EU will spend more on border and migration control than on Africa

Guinea's President Alpha Conde (R), President-in-Office of the African Union (AU), speaks with Donald Tusk (L), the President of the European Council, during a joint news conference after the closing session of the 5th African Union - European Union (AU-EU) summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 30 November 2017. [Legnan Koula/EPA/EFE]

The European Commission’s proposal to bolster Europe’s borders would mean that for the first time the EU will spend more on migration control than on developing Africa, as the determination to ‘fortify’ the Continent prevails among national governments and institutions.

This stance breaks with Europe’s traditional approach, in which the Union was proud to be seen as the world’s largest donor to developing nations.

The Commission says that the next multiannual financial framework (MFF), the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027, would increase funds for Sub-Saharan Africa by 23%, from €26.1 billion to €32 billion.

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However, these figures (in current prices) varied significantly when constant prices are used.

As Commission officials confirmed to EURACTIV, the amount in 2018 prices (hence taking into account inflation) is estimated at €26.6bn for the 2014-2020 period.

The figure for the period 2021-2027 in 2018 prices for Sub-Saharan Africa would be €28.3 billion. This amount would represent an additional 7% compared to the previous MFF in real terms.

But this increase would be minimal compared to the extra support given to migration and border management.

The Commission wants to allocate €30.83 billion for these priorities for the next seven-year period, also in 2018 prices.

This represents around €2.5 billion more than the funds earmarked for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Borders

The bulk of the money (€18.8 billion) would be dedicated to border management. This would represent almost a 200% increase compared to the previous seven year budget, when €5.6 billion was allocated.

Almost half of this amount (€10.58 billion) would be dedicated to supporting decentralized agencies, especially the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCGA).

The Commission wants to increase the personnel of EBCGA to 10,000 border guards and officials.

A total of €9.97 billion also under this envelope would go to migration management, in particular to support member states through the Asylum and Migration Fund.

Part of this envelope would be for asylum, legal migration and integration. But at least half of these funds could end up dedicated to countering irregular migration, to execute returns and support member states with additional resources to protect their borders in case of emergency situations.

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The EU has other instruments to support Africa: the Africa Trust Fund and part of its External Investment Plan.

Most of the EU funds (around €3.5 billion) to support the trust fund come from budget lines already included in the African envelope, in particular the European Development Fund (EDF).

In addition, member states and other donors (including Switzerland and Norway) pledged €439 million, and €393 million had been paid so far.

As regards to the Investment plan for Africa, the Commission contributed €4.4 billion, also financed through instruments such as the EDF and the relevant parts of the Development Cooperation Instrument, already included in the funds for Africa.

Under the ‘Juncker plan’ for Africa, the EU aims to mobilise around €44 billion in investment through financial engineering (guarantees and blending), mostly coming from the private sector.

The EU allocated €22 billion for its Neighbourhood area for 2021-2027, which includes Eastern countries and the Southern Mediterranean region.

However, the allocation of funds per country and priorities would come during the programming phase, once the regulation has been adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, the Commission explained.

The Commission’s MFF proposal will be discussed in the coming months by the Parliament and member states.

Decreasing arrivals 

The extra money has been allocated to bolster EU’s external borders despite the number of arrivals to Europe having decreased by around 80% this year, compared to 2017.

But a growing group of countries want to shield the Union, including the Visegrad group (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia), the new Italian government and Austria.

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This represents a stark contrast with 2015, when the news of the deadliest modern shipwreck in the Mediterranean sea that killed about 800 migrants, and the image of a drowned Syrian boy on the Turkish coast triggered a wave of solidarity in Europe with the newcomers.

That year, the number of arrivals by sea registered the record number of 1,015,078, according to the UNHCR.

Root causes

Some senior EU officials insist that more resources should be allocated for Africa.

European Parliament president, Antonio Tajani, said that the “primary duty of Europe” should be to combat the root causes of the migration flows, including the instability and insecurity in large parts of Africa, and the poverty, famine and climate change in the continent.

By 2050, the population of Africa is set to double to more than 2.5 billion. Tajani warned that if Europe does not act, the arrivals we see today would turn into millions.

“We will see biblical movements of people from the South to the North”, he told reporters in early July, on the occasion of Austria’s takeover of the rotating presidency of the EU.

Noting the Investment plan for Africa and the African Trust Fund, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said during the same press conference that it was “not a correct picture of what it is being done when people said we are doing nothing for Africa”.

Speaking alongside the two presidents, Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced a “paradigm shift” in tackling the migration issue during his semester at the EU’s helm. His top priority will be securing EU’s external borders.

Kurz, leader of Austria’s Popular Party, illustrates how mainstream parties in Europe  have toughened their stance toward migration in recent months.

Following his victory in elections last October, he formed a government with the extreme-right Freedom Party.

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