of migration model to Europe and how each EU member states would benefit from it, the 40 year-old politician highlighted what he sees as the three key points of this Australian model:

  1. “You will not make Europe home”; in practice “every illegal migrant who tries to come to the EU […] will be pushed back” , adding that after such an attempt illegal migrants will be “black-listed” from entering in the EU.
  2. Contribution to the UNCR by taking “care of refuges in region of the conflict”.
  3. Taking in “real refugees” as part of the UNCR resettlement programme.

This model, according to the Belgian Secretary of State, is “not only strict, it’s also very humane” because it would allow women, children and elderly, and not only young males, to find asylum in Europe. Theo Francken believes that this Australian model would benefit every European country because “the asylum chaos that we have now will stop, and the division that we have between Member States will stop.”

As far as the current model is concerned, Theo Francken said that the Dublin Regulation was “one big joke”, and that EU should adopt the Australian model, which would render the Dublin Regulation obsolete.

Concerning his national political career, and the possibility to see him as Minister of Education in the future, Theo Francken answered that he carries education in high regard, and that it is what guarantees that a country raises a “good next generation”.  As for now, although he would be honored to have the opportunity to become Minister of Education, he is currently leading a programme for migration that takes priority for him, and that is “interlinked with education” in his opinion, due to the necessity of teaching and preparing incoming migrants for better integration.

As for now although he would be honored to have such an opportunity, he is currently leading a programme for migration he therefore foresees such a position [Minister of Education] “in the day in 2019 or the day later”.

“The day we have an Australian model in Europe, I will stop and go for education” concluded Theo Francken.