Think EU-MED

Friday, November 5, 2010

Libya and the EU - The new partnership against illegal immigration

Two years after the start of negotiations on the EU-Libya Framework Agreement the European Commission and Libya agreed on a common migration agreement for the period 2011- 2013. The agreement was signed by the Commissioner for Home Affairs and the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy together with the representatives of the Libyan government during a meeting from 4-6 October in Tripoli. Both sides agreed on more dialogue and financial assistance to support Libyan reforms in the field of migration and asylum. For the next three years the EU will allocate €50 million for projects aimed to adopt new legislation on refugee protection, to fight against smuggling and trafficking in human beings, to upgrade the border surveillance systems and not least better control the immigration flows to the European continent.

Libya has become a mayor transit country for sub-saharian migrants heading north to Europe, especially to Malta and Italy. Many migrants try to cross the country in order to reach to European continent or to find work in Libya. Many are asylum seekers coming from African conflict zones such as Somalia, Eritrea, Darfur and western Africa. Following the adoption of the ‘Treaty on Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation’ between Italy and the authoritarian administration of Muammar Gaddafi in May 2009 fewer migrant boats crossed the Mediterranean. In 2009 the number of irregular people caught heading to Italy fell from 32,052 to 7,300 in 2008. The practice of intercepting boat people trying to reach Southern Europe on small ships by border guards in the central Mediterranean and returning them back to Libya has raised concern and criticism by Human Rights Groups. They condemn the current push-back practice on the high seas and accuse Libya of human rights violations, arrests in migrant detention centres, and deportations of the refugees.

No blank check to Libya

Despite of criticism at both domestic and international level against the vague and worrying friendship agreement, the Libyan leader was not discouraged to propose publicly that the EU should pay the North African country €5 billion a year to stop clandestine immigration to Europe or in his words “to prevent Europe from turning black”.

Even if the EU have never seriously considered Gaddafi’s offer the very fact that a cooperation deal with the authoritarian regime is concluded is a worrying point. Within the non-binding agreement, Libya is set to receive money and assistance from EU experts. Although, as the Commission states, the money will not be handed over to the Libyan government but spend directly into the projects under the supervision of the Commission.

Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or 1967 Protocol for the treatment of refugees according to human rights. The state has no appropriate asylum system and does not even recognize the term “asylum seeker”. In June 2010 the local office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was closed in Tripoli. The UN's refugee agency will not reopen its department in Tripoli unless Libya recognizes international asylum protections standards and the adoption of the Geneva convention. It remains to be seen if the UNHCR will return after the EU’s intention to help building up an asylum system based on international standards and to raise standards in the detention centres.

A starting point for reinforced bilateral relations

For a long time already, the EU is pushing for a dialogue with Libya to improve the cooperation. The deal with Libya on various migration aspects is an important step in the relations between the EU and the North-African country. The bilateral relations between the EU and Libya have over the past three years developed constantly. The Commission has also decided to open an EU-Office in Tripoli, under the authority of the EU Delegation in Tunis, which should become operational in early 2011. The ambitious cooperation agenda on migration could be a starting point for other areas of cooperation. Migration is one of the key areas for Europe next to for instance energy, trade, and security. However, the negotiations about an EU-Libya Framework Agreement, that would cover several aspects of mutual interest such as free trade area issues and cooperation in energy, transport, migration, JHA, environment, maritime policy and education, have been pending since the end of 2008. The Framework Agreement would be the basis for further political dialog and cooperation in foreign policy and security issues. Soon there is another chance for discussion when the next negotiation round takes place in the Libyan capital set for end of November.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

EuroMed Intercultural Trends 2010

A small but important stone in the mosaic of Euro-Mediterranean relations

On 15th September, the Anna Lindh Report "EuroMed Intercultural Trends 2010", a public opinion poll on intercultural trends and values in the Euro-Mediterranean region, was launched in Brussels. For the first time, this report sheds light on the reality of intercultural relations in the region. Coordinated by the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures and the consultancy Gallup about 13,000 people from across the two shores of the Mediterranean were asked in this opinion poll.

