Author: Victoire d’Humières
Affiliated organisation: Fondation Robert Schuman
Site of publication: Robert Schuman
Type of publication: Article
Date of publication: April 30th, 2018
For geographic as well as historic, cultural and linguistic reasons, Africa, represented by the African Union (AU), and the European Union are both privileged partners. Europe, with its 28 Member States is still the most important foreign investor on the continent, the primary source of financial transfers and the greatest provider of development and humanitarian aid , not forgetting the many common security and defence missions and operations. The issue of migration flows between the two pervades all aspects of cooperation.
Although there is undeniable cooperation in terms of migration policy between the EU and the AU, the growing trend to externalise implies, to a certain degree, that countries of origin and transit are stakeholders in the implementation of the European migration policy. Hence, we should explore the dynamics and the shape of this partnership. To what extent is Europe forcing some African countries to contribute to its policies? What are the limits of such methods?
Since the 1990’s the EU has been convinced that its internal and external migration policies are intrinsically linked and hence, that cooperation with the countries of Africa on those issues is vital. However, the EU and UA’s agendas and interests associated with migration issues are far from similar. How therefore can this partnership be re-balanced, with the protection of the migrants as a condition?
A prerequisite for a more effective management of migration flows
The entry into force of the Schengen Agreement in 1995 marked the advent of a new area of free trade and movement. Yet, the abolition of the internal borders called for a strengthening of the external borders. Since then Europe’s migration policy has become a matter of security, and its external dimension a prerequisite for the smooth functioning of internal policy. Hence the Treaty of Amsterdam (1999) defined an area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) and thereby communitarised visa, asylum and immigration policies at European level.
Fostering a global approach for migration and mobility with African countries
The dramatic events in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Morocco in 2005 contributed to the need to develop a global strategic approach to managing migration and to having a long-term vision focusing on the relation between migration and development. Amongst the priority actions announced at the European Council was the adoption of a Strategy for Africa, clearly illustrating the aim to strengthen migration cooperation with African countries. Two years later the EU-Africa Partnership for Migration, Mobility and Employment was launched in Lisbon (2007), together with an action plan and a framework for dialogue and cooperation with the African Union as its privileged point of contact.
To improve coherence and efficacy, the global approach was revised in 2011 to include mobility. Four inter-dependent themes were suggested i.e. legal immigration and mobility, irregular immigration and the trafficking of human beings, international protection and political asylum, the maximisation of the impact of migration and mobility on development. Dialogue regarding migration and mobility were created to drive along implementation. They led to the signature of a common migration and mobility agenda and even mobility partnerships. These non-binding and country specific agreements negotiated with the DG Justice and Internal Affairs guarantee European financing. Only partnerships, designed as a priority for neighbouring countries, include the negotiation of visa and readmission agreements. Amongst the African signatories were Cap Verde in 2008, Morocco in 2013 and Tunisia in 2014. In the meantime, Ethiopia and Nigeria signed with the EU the framing of a common agenda, respectively in 2013 and 2014.
The fight to counter irregular migration in Africa in EU foreign policy
The situation in the Mediterranean, in May 2015 compelled the European Commission to set out a European Migration Agenda to “provide a European answer by combining both internal and external policies.”. In Valett, European and African heads of State and government pursued their on-going dialogue on migration yet enhancing it by placing the related challenges at the heart of their relations. In this regard, the official announcement stated that “all policies and tools will be used to achieve these objectives.”
The priority given to countering irregular migration can also be highlighted in the Migration Partnerships. As part of the European Global Strategy, these agreements aim to achieve a ‘win-win’ partnership, by strengthening cooperation regarding a number of programmes bespoke to countries of origin or transit’s priorities and European outlooks. For now, priority partnerships have been established with Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Niger and Mali. In this regard, in Mali EUCAP and EUTM missions cover migration related projects, in Niger training schemes are in place in Agadez and support is provided by Europol and Eurojust in the fight to counter migrant trafficking, and in Ethiopia projects are in place to collect data on migration flows.
Political dialogue between the African Union and the EU
Since 2007 the Common EU-Africa Strategy frames the basis of a political dialogue by defining “values, interests and goals that are common” to the two institutions. The re-integration of Morocco into the AU in 2017 helped established a parallel, at least in appearance, when speaking of the EU and the AU.
However, the institutional limits of the AU restrict the reciprocity of political dialogue. In the absence of the relinquishment of any sovereignty to the AU by its Member States, the latter often tend to withdraw in exercising their national sovereignty. Common position taking is all the more complicated on sensitive issues such as migration policy.
Moreover, Euro-African dialogue is often led by certain European Member States, notably by France and Germany. The system is still dominated by historic bilateralism which has even grown stronger. Although attempts are made by the High Representative, EU Member States are often at the helm of political dialogue.
