European Parliament S&D vice-president, Spanish MEP Elena Valenciano, is radically against external disembarkation platforms for migrants and refugees as this sends a message that is not in line with what Europe stands for, she told EURACTIV.
“These disembarkation platforms are sending a message that is contrary to human values and to the European spirit,” Valenciano said.
“We, as European, must show responsibility,” she added, pointing out that Europeans themselves were once refugees, not too long ago.
Elena Valenciano was speaking to EURACTIV following the two-day conference (27-28 June) “Addressing the main challenges of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation: A progressive agenda”, organised by the S&D Group in the European Parliament and the Global Progressive Forum, with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Solidar and Solidar Tunisie.
Commenting on the current EU Council Summit, largely dedicated to migration, the Spanish MEP said one must not only look at the urgency of the situation but also at the broader picture, namely the causes of migration.
She stressed that migration is not a crisis but a structural reality which has to be managed in a multidisciplinary way.
“This means dealing from the most urgent issues, which is obviously welcoming the refugees who are crossing the Mediterranean, to fighting the roots that lead people, especially young people, to leave their countries,” she explained.
Valenciano said the European Union already has a dedicated development and cooperation strategy which relies on three pillars: economic development, social progress and political transition.
“We cannot separate the economy from democracy, the two go hand in hand. And strengthening democracy means fighting corruption and empowering citizens to participate in the public debate and the private sector. To consolidate democracy is a key element for development,” she continued.
Regarding the social issues, Valenciano stressed the relevance of gender and empowering women.
“Birth control is key to empowering women, this can completely change the African reality as a whole,” she said. However, the Spanish MEP was careful to underline that birth control was a cultural matter, meaning the changes will happen very slowly.
She stressed the importance of building capacities and improving investment conditions to enable public and private partnerships in the African and Maghreb countries.
“To do that, one has to work on a peer-to-peer basis, as partners. And this begins by sharing the same analysis of the diagnostic of the situation. This is not always easy, of course, because realities are different from one continent to the other,” she explained.
This should stimulate private European corporations to invest in African and Maghreb countries, she added.
“This means making the legal frame more attractive for companies to invest and this is already happening in Morocco,” the politician added.
She said that the clean energy and the agricultural sectors showed promising economic development.
“African and Mediterranean countries do have sun and wind, developing the renewable sector there makes sense. Bringing innovations in the agricultural sector is also important, like improving organic food production,” she explained.
The Spanish MEP stressed that there were already exchanges between European and Maghreb countries on agriculture issues.
“Take the example of tomatoes seeds. Morocco is producing tomatoes that were issued from seeds coming from Spain. And these tomatoes are then sold on the European market. For the companies involved, the 14 km sea distance does not exist any longer,” she explained.
Commenting on the current political debate in Europe, largely dominated by the migration issue, Valenciano said what is needed now is pro-European national governments.
“The Brexit reminded us that Europe has no rule of law that says it is going forward. Europe can also go backward. And it had sent a completely different message to the rest of the world while making us more fragile,” she said.
“In addition, we are seeing an increase of hyper-nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-European discourses. It’s the discourse of fear that weakens the process of European unification,” the Spanish MEP said, adding that was why the continent needs pro-European governments.
“Europe needs leaders who want to go back to the European basics, who are ready to send again the message that together we are strong, especially as the world has become a little dangerous for the values we are defending,”