IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2006


Panorama : The Mediterranean Year


The External Dimension of the UE Immigration Policy. Relations with the Countries of Origin and Transit

Gemma Pinyol

Political Scientist
Coordinator of Migration
Fundació CIDOB, Barcelona

The dramatic events which took place in Ceuta and Melilla in the autumn of 2005 revealed the need to reflect on the external dimension of the European Union immigration policy. The images of the sub-Saharan immigrants trying to get over the railings of both cities added to the European institutions’ concern regarding other frontiers which also undergo a high migratory pressure of an irregular nature, such as Lampedusa, Malta or the Eastern Greek Islands.

Given the attention this gave rise to, together with the numerous references in official documents made that year, it would appear that the year 2005 represented the discovery by the European Union of the sub-Saharan immigration and its impact on their Mediterranean member countries. On acknowledging the fact that a global approach is required for migration, the European Union confirms the need for a coherent external dimension for its immigration policy and recognizes that both the Mediterranean and Africa have become priority regions within it.

From Tampere to The Hague

In the conclusions of the Tampere European Council in 1999, the European Union acknowledged the importance of managing the waves of immigrants in a global manner by establishing relations with the countries of origin or transit and jointly carrying out cooperation projects and activities with them. The Tampere Agenda, which together with the Treaty of Amsterdam can be considered the basis of common immigration policy, was also the pioneer in acknowledging the importance of the external dimension of the aforesaid policy.

From the time the period for the implementation of Tampere was finalized, however, there has been a noticeable difference between the objectives aimed at and the results obtained in the last five years. On the one hand, it is clear that there has been a manifest lack of harmony between the Commission’s proposal capacity and the decisions taken by the Council, which has left matters unsolved and has obliged the European Parliament, consultative in terms of justice and home affairs (JHA), to try to reduce the effects of many of these decisions. On the other hand, the requirement of unanimity has also been an element of distortion, as it has made it easier for the member states, especially those which are sensitive to home affairs, to obtain a consensus of minimums in the European framework.

Further elements which have postponed the development of this common policy have been the process of expansion in 2004 and, on a greater scale, the obstacles which were encountered in a constitutional process which anticipates that the matters on the JHA Agenda will now be the object of a co-decision – a complex proceeding which grants the European Parliament a greater capacity of intervention in the Union’s regulation process, and prevents the European Council from confirming a common position which does not rely on the approval of the Parliament – and which extends the use of the qualified majority in this area.

With regard to the external dimension of the immigration policy, this area was clearly disrupted by the unexpected, fateful events of September 11th, which changed the priorities on the European agenda for immigration, focusing in particular on the security aspects. From the five years of the application of Tampere, it is clear that a greater securitization has been laid on the immigration agenda – discussed basically in the Home Affairs Councils –, which has pushed other aspects of economic development and social integration into the background.

Although The Hague Programme has continued on the lines initiated in Tampere with regard to the priority given to the dimension of security in migratory policies, what is certain is that it has incorporated new elements into its plan of action, like the employment policy – following the Lisbon Agenda – and integration or external policy. On this latter point, The Hague Programme points out that cooperation with the countries of origin or transit of the migratory waves must be intensified, co-development should be tiptoed over and the competence of the European Union should be set out in order to reach re-entry agreements. The events of the final quarter of the year have once again stressed the importance of the external dimension of immigration policy.

2005 or the Importance of the External Dimension

In the area of Justice and Home Affairs, relations with third countries are basically linked to technical programmes to seal off their borders, re-entry agreements or clauses which have become an essential requirement in relations 205 Med. 2006 Panorama Culture and Society | Migrations The External Dimension of the UE Immigration Policy. Relations with the Countries of Origin and Transit with other countries and one last element, which has undergone and acquired a pre-eminence in recent years, which is the connection between migration and development.

Although the determining of access to official financial aid funds for development arose in Seville in 2002, on the signing of the re-entry agreements, this was neither the Tampere nor The Hague option. On the contrary, both agendas consider this aid to be an instrument to prevent the forced migratory waves due to their having reached the limits of human endurance like poverty, the collapse of social systems and political instability among other things. On the same lines, Communication 390 on Migration and Development from September, 2005 acknowledged the deterring nature that the promotion of economic, social and civil rights might have on immigration in the countries of origin and it stresses the potential of the link between migration and development.

