Juncker criticises lack of solidarity with Africa

"Solidarity cannot be exclusively intra-European," Juncker said. [Vladimir Zhoga/Shutterstock]

In his State of the Union speech, Commission President Juncker reminded member states to contribute to the EU’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. EURACTIV France reports.

“Solidarity cannot be exclusively intra-European,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in his State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg [#SOTEU].

In this year’s speech, the third for the Luxembourger, Juncker customarily listed his priorities and ambitions for the EU over the coming year.

Migration remains a priority on the president’s agenda. But he still struggles to mobilise member states, who are reluctant to finance the Commission’s initiatives.

“Migration will remain on our radar,” confirmed Juncker. On the legislative front, the chief of the executive announced a new proposal, which is expected to bring new answers to the issue of returns of irregular migrants, one of the weak points of EU migration policy, since only 36% are returned to their country of origin.

“Before the end of the month, the Commission will present a new set of proposals focusing on returns, solidarity with Africa and the opening of legal migration routes,” Juncker said.

Solidarity with Africa

In his speech, Jean-Claude Juncker stressed above all the question of financing solidarity with Africa, an issue that the president stated is directly related to the migrant crisis.

“We know the risks of a funding shortage: in 2015, many migrants wanted to join Europe when and because the funds of the UN World Food Program were exhausted,” he said.

Indeed, one of Europe’s main responses to the root causes of migration, the EU African Trust Fund, over the last two years has suffered from chronic underfunding.

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.

Launched in 2015, the fund has gradually been allocated €2.7 billion to address the root causes of the migratory crisis in countries of origin and transit of migrants – mainly the Sahel, the region Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and the north of the continent.

But virtually all of this money comes from the European budget, as very few member states take out their chequebooks.

“But while the EU budget has assumed the bulk of the funding, the contribution of all our member states combined is only €150 million,” Juncker noted.

This is not the first time that the president of the Commission has complained about the financing of this instrument. But since its first call to order, the financial situation of the instrument has changed little.

Migration and development in the same bag?

If Juncker seems increasingly annoyed by the lack of financial mobilisation on the part of the European capitals, the African Trust Fund is also struggling to impose itself on its objectives.

By directly linking the development of Africa to the reduction of immigration to Europe, the Commission has provoked criticism from civil society, but also from representatives of African countries and the European Parliament.

“Europe leads the world in providing development aid. It mustn’t put its achievements in fighting poverty at risk by trying to tie aid to its foreign policy objectives. A “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” approach to aid risks diverting aid from the people who need it most,” warned Natalie Alonso, Oxfam’s advocacy director, following the State of the Union speech.

The NGO Global Health Advocate analysed the Trust Fund projects launched in Niger and Senegal. In both countries, development aid has not been programmed effectively and has been diverted to the EU’s migration agenda, the NGO said in a report published in September.

Diverting EU aid to stop migration: The EU Trust Fund for Africa

Migrants have become the focus of the EU’s aid strategy. As priority is given to stemming migrant flows in the short-term, long-term development goals are forgone, tarnishing the EU’s image as a global development actor, writes Fanny Voitzwinkler.

“Greater solidarity with Africa to counter what the EU sees as a migration problem by pooling additional funds via mechanisms like the EU Emergency Trust Fund has proved to be inefficient. We urge Member States not to replenish the Fund, which doesn’t respect aid effectiveness, good governance and transparency principles and diverts EU aid from its original purpose of poverty eradication,” said Fanny Voitzwinkler, director of the Brussels office of Global Health Advocate.