Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni told business leaders in Davos on Wednesday (24 January) that migration cannot be solved by countries alone – it needs a concerted action, but also public-private investments.
“It is necessary to face this problem not as a Mediterranean problem that has to do with Greece and Italy, but as a European and international problem,” Tsipras told a panel at the World Economic Forum.
Waves of migrants coming to Europe from both sea and land have disrupted relations between EU member states since 2015.
In December, during their last 2017 summit, EU leaders failed to find an agreement on how to solve the refugee crisis, with several eastern member states refusing to take in refugees.
Disagreements over migration are deeply anchored in political disputes, making the issue even more politicised.
“Many leaders in the EU believe that if the problem is not in their backyard, it is not their problem,” Tsipras complained. “If they believe they can have a Europe à la carte, it is a problem for the future of Europe,” he insisted.
More than a problem of refugees, it is a problem of economic migrants, risking their lives in crossing the Mediterranean, said Gentiloni, stressing that the EU has to find a sustainable strategy that will allow to stem the flow and defuse the time bomb.
Taking the example of Mexico, a constant US migration conundrum, Gentiloni said the EU needs to find a lasting commitment as the problem cannot be solved overnight.
Turning illegal into legal migration
Gentiloni said it was becoming urgent to define policies which disrupted the network of criminal and illegal migration and put in place a proper framework for regular and safe migration.
Tsipras echoed Gentiloni: “The problem is not migrant flows, the problem is why those people cannot live in their country.”
Africa is already the youngest continent on the planet with 60% of the population under 25, about 30% of whom are unemployed. The lack of prospects for young Africans fuels illegal immigration, sending thousands of people on the road to Europe in search of a better life.
With the projected population growth – the African continent will see its population double by 2050 according to UN estimates – it is missing 18 million jobs per year.
The failure of Aid
“Aid has not worked,” said Yemi Osinbajo, the vice-president of Nigeria, one of the most populated countries in Africa.
“Africa is becoming the obvious choice for investment, but there are no quick fixes,” he added, pleading for a real partnership between the EU and Africa that would comprise a cocktail of solutions centred on job creation and investment.
Osinbajo said Africa did not need a Marshall plan but quality investment that would help spread know-how, allowing young people to become entrepreneurs and take their destiny into their hands.
“The quality of cooperation is key,” insisted Gentiloni, whose country is the third-largest investor in Africa, after China and the United Arab Emirates. “We need more cooperation and investment than aid,” he added.
The EU will be making decisions on its next budget beyond 2020 (the Multiannual Financial Framework, or MFF) while simultaneously negotiating Brexit, so rationalising aid will come as a welcome move.
At the next summit in February, EU leaders are expected to discuss plans to carve out a new financial instrument aimed at decreasing the number of migrants who arrive in Europe illegally.