According to André Azoulay, president of the Anna Lindh Foundation, the report provides an answer to the key question of how "relations between Islam and the West could be built". The poll gives evidence whether there are any cross-cultural values shared between European countries and those on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
Concerning the mutual perceptions of the people living in societies in Europe and in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region the Anna Lindh Report finds out that despite increased interaction the people from the two shores are still suffering from a distorted and stereotyped perception of each other. The main and most pronounced difference in values between people across the region could be found in the importance on faith and religious values, which affects as well the mutual perceptions.

In addition, there are interesting data in regard to the political relations between the two shores. Are the people in favor of a Mediterranean Union and is there a shared vision of the Mediterranean as an organizing concept? Is the Euro-Mediterranean region viewed as one geographic or cultural space and does a solid basis for regional cooperation exist?

The poll confirms that the Mediterranean is a shared space with specific values and even with a shared ‘Mediterranean attitude’. There exists a common mindset which could allow the people of the Euro-Mediterranean region to feel part of a regional grouping. The people across the region expect that common projects, such as the new Union for the Mediterranean, can benefit their societies positively in the future.

To conclude, there is no doubt that important features of interregional cooperation are still lagging behind expectations. The political dialogue, cultural exchanges and the freedom of the movement of the individuals, just to name a few, have to be improved in the future. For all those willing to enhance the cooperation the Anna Lindh Report provides important background information. It is full of interesting and sometimes surprising findings about the perceptions, interests and feelings of the people across the region. Although the Report is just a small stone in the mosaic of intercultural relations, it is an important one which may contribute to a more integrated Euro-Mediterranean Region. Or in the words of Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy: "This report and its recommendations will help us to address some of the challenges we are facing in the region”.

Go to the Anna Lindh Report website or download the PDF version EuroMed Intercultural Trends 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

THINK EU-MED #3

Europeanization beyond the EU: The Dynamics of Europeanization in the Southern Mediterranean Partner States
by Moritz Schneider

Since the European Union has almost reached its natural geographical borders the process of exporting European values, laws and standards via the membership prospect is more limited. Yet, even without the incentive of a concrete membership offer, the EU has created several policy instruments towards its neighbouring countries to foster Europeanization outside the European territory as well. In the context of the Euro-Mediterranean relations, the EU enjoys bilateral and multilateral policy frameworks to spread the Union’s common values and institutions.

My paper analyses the main mechanisms for inducing Europeanization in the Southern Mediterranean region, namely the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The multilateral EMP promotes Europeanization and regional integration through a socialisation and imitation processes, while the bilateral ENP focuses on country-specific Action Plans based on conditionality rules to foster Europeanization in the neighbouring countries. The logic of differentiation of the ENP and the logic of regionalism of the EMP have however proved ineffective strategies to foster reforms or intra-regional integration. The EU’s transformative power in the neighbourhood and the adaptation of European institutions and values has been low in the Mediterranean region. The paper argues that the EU’s external policy framework towards the Southern Mediterranean states is following a dual strategy between the concepts of Realpolitik and Idealpolitik. The lack of a clear strategy undermines the efficiency of EU policies and the possibility to promote Europeanization in the region.

The new Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is intended to create a new form of institutional governance by abandoning the asymmetric power structure, enhancing co-ownership and promoting a more balanced partnership. However, the UfM is not responding to the policy shortcomings of the ENP and the EMP, but rather seems to be a compromise of bilateral and multilateral patterns of the two former approaches - the logic of differentiation and the logic of regionalism. The paper will conclude that the EU has to reconsider its strategy of the UfM or, even better, remodel its policy approach towards the Southern Mediterranean countries to improve co-operation and foster the process of Europeanization.

L'EUROPE EN FORMATION Année 2010 - été 2010 - n° 356
Dossier: Euro-Mediterranean partnership: The end of a vision?

