Member states fail to back Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

The spike in arrivals of migrants in Greece in 2015 prompted the Commission to establish the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. [Anjo Kan/Shutterstock]

The Emergency Trust Fund for Africa has stalled. The situation is frustrating the European Parliament and Commission, which have demanded that EU member states respect their commitments. EURACTIV France reports.

European countries have only provided a fraction of the funds they had promised for the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, set up to respond to development and security problems in the major countries of origin of migrants.

Since 2015, the EU executive has launched several such funds in an attempt to gain control of the migration crisis.

Africa is the main target, specifically the Sahel, Lake Chad, Horn of Africa and North Africa regions, from which most of the migrants arriving on Europe’s shores originate.

Launched in November 2015, the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa has since struggled to obtain any serious financial contributions. Beside the €1.8bn in European funds, largely chipped off the bloc’s development budget, the Fund has not managed to drum up the support it had hoped for from member states.

Broken promises

“Member states are not making enough effort regarding their promises of contributions to the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said recently.

Juncker to announce African trust fund

Speaking to a small number of journalists today (7 September) Development Commissioner Neven Mimica said that Commission President will announce on Wednesday (9 September) a special “trust fund” for Africa, aimed at dealing with the root causes of the refugee crisis.

“We hoped that member states would add to this sum of €1.8bn to give us a total of €3.6bn,” he added. But since 2015, EU capitals have only provided a further €89m.

“The member states, of course, added nothing and the Commission was obliged to increase its share to €2.6bn,” said an irritated Juncker, adding that “Norway and Switzerland have promised more than three quarters of the EU’s member states”.

Unspent credits

For the European Parliament, a bit of good will from member states is all it would take to resolve the Fund’s financial woes. In a report adopted in July, MEPs called on European countries to transfer any unspent credits from the EU’s 2016 budget to the trust fund.

In spite of the EU’s many ongoing crises, a significant part of the 2016 budget – some €6.4bn – has not been spent. If no use is found for the money, it will never even leave the accounts of the countries concerned.

“Concretely, the member states paid less than planned because the EU spent less than planned,” a European Parliament source said. This unused capital comes mainly from a number of unsuccessful cohesion policy projects.

MEPs believe that these unspent funds should come to the EU to bolster the bloc’s trust funds in 2017. Member states could thus “honour their pledges in relation to the refugee crisis and match the Union contribution to Union trust funds and to the new European Fund for Sustainable Development”, MEPs said in a resolution adopted in Strasbourg on 4 July.

Criticised objectives

Beyond the trust fund’s problems finding funds, its objectives are also regularly the object of criticism. Conceived as an instrument to tackle the root causes of migration, the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is largely financed by the European Development Fund, the EU’s main tool to promote development and fight poverty.

The reorientation of the EU’s development policy towards migration policy has come under heavy fire from NGOs, representatives from Africa and the European Parliament.