The African Union is also aware of the excessive dependency that persists regarding external aid and of the impediments that this represents for its bargaining power in political negotiations. Hence, AU Member States have made a commitment to increase their contributions to the AU regarding activities related to peace and security. African States are still often silent partners, despite African civil society’s frequent calls for its leaders to assume their responsibilities in migration related tragedies. No joint proposals on the part of the States have been drafted to implement a joint response to these challenges.
Divergent interests but balanced cooperation ?
Despite European declarations advocating shared cooperation and responsibility on migration, there is fundamental political divergence between the European Union and the African Union and within these institutions themselves. Especially given the EU and AU’s divergent views of those issues. The EU has notably introduced migration conditionality which challenges the balance of the partnership as well as the ability of African countries to have a say in the management of migration flows towards Europe.
Two perspectives of migration
The cooperation partnership between Mali and the European Union signed in 2016 on migration management and the conclusion of readmission agreements illustrates how such arrangements are criticised by populations who view their dependence on Europe as something that is growing. Indeed, representatives of Malian civil society have been virulent and have threatened to disrupt the conclusion of the partnership. And so, whilst readmission agreements concluded with Central and Eastern Europe countries were a prerequisite upon EU membership, the situation is fundamentally different for African countries. Indeed, convincing these States to accept the return of nationals is more difficult, since emigrants often contribute more to the country’s economy outside of its borders, and governments fear that potential political contestation will grow as this is fueled from abroad.
The introduction by the European Union of migration conditionality
Negotiations launched in 2016 with Nigeria and Tunisia and ongoing for a long time with Morocco and Algeria have not yet been finalised. The refusal of those priority States, given their geographical position on the migration routes towards Europe, is problematic for the EU. As an example, Morocco is extremely reluctant to sign an agreement providing for the readmission of sub-Saharan migrants transiting through its territory, which would impact the country’s relations with its African partners quite significantly.
During the Sevilla summit in 2002, the introduction of negative sanctions was mentioned in the event of non-cooperation, before this was rejected by the majority of Member States. The common migration and mobility agenda in 2016 introduced the idea of “more for more”. Hence the more the third countries effectively cooperate in the implementation of the European migration policy, by preventing irregular flows towards Europe, the more the delivery of visas to its nationals is facilitated. As such, although the readmission agreements are non-binding they do condition cooperation and aid to African countries of Africa.
A new European migration policy
The legal categories of European migration policies are struggling to grasp the complexity of the African migration phenomenon. Indeed, the flows towards Europe are mixed and the reasons for departure are often numerous. This is especially true given the lack of proper legal paths. Hence, the dichotomy between refugees and economic migrants seems to be poorly adapted to the variety of situations.
Ensuring the international protection of migrants
The protection of migrants by the European Union’s partners in the externalised management of its migration policy is problematic. Accusations focus firstly on the partners of the EU in charge of its implementation. The Libyan case is the clearest illustration of the many mistakes made by national players in the framework of the cooperation agreements for the outsourced management of the borders. Indeed, whilst the central theme of the African Union-European Union Summit in November 2017 was “Investing in youth for a sustainable future”, disclosure of cases of migrant slavery in Libya reoriented discussions.
The conclusion of readmission agreements aiming to send irregular migrants back to their countries of origin and transit should adequately take on board the risks that migrants run on their return – especially since these agreements should be planned alongside voluntary migrant return and re-integration programmes. Beyond the violations of human rights, the European Union may lose its credibility and its legitimacy as a normative power if it maintains its policy as it stands.
Rethinking Europe’s role in the governance of migration
Despite the evident need to strengthen the management of its borders, the EU’s focus on the migration-security nexus raises growing scepticism from the civil society in certain African countries. Hence, the European Union should find a common understanding with the African Union, notably to discuss the root causes of migration – a theme on which both institutions have expressed their interest.
Thinking together about the structural causes, ensuring the protection of communities and fighting to counter smugglers’ networks, which feed on economic and security instability should be set as priorities. Dialogue with the African civil society in each country is a prerequisite, too often neglected, to ensure that local priorities and characteristics are taken on board from the start.
Indeed, the establishment of mutual cooperation and dialogue beyond simple declarations is vital. The African Union and its member countries cannot continue to be those responsible for the implementation of European policies, without their needs and expectations being taken into consideration. The long-term consequences for the European continent would be disastrous. The European Union should advocate for the orderly management of migration, that is respectful of Human Rights. The EU and its Member States should take up the opportunity of the World Pact on Migration to show their commitment and their shared responsibility to strengthen international cooperation on migration and human mobility.
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