The European Council has given the green light to increased lending by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to projects outside the bloc that address migration issues. It adopted the decision following a deal with the European Parliament for “external” lending. Overall, the financing limit under an EU guarantee is increased by 5.3 billion, whereby 3.7 billion euro are earmarked for projects in the public and private sectors that address the root causes of migratory pressures. Projects outside the EU represent around 10% of total EIB financing activities.
The news comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that her administration was planning to use EU funds to help migrant integration, which met with major opposition as European leaders kicked off their first high-level meeting on the subject. Friday’s gathering (23 February) was the first time the EU tried to grapple with how to revamp its long-term budget. The bloc faces a €15bn-a-year gap following the Brexit.
Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg’s premier, said Berlin’s plan to connect the EU budget and migration risked triggering even more populism. “If we link the funds to migration questions, then we’ll be punished afterwards — not by the governments but the people,” he said. However, the German leaders think that the EU’s cohesion funding should help governments that “have assumed responsibility for taking in and integrating beneficiaries of international protection of migrants with a right to stay”.
Germany has become home for more than 1 million refugees amidst the continuous refusal of Warsaw, Bratislava, Prague and Budapest to accept mandatory quotas. “Solidarity cannot be a one-way street,” Ms Merkel reminded. France is more supportive of the German plan, and is also lobbying for linking budget cash to a country’s labor market standards and its tax policy.