In 2005, three documents acquire special relevance with regard to the external dimension of the European immigration policy. All three of them emphasize the importance of the Mediterranean area and they came out shortly after the shocking images of hundreds of people trying to get over the frontier railings in Ceuta and Melilla. Firstly, Communication 491 came out on the relative strategy of the external dimension of the freedom of space, security and justice in October, 2005, in which the Commission, following The Hague Programme, reiterates the importance of the external dimension of JHA matters and the relevance of immigration and asylum in this field. It is, therefore, necessary to improve the capacities of other countries in migratory management, especially with regard to frontiers, irregular immigration and the binomial migration-development.

Moreover, in the conclusions of the informal Council of Home Office Ministers in Hampton Court at the end of October, and the subsequent Communication 621 regarding the monitoring of the priorities therein, the positive aspects of immigration both for the European Union and the countries of origin were underlined, but the importance of fighting against irregular immigration to avoid human tragedy was pointed out. In a conceptual turn, the idea of greater development to reduce immigration was considered substituting for that of improved management of immigration for better development; signifying, among other things, a guaranteed contribution of migration to development while mitigating brain drain and making expeditions easier, and fighting illegal immigration by controlling frontiers and re-entry agreements. In the Presidency conclusions of the Brussels European Council from December, the growing importance of immigration in the European Union and its member states was emphasized and the need was underlined to find a global approach that would signify, at least, an increase in the dialogue and cooperation with African countries and with all those countries which span the Mediterranean area.

Objective: Africa and the Mediterranean

Annexed to the aforesaid conclusions, the Council expressed the need, in answer to the events which took place at the end of 2005, for its “Global approach to migration: Priority actions focussing on Africa and the Mediterranean”, in which it requests a greater collaboration among the member states with regard to JHA matters. Furthermore, the Council demands that migrations be a priority in the political dialogue between the European Union and the African Union, that information mechanisms be established with regional network links with priority countries and that work be done with the African states in order to promote the role of Diaspora in projects of co-development. The Euro-African ministerial conference on migrations, due to be held initially in June, 2006 in Rabat, should be the first step in this direction.

However, and with regard to the Mediterranean neighbours, they acknowledge the new challenges in the management of the waves of immigration and border controls which they are coming up against as transit countries, and the resulting need to bring existing instruments like the MEDA Programme or the association agreements up to date. Apart from planning a Euro-Mediterranean meeting on migrations, the Council wishes to apply the best practice of other models of cooperation like, for example, the Baltic Sea, and to study the participation of other countries in coast patrol networks or in the system of external surveillance. Finally, and along the lines of the regional MEDA JHA I programme, they wish to intensify research to know more about and improve the management of the waves of immigration and migratory routes and, at the same time, contribute to strengthening the regional links between the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan countries.

A Euro-Mediterranean Opportunity

It is clear that the European Union has to find a way, with regard to the countries of origin and transit, to coordinate the waves of immigration, and that requires an effective policy of common immigration. However, there are several unfinished elements on the work agenda in the aforesaid policy: on the one hand, the procedure of co-decision should be revitalized, and this signifies overcoming the inter-governmental cooperation which has operated until the present time. On the other hand, the external dimension of immigration policy will have to be defined more clearly, specifying the contents of relations with the countries of origin and transit, as well as bringing the instruments necessary to carry this out up to date and making them available. In order to make the immigration policy coherent, its external dimension should be complemented with elements from other areas of common action, such as cooperation, commercial or employment policies, among others.

In a figurative sense, the borders of the European Union are not situated in the Mediterranean anymore and have been moved to the Sahara. To ask the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean to cooperate in the comanagement of the waves of immigration or, what would appear to be the same thing, to ask them to become the gendarmes of the European borders, cannot just be based on the obvious need for controlling the irregular waves of immigration, but should be accompanied by a package of measures which acknowledge the contribution of immigration to development both in the Mediterranean countries of origin and the destination countries. At the same time, one must work on this so that these instruments and actions are spread to the sub-Saharan countries, which have become a challenge for the foreign action of the European immigrant policy. In this sense, it may be particularly suggestive to strengthen the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and incorporate immigration matters into the new European Union’s neighbourhood policy.


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