The situation created over the course of the past two years by the arrival of increasingly persistent migratory flows at Europe’s borders resulted in 2006 being what we could qualify as a “pilot year” with respect to the different policy proposals put forth by Europe. While we wait for some of these measures to take effect, measures that seem as necessary as they are desperate, what is true is that new reference frameworks have been established, with interesting connotations moving towards a more complex approach and greater involvement of exterior cooperation policies. Nevertheless, and precisely because of this, certain apparently contradictory paradoxes have emerged and they could set forth new criteria for migration management in Europe.
It can certainly be said that, with the initiatives launched in 2006, the Mediterranean area, with Africa in the forefront, has attained the category of strategic region for the implementation of European migration policies. In fact, the latter were largely premonitory of other strategies that were subsequently applied to other European Neighbourhood areas. In any case, the fundamental issue on the horizon is whether, with regard to the vast debates that are being developed in this global policy area, Europe will be capable of making its different action plans effective and lend them the flexibility required for the different levels of action involved, whether national, regional or multilateral.
The Rabat conference brought together fifty-six countries involved in the migratory routes of Africa and triggered other initiatives
What is certain is that, as a consequence of all of this, we are witnessing a multiplication of initiatives that will primarily result in input from the highest levels over the next period, as, for instance, the launching of the European Commission’s Thematic Programme for Cooperation with Third Countries in the Areas of Migration and Asylum (2007-2010), which has a budget of 205 million euros, or the organisation of the first Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Migration, to be held under the Portuguese Presidency in November of 2007.
Human Security as a Detonator and Development as a Priority
The Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development held in Rabat in July of 2006 on initiative of the Spanish and Moroccan governments and with the support of the EU was certainly one of the first attempts and, at least on a symbolic level, the most obvious and visible one, to show European priorities for the forthcoming period: the inclusion of the development issue as a priority and the presence of African countries in external EU policy on migration. The Rabat conference brought together fifty-six countries involved in the migratory routes of Africa and triggered other initiatives. The absence of Algeria, whose borders the majority of migrants cross on their way to Morocco, forced the subsequent organisation of another EU-Africa ministerial conference, held in Tripoli in late November. The assertion of poverty and underdevelopment as essential causal factors to consider and the need to draw up specific action plans were the main conclusions of these conferences. The condition of country of transit was also added to that of country of origin and reception, expanding the dimensions of collective responsibility and solidarity for African actors. In this regard, the Maghreb countries are simultaneously forced to adopt proactive positions, which will most likely lead them to modify their country’s legal and institutional mechanisms. By the same token, the sum of 2,500 million euros per year offered by the Europeans in Rabat is not negligible.
It is important to keep in mind that this entire diplomatic initiative arose due to a desperate situation relating to evident circumstances of human security. In Spain and Italy alone, between 400,000 and 600,000 immigrants have allegedly arrived over the past three years. Although individuals arriving by skiff or dinghy (“patera” in Spanish) constitute a minor percentage of the influx, estimated at less than 10%, the explosive human dimension of the situation is illustrated by the figures: in 2006, over 31,000 immigrants from Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea Bissau were intercepted off the coasts of the Canary Islands as compared to only 5,000 the previous year. This situation, partially due to the shift in immigration flows away from the Morocco-Andalusia route, has multiplied the risks for these migrants due to the greater distances to be covered by boat. It has also given rise to a new word in Spanish vocabulary and in the press – “cayuco”, a new type of boat used to cross the stretch of ocean as opposed to the more fragile, traditionally used “patera” or skiff.
The civil society conference of Alicante convened during the Mediterranean Forum in October 2006 precisely mentioned the need to place the protection of immigrants at the heart of migration policies
The approach to migrant flow control with a security priority through the implementation of Frontex in late 2006 coexists with the irruption of the human dimension of the phenomenon, which aggravates the fragile balance of migration issues caused by illegal flows, a circumstance that has marked the rhythm of this area on the European agenda. Efforts to establish a comprehensive framework for external action in order to rise to the situation have not sufficed over the course of this year to demonstrate Europe’s capacity to go beyond national efforts and coordinate quick responses in the humanitarian sphere.
