The IGL Welcomes Amb. Lamberto Zannier Back to Campus


The IGL hosted Ambassador Lamberto Zannier, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner on National Minorities and formerly the Secretary-General of the OSCE, on October 11 at Tufts.

He is a 2015 recipient of the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award.

During his visit, he had lunch with IGL students and board members, led a discussion on migration and integration policies in the EPIIC colloquium, and gave a public lecture on “Conflict Prevention – Opportunities and Challenges of Integration”. The public lecture was co-sponsored by the Henry J Leir Institute on Human Security at the Fletcher School and by the International Relations Program.

In the EPIIC class, Amb. Zannier spoke about the changing perspectives of migration in Europe. He said that within a century, Europe “has radicalized, been turned upside down.” In his role, his office wanted to look at the macro picture, especially in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 migration crisis. The questions he addressed included, “How should we understand these migration flows?” and “How should we address them?”

He felt it was important to havea good understanding of the drivers of the migration flows to see what policies needed to be put in place. The first area that his office identified is demographics, with a population that is aging, Europe needs manpower to sustain it and to sustain its social systems. There is a demand for a continued supply of workers, but the message is not getting out in the right way within countries. He noted the change in the demographic imbalance over the last 50 years, saying that 50 years ago, Europe had twice the population of Africa, and now that has been reversed. Africa faces a clear demographic pressure and a need for sustainable development, but there is a disconnect in how Europe understands this, not just as a whole, but country by country. There is no harmonization of migration policies, no strategic plan.

He argued that it would be in the interest of Europe and of the sending countries for Europe to support economic development, sustainable growth and good governance in Africa and Asia. It would provide more stability and less brain drain for the sending countries as well as an increase in the educational abilities and skills of those who still wanted to migrate to the continent. He also noted that climate change was becoming an increasing driver of migration and that it is necessary for both Europe and the international community to discuss the recognition of this category of migrants. In his role, he added that it is also necessary to get the international community to recognize the necessity and benefits of conflict prevention, rather than just rallying around conflict intervention and crises.

At the outset of his public lecture, the Ambassador made two disclaimers. First, his mandate as High Commissioner for National Minorities is conflict prevention. This mandate goes back to the early 1990s, following the end of the Cold War and the eruption of conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Secondly, he made it clear that his job was not to “protect” minorities, but to find ways to integrate them into society.

The Ambassador talked about how the breakup of Yugoslavia increased the number of recognized minorities in the Balkans, and that communities were divided, families were separated, and new identities were formed. This led to challenges when it came to building a new, integrated society after the conflict. He explained his job as helping to continue this ongoing process in the former Yugoslavia and other regions of Europe through the OSCE. He also explained that the OSCE is a regional security organization with a presence in 58 countries. Unlike the EU and NATO, OSCE members are not “like-minded” countries. There are many different perspectives and policy objectives that each country pursues, and the OSCE cannot “eliminate differences, but must build bridges over them.” The objective is to promote security and cooperation in the fields of economics, human rights, and political-military relations.

He gave an example of the work the OSCE is doing to bridge gaps within and between countries. One current challenge he highlighted is in Ukraine withits recent adoption of legislation decreasing the role of Russian language in the Ukrainian education system. As part of the Soviet Union for so many years, and with population transfers under Soviet leaders, the Russian language is an important part of the identity of many living in Ukraine. As the government has started to impose the Ukrainian language—supplanting Russian language and culture—in the country, the Russian-speaking minority has become increasingly mobilized, and tensions have risen. For some, this new legislation represents a barrier toward forming an independent state identity. The Ambassador also used this example to highlight the geopolitical aspect of identity. He connected it to his office’s emphasis on education. According to the Ambassador, investing in education is a “strategic decision” when it comes to the integration of minorities. The only way to promote diverse, but integrated societies is to start with education. Ambassador Zannier closed by saying that the arc of history has moved away from inter-state conflict to intra-state conflict. Since nations are segmented and divided, a healthy relationship between the minority and majority is critical to lasting peace and security in the world.