Stefan Lehne (Carnegie Europe)
The focal point of the European Union’s efforts in addressing migration challenges is a new initiative of the so-called framework partnerships with third countries (Partnership Framework), which aims to strengthen cooperation with individual third countries, especially in Africa. Following the years of unsuccessful attempts at solving the problems of migration, a new impetus is needed, though political pressures stemming from strong anti-immigration sentiments have led in many EU countries to an exceedingly narrow focus of this agreement.
EU requirements under this initiative are presented very clearly: to reduce the number of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, to increase the number of returnees and to allow the refugees to stay as close to their home without having to risk the journey across the sea. The EU expects a significant reduction in the number of arrivals by the end of this year, which, however, requires an immediate cooperation with its African partners. The EU pledged to grant them 8 billion by 2020 to achieve this ambitious objective, though this amount will be allocated mainly by redirecting the existing development funds.
In order to make this partnership with third countries successful and to meet the above-mentioned objectives, the EU must increase the financial dimension of this concept. Likewise, transparent avenues for legal migration should be specified, such as temporary work, educational visas, scholarships and relaxed visa regime. The EU should also put a greater emphasis on the protection of individuals and provide humanitarian visa and refugee resettlement programs. Further efforts are needed to improve the voluntary return program, which, if correctly implemented, would save a lot of trauma from a challenging homecoming and would be a success for all parties involved.
The concept of partnership is definitely meaningful. It recognizes that migration is a challenge that can only be mastered with the contribution of African countries. However, in times of a political crisis, the EU is almost exclusively focused on keeping people out of Europe or sending them back. Financial incentives are hardly generous and will not be sufficient. Moreover, the agreement does not take into account the interests and needs of the individuals who are subject to this agreement. Effective measures for the return and reallocation of refugees are an essential part of the agreement but they are only one element in the overall strategy for a sustainable and managed migration. A balanced concept of partnership would not only be beneficial for the countries of origin or transit as well as receiving governments, but it should also pay due attention to the rights and the humanitarian needs of the persons concerned.