Europeanization beyond the EU: The Dynamics of Europeanization in the Southern Mediterranean Partner States, Published: August 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

THINK EU-MED #2

The Union for the Mediterranean -Evolution and Prospects

Roberto Aliboni’s 8-page long paper assesses the nature of the Union for the Mediterranean. The author sheds light on the various dimensions contributing to the failing of the UfM after its inception more than two years ago. The high ambitions to give new momentum to the EU's cooperation with Mediterranean countries have not yet translated into tangible achievements so far. This lack of visible results is, according to Aliboni, related to the political identity of the UfM, its relations with the acquis of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the functioning of its institutions.

Taking these problems into account, the author lists a number of recommendations how the EU might improve the policy output of the Union:
First, institutions matter: the institutional profile of the UfM needs a revision. The Co-Presidency and the structure of the Secretariat of the UfM should be revised and the UfM must be a policy of the entire EU.
Second, multilateralism matters: Aliboni suggests to “create a parallel, but connected, multilateral dimension” within the realm of the Neighbourhood Policy.
Third, projects matter: The large-scale regional projects of the UfM should be implemented as soon as possible. Furthermore, the EU should not only boost progress in the six areas of the UfM but also include other fields, such as agriculture that is still absent in the Euro-Mediterraean relations framework.

Aliboni concludes by proposing to scale back any high ambitions at the political level, that the UfM can promote political solidarity in the short- and medium-term future.

Roberto Aliboni is Vice-President at the Istituto Affari Internazionali and head of the Institute's programme on the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

The Union for the Mediterranean Evolution and Prospects; Published: 12 February 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Failed Summits -The Union for the Mediterranean at a standstill


After being in place for two years the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has not achieved any policy outcome and still lacks a visible rapprochement between the two shores. This is even more frustrating when considering that the Spanish EU presidency will pass the torch to Belgium in a few weeks without having been able to breathe new life into the Union. Once again the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has blocked any policy developments in the Euro-Mediterranean relations. Does the Union have any future at all?

When Spain took over the EU presidency, it was expected that Madrid is able to bring the Union back on track after two years of political stagnation. Spain’s high ambitions in the fields of EU’s foreign and neighbourhood policy should be especially translated into the relations with the countries of North Africa and the Middle East. Two summits were considered as one of the cornerstones of the Presidency’s agenda, namely the 4th Euro-Mediterranean ministerial conference about water-management in the region and the 2nd meeting of the Head of states and governments which should have been one of the political highlights of the Spanish presidency.

The Water project is among the six key priorities of the UfM and should manage the water resources and promote common initiatives in the region. It was one of the areas of cooperation which was seen beforehand as a rather uncomplicated field as it was designed to make progress in a specific technical field of cooperation without touching sensitive political areas of the participating states. In addition, it was supposed to be an important field of cooperation for the water scarce region affected by climate change and high population growth. The summit in Barcelona in April 2010 brought together ministers from the 43 countries of the UfM in order to declare the joint ambitions of lowering the consumption of water between now and the year 2025, to levels 25 % below those of 2005. However, instead of signing the document, the conference ended without any feasible result and hampered again any multilateral approach. The conference failed because of a nuance of terminology when Israel and Arab countries disagreed over how to name the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel’s representatives objected to “occupied territories” in the document and proposed instead the term “territories under occupation” which was not accepted by the Arab bloc. In the end, the meeting failed to approve a joint strategy for guaranteeing the water resources of the whole Mediterranean basin.

The 2nd summit of the Head of States and Governements in Barcelona, scheduled to be held in Barcelona on June 7, should have been a key date in the agenda of the Spanish Presidency and give fresh impetus to the stalled relations.
The summit has been cancelled and postponed to November to give the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians a chance to succeed and time to bear fruit. In a statement, the Spanish foreign ministry said: “This postponement will also give a greater amount of time for the process of Israeli-Palestinian talks, which has just been launched, to begin to yield results that will help create the right conditions to ensure the success of the summit.”
Unofficially, many Arab governments have threatened beforehand to stay away from the summit if Israelis foreign minister Liebermann would attend the summit. What actually motivated the Spanish presidency of the EU and the two co-chairs of the Mediterranean Union, Egypt and France, to postpone the Summit is however secondary. Neither Spain is to blame or the new structures of the rotating presidency after the Lisbon Treaty but again the EU’s approach towards the Mediterranean which is depended and too vulnerable from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Middle East conflict remains the major impediment to improved EU-Med relations and to regional integration. The relations with the MENA region are infected by the conflict which will hinder the implementation of any common strategy in the near future. After the Gaza war in late 2008, the East Jerusalem settlement expansions and most recently the Gaza flotilla conflict it will be increasingly difficult that Israelis and Arab representatives will sit on the same table within the UfM.

