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19th Jan 2019

France, Germany, and Italy outline migrant plan

  • Mogherini with foreign ministers from the Sahel region in Africa (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

France, Germany, and Italy have called on the EU to make more use of foreign policy on the migrant crisis.

Their foreign ministers outlined their ideas in an informal paper sent to EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini on Monday (15 June).

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The paper, seen by EUobserver, endorses Mogherini’s proposal to launch an EU military operation, EUnavfor Med, to sink migrant smugglers’ boats.

It says an EU-Africa Union summit in Malta later this year should “be used in order to enhance capacity building in support of [border] security and development” and should discuss “return and readmission issues”.

“Germany, Italy and France will … [use] our diplomatic networks to garner the support of African states”, it notes.

It says existing EU civilian missions in Mali and Niger should do more “to dismantle the criminal networks at the points of departure of migratory flows”.

It says the European Commission should consider a “dedicated financial scheme” for the Khartoum Process, an anti-people smuggler initiative in the Horn of Africa.

It calls for better EU funding for “capacity building of origin and transit countries in the field of border and migration management”.

It also says: “Dialogue with countries of origin and transit of migrants should include … issues such as readmission and integration of migrants profiting from voluntary return programmes”.

It adds that “a strengthened EU policy on legal migration … is of paramount importance”.

Historic challenge

The ministers noted in a letter to Mogherini the thousands of people coming to the EU is “a historic challenge”.

“The European Union has to show that what binds us together is not only policies and regulations, but also a most valuable set of principles and morals”, they said.

The paper comes ahead of next week’s summit.

Leaders are expected to launch EUnavfor Med, even though the mission cannot get fully under way until the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Libya give the green light.

Leaders will also discuss a European Commission proposal to redistribute asylum seekers around the EU based on countries’ wealth.

The Franco-German-Italian paper notes: “the importance of a sound legal basis in international law for each of the three phases of the [EUnavfor Med] operation”.

But diplomatic sources told EUobserver on Wednesday that, for the time being, UNSC veto-holders China and Russia are against it.

Solidarity

Meanwhile, the commission redistribution proposal was shot down by several EU states’ interior ministers on Tuesday.

But the foreign ministers’ letter on “principles and morals” indicates France and Germany support Italy, a frontline migrant state, on greater EU solidarity.

The fact France and Italy wrote the text together also indicates relations are better than they appear.

Italy, this week, scolded France for stopping migrants on its border. The Italian interior minister called the French blockade “a punch in the face for Europe”.

The fact the paper backs "a strengthened EU policy on legal migration" is likely to be welcomed by rights campaigners.

But its focus on security is likely to renew criticism of Europe's fortress mentality.

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Interior ministers remain at odds on how to implement an EU commission plan to distribute 40,000 asylum seekers across the Union.

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The UN special envoy on migration has urged EU leaders to show more “courage” in the face of growing “nationalism” in Europe.

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