24th Jan 2021

EU to use aid money to curb migration

  • School girls in Central African Republic. (Photo: Pierre Holtz | UNICEF)

2015 was the "super development year".

World leaders flocked to New York where they adopted 15 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that will guide development efforts until 2030.

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  • Refugee camp on Syrian-Jordanian border (Photo: EUobserver)

They went to Addis Ababa for a financing summit and to the climate change conference in Paris.

2015 was also the European year for development.

Now is the time to put the commitments in practice. On Tuesday (12 May), EU foreign and development ministers met in Brussels to air their ideas on EU development policy for the next 15 years.

One voice, one wallet

Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, told journalists afterwards that development policy is becoming more complex.

”I see a growing consensus among EU countries to include aspects related to less traditional development issues, such as migration and security”, she said.

”We need to tackle the root causes of migration. Managing migration flows is a good thing”, Mogherini said.

The EU diplomacy chief said member states broadly agree on development policy.

They have also agreed to pool money in common projects.

”From now on, joint programming will be the norm”, Mogherini said. She argued it was often more beneficial for EU countries to provide ”half the pie” rather than several small slices.

The EU spent €69 billion on aid in 2015, representing 0.47 percent of the bloc's gross national income (GNI). Ten years ago, it committed to raise the bar to 0.7 percent by 2015. Last year it postponed that goal until 2030.

But EU leaders had another idea for how to grow the aid budget.

”Most, if not all, ministers spoke of the need of private engagement to complement our investments in partner countries. That way we can grow our impact by 10, 15 times”, said Neven Mimica, the EU commissioner for development.

Aid definition

Their plans worry NGOs and MEPs.

”We see increased blurring of lines between development work and security projects in EU development policy”, Oxfam’s Sara Tesorieri told EUobserver.

”That’s, first of all, contradictory with the Lisbon Treaty, which states that the primary goal of development policy is to eradicate poverty”, she said.

”Second, what does it mean to manage migration flows? We’re critical that the EU sends more and more money to countries such as Eritrea and Sudan, regimes that people are so desperately fleeing from.”

”The root cause of migration is human nature”, Tesorieri said.

Oxfam has called on European leaders to promise that aid will not be used to extract measures on preventing migration.

Bodil Valero, a Swedish Green MEP, also fretted after reading the EU ministers’ conclusions.

”The text looks good at a first glance. But there are so many references to displaced people, refugee camps," Valero, who is a member of the EU parliament's delegation to African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries, told EUobserver.

She said she feared that curbing migration could contribute to “wiping out long-term efforts to eradicate poverty.”

”Remittances are far larger than foreign aid for developing countries. Stopping seasonal workers risks only adding further to poverty”, she said.

Valero also opposed the idea of pooling aid resources - Mogherini’s “half the pie.”

She said her native Sweden, for instance, is better than other EU states at targeting aid to projects from a “poor people’s perspective.” But other countries bind aid to old colonial ties and mix it with commercial interests.

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