How to overcome this standstill?

Should the EU go ahead without including Israel in the future network of cooperation as Eberhard Rhein suggests?

Should the EU-Med relations be completely redesigned by making peace in the Middle East a priority?

Should the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation try a new regional approach, particularly in the Maghreb as Jean-Baptiste Buffet proposes?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

THINK EU-MED #1

What future for the Union for the Mediterranean?

Timo Behr asks in his 2-page comment for the Finnish Institute of International Affairs about the future for the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) after the cancellation of the biannual summit.
The current Israeli-Palestinian crisis has led again to the blockage of the UfM and Behr suggests that it should not be an option for the EU to wait out for any progress in these indirect peace talks. As the chance of success is little the EU should rather concentrate on its own policies and act now to avoid the “further disintegration of its regional policy.”
The Union has to “employ a mixture of quick fixes and long-term restructuring”.

In the short-term perspective Behr recommends, on the one hand, to solve the question of the successor of the French-Egyptian Co-Presidency which ends this July. One the other hand, the newly created Secretariat in Barcelona needs to push ahead the UfM’s core projects such as the Mediterranean Solar Plan and the Motorways of the Sea.

In the long-term the UfM needs to be isolated “from the vagaries of the Middle East” by strengthening the non-political Secretariat and by increasing the “variable geometry” in the development of the envisaged projects.

Dr. Timo Behr is Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

What future for the Union for the Mediterranean
? Published 7.6.2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Masade, Masa'deh, Massedeh



Since the 4th of March 2010 the organisational structure of the secretariat of the Mediterranean Union is in place. The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona, is the home of the new Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean, where already the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership was founded in 1995. The EU Member States and the 16 States of the Mediterranean region presented the Jordan Ahmad Khalaf Massadeh officially as first Head of the organisation.

Although the writing of the Jordan diplomat varies in the media from Masade, Masa’deh or Massedeh (among others) he is not a dark horse in the European diplomatic world. Massedeh is a former minister and Jordanian ambassador to the EU and NATO in Brussels. (his CV on EIB)

Massadeh’s close relations to the diplomat circle in Brussels might have even facilitated his election as first secretary-general of the Union of the Mediterranean. What underlines this assumption is the untransparent and behind-closed-doors deal which seemed to have led to his nomination. Instead of having a Summit with all participants of the Union to elect the new secretary, the foreign ministers of France, Spain, Egypt, Tunis and Jordan met in Cairo to support Massadeh’s candidacy. According to them this represents a consensus of all Union member states. French spokesperson Bernard Valéro is quoted as saying: “The candidacy of Jordan's Ahmed Masade [sic!] for the post of secretary-general was mentioned and received the support of the five ministers.”

Just five countries out of 44? Is this the new mechanism of differentiation which should make the Union more successfully than its predecessor or is it just a lack of interest by the other Member States? No official press conference or official document can be found which is also due to the fact that there’s still no official website of the UfM. This is ridiculous taking into account that 16,6 Million Euros were mobilized for the inauguration event in Paris 2008 and the Union presents no less than 780 Million inhabitants. If the UfM will be a transparent and efficient organisation for the people and not another diplomatic framework with rather useless high-level Summits, there need to be an official presentation or at least a phone number to ring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Mediterranean Solar Plan

