The right to asylum in the European Union: Legal and political challenges

Four million asylum applications were filed in the European Union between 2013 and 2017. While the incoming flow of refugees has decreased since then, political tensions between EU Member States have continued to increase and intensify, pushing the Union to the verge of disunity. In the context of upcoming European elections, a joint report by Institut Montaigne and Terra Nova calls for overhauling European asylum policy and for a rapid, unified response to the humanitarian emergency in the Mediterranean: Saving the right to asylum. The introductory talk will be given by Marc-Olivier Padis (Head of Studies Department, Terra Nova) and Jean-Paul Tran Thiet (Senior Fellow and Former Board Member, Institut Montaigne) based on this report outlining possible reforms of the common European asylum system. This will be followed by commentaries from two discussants, Fanny Thornton (University of Canberra) and Josefin Graef (Hertie School), on the wider political and legal challenges facing the right to asylum in Europe and beyond in the 21st century.


Francis Vérillaud joined Institut Montaigne in order to support its internationalization and its integration into the circle of world-renowned think tanks. He worked at Sciences Po where he was Director of international affairs and exchanges from 1995 onwards. Before coming to Sciences Po, Francis held several positions in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including postings in Washington and Santiago, Chile.

Helmut K. Anheier is Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School. He served as President of the Hertie School from 2009 to 2018. His research centres on indicator systems, social innovation, culture, philanthropy, and organisational studies. Anheier is the principal academic lead of the Hertie School's annual Governance Report (Oxford University Press).

Keynote speakers

Marc-Olivier Padis is the head of the Studies Department and of International Relationships of the think tank Terra Nova. He was editor-in-chief and director of the magazine Esprit (1993-2016).

Jean-Paul Tran Thiet is a French lawyer and has held top-ranking positions as an advisor and a negotiator in both Paris and Brussels, including advisor to the private office of the vice-president of the European Commission, head of department at the SGAE, general secretariat for European Affairs, co-director of the private office of two ministers in charge of European affairs, and special advisor of the French prime minister. His latest publication "saving the right to asylum" is a joint product of Institut Montaigne and Terra Nova, two prominent French think tanks.


Fanny Thornton is Assistant Professor in Law at the School of Law and Justice at the University of Canberra in Australia. She holds a PhD in Public International Law from the Australian National University and is the author of a recent book with Oxford University Press entitled Climate Change and People on the Move: International Law and Justice.

Josefin Graef is a Dahrendorf Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hertie School. She holds a PhD in German Studies/Political Science from the University of Birmingham. She is an area studies scholar working on the narrative politics of difference and deviance in Europe, with a particular interest in Germany, the UK and Sweden. Her research draws on insights from hermeneutics, media studies, political communication and social theory to explore current dynamics in European politics, especially as they relate to questions of migration, populism and political violence.

Janna Wessels is Postdoctoral Researcher at the Chair of Public Law and European Law of the University of Giessen. She works on refugee law and policy, migration studies, and human rights. Her current research includes the project “Human Rights challenges to European Migration Policy (REMAP).


Michaela Kreyenfeld is Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School. She also serves as PhD Director at the Hertie School. Her research focuses on family behaviour, life course analysis, social policy and migration.

About the Dahrendorf Forum

The Dahrendorf Forum – Debating Europe is a joint initiative by the Hertie School and the London School of Economics and Political Science, funded by Stiftung Mercator. Under the title “The future of Europe: Strategic options for an era of uncertainties” the project cycle 2017-2019 fosters research and open debate on the changing European political landscape.

About Institut Montaigne

Founded in 2000 and based in Paris, Institut Montaigne is an independent think tank dedicated to public policy in France and Europe. Its work results from a rigorous, critical and open method of analysis based on international comparisons. This pioneering non-profit think tank brings together business leaders, senior civil servants, academics, civil society and personalities from a wide range of backgrounds. It is run exclusively through private contributions, each representing less than 1.5% of its annual budget, which amounts to € 5.7 million (2018 estimation). Through its various actions – proposals, evaluations of public policies, citizen participations and experimentations – Institut Montaigne aims to play a key role in the democratic debate.

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