Extending the Turkish “cash for migrants” scheme to five African countries will mark a turning point for European aid policy, which has previously been dependent on the principles of democracy and human rights. EurActiv France reports.
Under the EU’s cooperation framework with developing countries, aid payments depend on the respect of certain broad principles, such as the respect of human rights and the rule of law. The bloc has often suspended aid to authoritarian regimes and countries in democratic crisis, like Burundi.
But faced with the strain of the migration crisis and the need to encourage African countries to improve their readmission policies for refused asylum seekers, this principle is under threat.
EU leaders on Thursday (20 October) agreed to forge deals with Nigeria, Niger, Ethiopia, Senegal and Mali to provide aid in return for increased cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe.
“Conditionality is a thing of the past,” a diplomat said at Thursday’s Council summit, adding that Europe’s priorities were “not necessarily the same as those of our partner countries”.
For over 20 years, the EU has used development assistance as a lever to advance the cause of human rights. But with the current cooperation framework soon to expire, the future of aid conditionality looks uncertain. EurActiv France reports.
While the migration deal has worked in Turkey, it may prove more difficult to implement in Africa, where the EU’s principles are not always respected.
Ethiopia’s government, one of the EU’s partners in these new migration deals, is often criticised over its human rights record. And Eritrea, one of the most authoritarian states in the world, could also receive EU cash in return for efforts to curb illegal migration under the new plans.
In summit conclusions, European leaders said, “More efforts are needed to stem the flows of irregular migrants, in particular from Africa, and to improve return rates.”
The Turkish example
While illicit arrivals from Turkey have fallen since the implementation of the migration deal in March, those from Africa are rising.
French President François Hollande said, “We have seen that the agreement with Turkey has worked. Today the process is, as far as is possible, under control.”
The EU vowed on Wednesday (20 April) to propose visa-free travel for Turks next month if Ankara meets the terms of a landmark refugee deal, as it tried to defuse a row with Turkey’s leaders.
“We have confirmed the programme with five priority countries (Nigeria, Niger, Ethiopia, Senegal and Mali). The €2 billion set aside at the Valetta summit [for the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa] will be made available,” Hollande added.
European Union leaders agreed on Thursday (20 October) to step up their efforts to curb illegal migration from African countries with the aim of replicating their success in halting inflows from Turkey over the past year.
The 28 heads of state and government demanded swift action on the deals. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini will present her initial evaluation of the five migration pacts at December’s Council summit, including “the first results concerning arrivals and returns”.
Once this step is complete, several other countries could be added to the aid conditionality programme, including Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Many migrants from these countries have their asylum applications refused.