One of Europe’s most demanding future challenges will be to find an answer how to address the increasing energy demand without harming the environment. Renewable Energy could offer sustainable solutions to these challenges at a stroke as climate change, energy supply and energy security are all linked together. Especially solar energy would perfectly balance the triangle of security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability which provides the most positive outcome.
The neighbouring Southern Mediterranean Partner Countries dispose of vast solar power resources which could tackle Europe’s most pressing issues and can at the same time fix complementary issues in the Mediterranean region such as the energy poverty, socioeconomic development and efficiency. In the MED region the growth of population and economy will lead to a rising demand. The energy demand may increase by 65% before 2025, as a result of the influence of population growth and the increase in demand associated with economic development according to Plan Bleu. By 2050, the electricity demand will almost triple and will achieve an electricity demand in the same order of magnitude as Europe.
In order to gain control over the energy demand, energy constraints and CO2 emissions, there is a necessity to enforce Renewable Energy on a large scale. The share of Renewables in the primary energy supply are under-exploited in the region and were only representing about 3% of the MED energy consumption.

The Mediterranean Solar Plan and DESERTEC 
In the Euro-Mediterranean Relations energy issues have become more central when at the 5th EMP Ministerial Conference on Energy the partners established a Priority Action Plan 2008-2013 that contains measures covering a wide area of energy related subjects. The new created Union for the Mediterranean aims to give renewed vigour to Europe’s relationship with its southern neighbours and let arise a fresh opportunity for cooperation on energy issues and climate change. The Union’s intention is to increase collaboration with North Africa on energy issues and to place greater focus on Renewables through EU development policy. The UfM will integrate existing Euro-MED policies in various fields, and several ongoing regional programmes will be continued or established. At the core of the UfM are several projects in the field of solar energy cooperation are envisaged among them the ambitious Mediterranean Solar Plan.

The Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP) was endorsed at the Paris Summit on 13-14 July 2008. The MSP is expected to develop 20 GW in order to satisfy the increasing energy demand. Additionally, it should support an integrated renewable market for the EU-MED region. At the Summit it was concluded that “market deployment as well as research and development of all alternative sources of energy are a major priority in efforts towards assuring sustainable development”. (Joint declaration) The principal issue is the high costs of the MSP of about 80 billion Euros. The Neighbourhood Investment Facility, amounting from 2007-2013 over 700 million Euro for transport, energy, environment, and the social and private sector, and the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment, with 32 million Euro per year for 2007-2013 via the EIB, are not enough to implement these high cost projects.

The political and financial problems could open the door for the German initiative Desertec, a private sector consortium, which proposes a system approach enhancing 40 GW. Desertec is outside of the UfM what makes it a more flexible project which can rely on willing partner countries without having to cooperate multilaterally. Desertec’s Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Plants (CSP-Plants) are a new technology which present features particularly suited to the regional context as they can generate power all the time, deliver power on demand whenever it is required and can be installed in isolated semi-desert grounds. (Desertec) The goal of the Desertec project is to achieve a competitive, secure and compatible supply of electricity within the integrated EU-MED region up to the year 2050. However, next to the enormous high investment costs of about 400 Billion Euros, the Desertec project will also be dependent on the same technical and political issues

Prospects of a Solar Plan strategy
The Lisbon Treaty have finally ensured that the EU "speaks with one voice" on external issues. This prospect and the actual Spanish EU-presidency could strengthen the role of cooperation between the shores from which both the European countries and their partners from the southern shore have a lot to gain. In May 2010, Spain will host in Valencia a conference regarding Mediterranean projects of renewable energies. It is suggested to convene a Euro-med Energy Ministerial to advance the integration of energy markets in the region and take note of progress in implementing concrete solar projects. In addition, the project "Paving the Way for the Mediterranean Solar Plan", expected to start soon in the first of half of 2010, shall progress the establishment of a harmonised legislative and regulatory framework in the Euro-Mediterranean region favourable to large-scale renewable energy adoption and use, renewable electricity trade, energy efficiency and energy savings and improvements in intra- and inter-regional knowledge transfer. 
 
A successful solar cooperation, either through the MSP or Desertec, might bring stability and promote the development of the North African economies, assumed that a share of power generated will remain in the MED region. Anyway which project will become reality, a close cooperation between the EU and the Mediterranean in renewable energy could create a win-win situation for both in terms of security of supply, economical benefits and climate change mitigation. However, this requires a simultaneous focus on all technical, political, legal and financial challenges. The implementation of all necessary measures might take at least two decades to become effective, what calls for the quick introduction of the necessary policies.
Links:
Plan Bleu: Environment and Development in the Mediterranean
DESERTEC Foundation 
Valencia Mediterranean Solar Plan Conference
EU's External Energy Policy

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A revised Foreign Policy under the Lisbon Treaty?


