EU-Africa: beyond dialogue for a cooperation on equal terms

22 July Jul 2016 0942 22 July 2016

Despite the important number of avenues for discussions, a considerable gap remains between the expectations for cooperation between EU and Africa States respectively.

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Despite the important number of avenues for discussions, a considerable gap remains between the expectations for cooperation between EU and Africa States respectively.

Europe is currently experiencing unprecedented migratory flows, driven by geopolitical and economic factors that will continue, and maybe intensify, over the coming years. Indeed, it is a global challenge with more than 60 million displaced persons worldwide.

Last June, the European Commission announced a New Migration Partnership Framework that will be able to reduce the numbers of people trying to make the dangerous crossing to Europe.

According to the paper, compacts on financial and operational support, as well as investments in long-term economic and social development, will be tailored to the situation and needs of each partner country, depending on whether they are a country of origin, country of transit or a country hosting many displaced persons.

A plan backed by a budget of €8bn over the next five years. This fund could eventually be increased to €60 billion by contributions from member states and the private sector, to tackle the “root causes” of migration. In the short term, the first countries involved in these new partnerships will be Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Libya.

Africa remains the priority region. Between 2010 and 2015, some 3,300,000 people moved within the African continent, mostly from rural to urban areas. In the same period, almost 2 million Africans migrated to Europe, with a 10.3% increase over the previous five years.

The majority of migrants from Africa go to other african Countries, except for North Africa, from where more than 90% of the emigrant population headed to extra-continental destinations in 2010.

However, only about 28% of migrants from Africa go to Europe. Of the total migrant stock in Europe, less than 12 are from Africa. In the case of North Africa, internally displaced people come also from other countries, namely Iraq and Syria, impacting the complexity of the migrant and refugees population. This means that the level of extra continental migration is still below those of migration within Africa itself.

The Valletta migration summit held last November added political momentum to the ongoing dialogue on migration between EU and African countries. The EU agreed to set up a €1.8 billion Emergency Trust Fund to help development in Africa, as well as annual development assistance of around €20 billion.

Simply put, the objective is to advance on European priorities in managing migratory flows.

To this aim, Italian Trade Agency and the Permanent Representation of Italy to EU has tasked the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, ICMPD, to draft a reflection paper based on the ongoing work of the European Institutions. The preliminary results were presented in Rome at the Institute of International Affairs.

Firstly, all African countries which are parties of the Valletta Summit have been screened according to asylum and migration indicators, and secondly a list of socio-economic demographic and geopolitical indicators were used to identify the final target countries: Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia.

While the difficulty to draw up a shortlist of countries which can alone help to address the complexity of migration challenges, the paper underlines that the selected countries are however those with which “tangible cooperation and concrete actions” can be envisaged and implemented in the short term.

In the end, the Italian Trade Agency and the Permanent Representation of Italy to EU has identified eight countries where strong efforts are urgently needed to influence the migratory situation to the EU: Niger, and Sudan, as countries of transit, Cote d’Ivoire Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and the Gambia, as countries of origin and one country of origin and transit as being Ethiopia.

The second part of the Reflection Paper tries to give an overview of the funding instruments in each priority country. However, due to the fact that the range of relevant EU funding sources is dizzying, resulting in a lack of coherence vis-à-vis priorities and goals, the authors argue that the most viable way forward will indeed be the trust fund mechanism - since at least the amounts are partially clearly earmarked for tackling migration issues. “From 50 to 100 million of the available budget have to be allocated to address root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement”, authors write.

But what is needed to do in order to define a cooperation framework with selected countries that really works? “It is necessary to understand the concerns and realities of African countries, and provide resources for analysis, impact assessment and scenario development. Only in this way cooperation frameworks can be broken down into operational goals tailored to partner countries”, the authors state.

Mario Giro

Mario Giro, credits:YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images

Above all we need a new paradigm for understanding migration phenomena. An approach of engagement that presupposes two partners sitting at the table”, said Mario Giro, Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign, with responsibility for international cooperation in his remarks to the paper. What is more, the feeling on the African countries side is still that they are called to the negotiating table in order to discuss European priorities. “We will not be able to resolve the migration issue offering money to third countries in exchange for promises to control migration flows”, Mario Giro added. Indeed, as in the past, bilateral and multilateral relationships with third countries continue to be focused more concretely on migration and border management.

“At present, many African countries need to solve power problems and improve their infrastructure urgently. In dealing with such challenges, the EU and its Member States must consider the bigger picture of a EU-Africa Plan, determined to tackle together issues of common concern, by gathering momentum for long-term development”, he concluded.

Cover Photo: WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images

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