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24th Oct 2020

EU to make aid conditional on help with migrants

  • EU Commission is using the Turkey deal as a model for its other compacts (Photo: Internews Network)

The European Commission has unveiled plans to replicate Turkey-type deals on stemming the flow of migrants with Middle East and African states.

It said on Tuesday (7 June) that it would spend €8 billion over the next five years in development aid and other assistance for poor transit countries and migrant source countries that agreed to help stop people going to Europe.

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The funds are mostly to come from member states and have not been collected yet.

“We propose to use a mix of positive and negative incentives, reward those who want to work with us, and make sure there are consequences for those who don’t, using trade and development policies to create leverage,” Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans told MEPs in Strasbourg.

The EU is to focus on what it called “compacts” with Ethiopia, Lebanon, Jordan, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

The agreements will not be legally binding and each one will be negotiated separately, EU sources said.

Border closures in the Western Balkans and the EU-Turkey deal have stemmed the flow of people across the Aegean Sea to Greece.

But an increasing number of migrants are now crossing the Mediterranean Sea in equally perilous conditions.

The EU-Turkey deal involves taking back irregular migrants from Greece and keeping more people in better conditions in Turkish camps.

In return, the EU has resettles one refugee from Turkey for every migrant Turkey takes back. It has also promised it visa-free travel and created a €6 billion aid fund.

The other compacts will be more limited more in scope. They will not involve one-for-one resettlement or visa-free travel.

But they could involve smaller-scale resettlement and easier conditions for multiple-entry EU visas.

Other EU incentives could be ratification of international accords that serve those countries’ interests and better access to certain sectors of the single market.

Big ambition

The EU is hoping to mobilise up to €62 billion to prop up the compact deals.

This is to come in the form of a new external investment fund involving member states treasuries, the private sector and the European Investment Bank.

The Commission itself has earmarked €3.1 billion in seed money from its budget.

The €6 billion EU-Turkey fund is also mixed between the Commission and EU states. But EU countries have been reluctant to put up their €3 billion.

Arne Lietz, a left-wing German MEP who works on the development committee, told this website that EU must ensure its money is not just used for security and border protection.

“We should really give the money to tackle the root causes of migration: education, anti-corruption and good governance programs,” he said.

Speaking in the European Parliament, the Belgian leader of the liberal group, Guy Verhofstadt was critical of the Commission proposal.

Critical reaction

“We give you money and you keep the refugees - this cannot be a compact. We need real partnerships with these countries,” he said.

Ben Ward, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Europe division told this website the Commission's proposal contained some good points, such as creating legal channels for migration and increasing protection for refugees.

But he added that extra EU money alone would not solve the “human rights drivers" of migration in the region.

International aid agency Oxfam said the EU is outsourcing Europe’s border control to third countries with tainted human rights records.

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