Migration Crisis Given Priority: EU More Lenient on Human Rights in Aid Policy

Written by | Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Last week, EU leaders agreed to make deals with five African countries – Nigeria, Niger, Ethiopia, Senegal and Mali – to provide aid in return for intensified cooperation in managing migration to Europe. Observers and some EU leaders feel that the “conditionality” that typically characterized EU aid deals with developing countries is a thing of the past. Under the EU’s development cooperation framework, aid is generally tied to the respect of human rights and the rule of law. The EU has previously suspended aid payments to countries that had problems with democratic deficit or protection of human rights.
The five countries that were promised aid deals last week, however, do not entirely comply with the EU’s insistence on the human rights record. For example, Ethiopia is a shining example of such countries and Eritrea, often labeled Africa’s North Korea, could also receive some financing if it commits itself to curb migration. European leaders concluded at the summit of October 20-21 that “More efforts are needed to stem the flows of irregular migrants, in particular from Africa, and to improve return rates.”
EU leaders agreed at the summit that they needed to make more efforts to curb illegal migration from Africa. While the migrant deal with Turkey has worked as the number of arrivals in Greece is decreasing, the number of arrivals from North Africa has been on the rise this year. Last year, Italy accepted 154,000 migrants while this year the number is poised to be higher.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that the deals are not just about the money but also about “substantially improving the capabilities and the chances of people in these African countries and about giving hope.” In more practical terms, African countries will commit themselves to tightening border controls and taking illegal migrants back in exchange for the development money. This initial plan with the five countries will be reviewed at the summit in December and, based on the review, the approach might be extended to other countries.

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