An important aspect for prioritisation has been demanded by the civil society. The civil society conference of Alicante convened during the Mediterranean Forum in October 2006 precisely mentioned the need to place the protection of immigrants at the heart of migration policies, guaranteeing their exercise of human rights and strengthening the international instruments protecting such rights, such as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. A particularly important event in this period was the reference to the agreements on readmission and detention in countries of transit. In this context, the debate on fundamental (protective) human rights has even led to the discussion of the need to establish a Euro-Mediterranean Charter on Migrants’ Rights.
This coexistence of political priorities regarding strategies to be developed is also reflected in the agendas of forums traditionally dealing with topics of security and interior affairs, as is the case with the 5+5 Forum. At its meeting in Algeciras in late 2006, the Spanish Presidency of the Labour Ministers Conference set the pace for a coherent strategy. The concept of expanding dialogue to encompass certain Sub-Saharan countries was introduced, thus including the concept of countries of transit as interlocutors and introducing all elements of integration and development as priorities for this period. This entailed the intention of making countries of migrant origin and transit collectively responsible for solidarity and integration. It is highly interesting to note how the lead role played by topics such as economic and social integration, formal and informal transfers or the importance of labour circulation acquires a strategic importance that forces regional and multilateral frameworks to rapidly react to issues of institutional governance (training of officials, establishment of appropriate legal frameworks, shared information systems for the labour market).
Framework for a Comprehensive Approach: The Danger of the Europeanisation and Externalisation of Policies
As a result of the invitation made by the European Council to the Commission in late 2005, the Commission advanced in its global approach to exterior relations, development and employment, and justice and security. It also suggested including new political areas that were not part of the initial global approach, such as legal measures regarding migration and integration, also mentioning the need to lend greater efficiency to EU decision-making in this area. Certainly this innovative approach will bring new frameworks of coherence with respect to the dynamics mentioned above.
The idea of a global approach means combining aspects of border security and protection with socio-economic and development aspects. Thus, at the Mediterranean Forum (Foromed) in Alicante/Alacant in October 2006, the need was mentioned for “a border management system based on cooperation ensuring an adequate balance between real security requirements and the need to facilitate the circulation of goods and people.” An interesting tension has emerged from this new situation along with two of the main paradoxes faced by the European strategy in the region during this period: on the one hand, the matter of the limits of European policy externalisation; and on the other hand, the Mediterranean nature of this policy issue.
The lead role played by topics such as economic and social integration, formal and informal remittances or the importance of labour circulation acquires a strategic importance that forces regional and multilateral frameworks to rapidly react
With respect to the former point, the ultimate will to externalise European migration policy can certainly be felt. If this means prioritising European interests at border controls, we would be facing the paradox of a rhetoric of openness to development and cooperation issues while in reality implementing a Euro-centric perspective based on the prioritisation of border management and the need for control of illegal flows. In a report in June 2006, the European Parliament (EP) alerted about this circumstance and the serious consequences that pressure in this regard could exercise on the countries of the Southern Mediterranean Basin vis-à-vis citizens in transit (with regard to internal EU affairs, see the resolution of the EP’s April 2006 report on refugee camps in Malta). In the second place, there is tension between European and regional dimensions. The development of global policy in its early stage in 2006 was within the framework of the Mediterranean Region. Nonetheless, the idea of multilateral involvement that began with Barcelona in its relations with Mediterranean Partner Countries and the numerous initiatives witnessed reveal a contradictory dynamic during this period whereby the desire for relations among equals in the political sphere contrasts with the fact that the priorities and interests are actually European. The paradox is that we could have active, increasingly European policies shared by continental partners without this being ultimately synonymous with a true dialogue of shared interests. Nonetheless, and despite its limitations, 2006 has brought splendid opportunities for jointly directing mobility. The first step has been taken and European interests should not only be broadly shared but also debated throughout the different platforms created to such an end. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face is to make the multilateral, Euro-Mediterranean framework an arbitrator for finding the solutions to our shared problems.
We would be facing the paradox of a rhetoric of openness to development and cooperation issues while in reality implementing a Euro-centric perspective based on the prioritisation of border management
Analysis of the external dimension of the EU’s asylum and immigration policies – summary and recommendations for the European Parliament. DT\619330en.doc 08/06/2006
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: The Global Approach to Migration One Year On: Towards a Comprehensive European Migration Policy. COM (2006) 735 final. Brussels, 30/11/2006
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