Under the new Lisbon Treaty the European Union will have a genuine foreign policy chief and a full-fledged foreign service. It is expected that the Union’s foreign policy will be better coordinated and there are high hopes that the Union will finally able to speak with one voice at the international level. The new High Representative, Catherine Ashton, presented her agenda and priorities at the Parliament’s public hearing last week.

The new Lisbon treaty came into force on the 1st of December and introduced two new top posts, the permanent President of the EU Council to chair EU summit meetings, and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The European Heads of state and government appointed at a summit on 19 November the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy as EU president and the British Catherine Ashton as High Representative. The Lisbon Treaty will reform the decision-making apparatus of the EU institutions, making the functioning of the 27-member Union more efficient and democratic. With the scrapping of the pillar division the Community and the European Union are now unified which equips the Union with legal personality to act under international law and within international organisations. All foreign policy actions will be coordinated at the meetings of foreign ministers under a single permanent chair.

The new High Representative for Foreign Affairs will lead the monthly meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council and be also the Vice-President of the European Commission. Catherine Ashton, who has taken the post from Javier Solana, will coordinate all parts of the Union’s external action. Ashton was the former European Commissioner for Trade and could convince in her role with accurate decisions and tough negotiating skills. However, the appointment of Ashton as High Representative came surprising as she has little experience in foreign affairs what have triggered controversies throughout Europe.

Baroness Ashton’s first important tasks will be the establishment of a new EU foreign service, the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EEAS is one of the key innovations which the Lisbon Treaty foresees to carry out a common EU foreign policy. Around 500 to 700 officials will work under the leadership of Ashton which will be composed from staff of the Commission, the General Secretariat of the Council and the national government administrations of the Member States. The creation of the European External Action Service is according to Ashton an “opportunity to build something that brings together all the elements of our engagement – political, economic and military – to implement one coherent strategy”

The neighbourhood and especially the Mediterranean region will be one of the top priorities for Ashton. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stresses the importance of the Mediterranean in the public hearing by stating that “we as EU have primary responsibility for our neighbourhood” and “there are deep historical ties and common interests that bind us, as well as common problems including illegal migration. We need to take forward the work started under the Union for the Mediterranean.”
Additionally, Ashton put the Middle East the Israeli-Palestinian conflict high on the EU agenda. In early February she is expected to travel to the region to push for a reinvigoration of peace talks and resume talks with a fixed timeframe. Ashton will keep pressure on Israel to halt settlement building and urge Palestinians back to negotiations which have been suspended for a year. Ashton wants to work together with the Middle East Quartet and coordinate a common effective strategy with the United States. According to Ashton the EU needs to be active and operational “both on the global issues, where Europe is expected to play its full role, and in our immediate neighbourhood, where we are expected to take the lead”.

Baroness Ashton will not probably lead the EU to a new era of common European diplomacy. The new institutional settings provided by the Lisbon Treaty will not create a genuine EU foreign minister who has the final voice in all European foreign affairs. Decision in foreign policies will still be the result of coordination between the Member States and will be taken by unanimity. However, if Catherine Ashton seizes the opportunity she can help that the EU have a serious debate on its foreign policy goals in order to find a stronger and more coherent voice on the world stage..

Links:
EurActiv: Ashton to push for Middle East talks
ENPI: Catherine Ashton: Mediterranean is a top priority

Asthon:
Opening Remarks to European Parliament Hearing

Monday, January 4, 2010

North Africa a Transit Region for International Migration

Copyright (C) Hein de Haas (2007), The Myth of Invasion


In the year 2009 the European continent saw a decrease of 17 percent in irregular border crossings from the Southern Mediterranean rim. This sharp drop of the immigration flow heading to the "privileged" shores of the European Union is caused by the EU's border control and externalisation policy against irregular immigration. In the consequence, the northern African states and Turkey are confronted with an increasing migration pressure which their authorities are unable to cope efficiently and according to international human rights rules.
The drop in the number of irregular migrants trying to enter the bloc in 2009 is partly caused by the global recession which had an effect on the motivation why people leave their country in order to start a better life elsewhere. Due to the economic downturn many migrants were less confident to find a job in the potential destination country and the costly crossing was further discouraging the emigration.
However, the main reason for the decreasing irregular immigration to Europe lies in the more repressive EU’s migration policy. Although the Member States’ economies are increasingly depended on migrant labor, the EU is today applying a strict policy on border and external relations. Immigration controls, measures for the detection and expulsion of irregular migrants, and other common procedures under both EU rules and the Schengen Treaty were implemented more comprehensibly in the last year. The external border security agency Frontex, which is operating since October 2005, contributed to the reduction of the number of would-be migrants in Europe by strengthening the sea patrols.


The key tools of the European externalisation policy are bilateral cooperation with non-EU countries of origin and transit which progressed over the last years to curb illegal migration in coastal areas and along land borders. The EU Member States demand in the bilateral and regional agreements with their neighbouring countries that restrictive immigration measures should be already implemented in the concerned transit countries before the migrants could reach EU mainland. The externalisation in the field of migration includes basically stronger border controls of coastal areas and land borders and the signing of readmission agreements to regulate the involuntary return of unauthorized migrants and refugees. Bilateral cooperation agreements are today the predominant strategy with the Southern Mediterranean states in the management of countering irregular immigration. Morocco and Spain have already joint naval patrols to catch boat migrants and there is a readmission treaty in place between the two counties that accepts the return of sub-Saharan boat migrants to Morocco. Italy signed a friendship Treaty with Libya in February 2009 which allows the Italian authorities to send migrant and potential asylum seekers back to the Libyan territorial waters. While these measures have some short-term effect for Europe there are crucial consequences for migrants and transit countries and the long-term effects of these policies are alarming.

Due to the increased border controls many migrants and refugees who fail to enter the European continent get stuck in transit countries in the EU’s neighbourhood. The numbers of sub-Saharan migrants have already overtaken North Africans as the largest category of irregular migrants intercepted by European border controls and in the North Africa states and Turkey the immigrant trend have lead to an emerging sub-Saharan community. According to Hein de Haas there are in Mauritania and Algeria more than 100,000 sub-Saharan migrants, l, 1 to 1.5 million in Libya, between 2.2 and 4 million Sudanese migrants in Egypt, and in Tunisia and Morocco several tens of thousands but this number is growing rapidly. Next to the growing numbers of immigrants who stay in the Southern Mediterranean Region in transition on their way to Europe or those who consider the North African countries as primary destination the region is facing with a huge number of mixed migration movements. The migration flow is diverse and composed of various sub-Sahara regions such as West Africa, the Horn of Africa or other countries affected by economic decline or civil wars such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Sudan. These migration flows are not only mixed in terms of diverse origin countries but also in terms of their migration type (e.g. labor migrants, asylum seekers and refugees). The North African states have been transforming during the 90s to mayor transit countries for migrants and refugees from other African countries and this new pattern of globalized migration is overtaking the traditional regional migration which has deep historical roots within the Mediterranean. (cf. Hein de Haas)
About 120,000 refugees from Africa are estimated who try to reach Europe via the Mediterranean each year. The North African States are not prepared to deal with this huge immigration inflow and they can not provide any suitable mechanism to deal with the composition of new immigrant populations. Therefore, all migrants are lumped together anyhow whether labor migrants, refugees or asylum seekers and considered as illegal. The conditions in the reception centres and detention centres are unfavorable. There are not policies in place which could facilitate their integration into the labor market and society but migrants are rather forced to leave the country and driven to other states in the region. There are not stable mechanism according to international human rights standards to deal with legal asylum claims and fair hearings and assessments of legal claims are often denied.

Hein de Haas:Trans-Saharan Migration to North Africa and the EU: Historical Roots and Current Trends