ADEPT Analysis of the New EU Pact on Migration and Asylum
On 23 September 2020, five years after the outbreak of the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, the European Commission (EC) released its proposal for a new European Union (EU) Pact on Migration and Asylum. For years now, the fight against irregular migration has been one of the main priorities of European Union’s external action. This was illustrated by the 2015 Valetta Action Plan and the creation of European Union’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The importance given to migration is also apparent in the European Commission’s proposal for a Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, in its negotiating mandate for the future agreement between the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States, and eventually in the proposed EU Comprehensive Strategy with Africa. Testament to the acuteness of migration-related issues in the EU, the proposed new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum was published a few days after the EC’s Communication on the EU anti-racism Action Plan and preceded the adoption of an Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for 2021-2024.
Particularly ambitious, this pact aims to provide a comprehensive approach by addressing internal and external dimensions of EU migration and asylum policies. The European Commission’s proposal presents three main components: the external dimension characterized by a reinforced partnership with origin and transit countries, a robust management of EU external borders and firm internal rules. This holistic and complex pact intends to be more effective, notably through increased coordination among Member States and between the EU and its Member States, through mutually beneficial partnership with third countries, as well as shared responsibility and solidarity at European level.
“This holistic and complex pact intends to be more effective, notably through increased coordination among Member States and between the EU and its Member States, through mutually beneficial partnership with third countries, as well as shared responsibility and solidarity at European level.”
It introduces measures with a great potential for controversy such as its strengthened screening and border procedures as well as the “return sponsorship” principle. As to the former, attention will have to be paid to the preservation of the right to asylum and to the defence of fundamental rights. Through the latter, a sponsoring Member state commits to returning an irregular migrant on behalf of a beneficiary Member state and from this Member State’s territory. The sponsorship can take various forms, including financial and practical support to assist irregular migrants’ voluntary return and reintegration or policy dialogue with third countries « by proxy » to facilitate migrants’ identification for instance.
The “Talent partnership”, another new feature, is an international legal migration and mobility matchmaking scheme between the EU side and partner countries aiming at meeting labour and skills needs in the EU on the one hand and on the other hand at strategically engaging partner countries on migration as worded by the European Commission. Through a multi-stakeholder framework, the Talent partnership aims inter alia at linking skilled workers, social partners, and labour market organisations. Albeit listed as stakeholders to be involved, the role and responsibilities of diaspora associations need to be clarified and ideally jointly defined.
With this pact, the European Commission also puts forward “conventional” and predictable solutions such as increasing “support for economic opportunity and addressing the root causes of irregular migration”, ensuring “full and effective implementation of existing EU readmission agreements and arrangements” and stepping up “the place of migration in the programming of the new instruments in the new Multiannual Financial Framework” (sic). As to the latter, it matters to adequately support the nexus between migration and development and thus gives the African diaspora the place it deserves when it comes to EU development cooperation with Africa. Besides this, the Commission demonstrates realism. The EU institution does so by stressing the importance of international dialogue and partnership for the success of this EU innovative multidimensional approach and by calling for a mature relationship with partner countries – this will have to be done for the benefit of migrants and not at their expense.
“The EU institution does so by stressing the importance of international dialogue and partnership for the success of this EU innovative multidimensional approach and by calling for a mature relationship with partner countries – this will have to be done for the benefit of migrants and not at their expense.”
Thereby, the European Commission moves away from the once overtly defended principle of conditionality. The necessity for legal labour migration to attract talents and skills due to EU aging population is asserted and presented as a way to empower third countries. While legal pathways to Europe need to be further developed, care should also be taken that the quest for talents and skills doesn’t result in a significant brain drain from developing countries.
“While legal pathways to Europe need to be further developed, care should also be taken that the quest for talents and skills doesn’t result in a significant brain drain from developing countries.”
This would incidentally create confusion about EU’s intentions as the European Commission currently supports African youth employability programmes for Africa’s socioeconomic development and concomitantly committed itself to create ten million jobs in Africa by 2023. In order to mitigate and ideally annihilate this adverse side-effect, circular migration and two-way mobility schemes should be promoted, secured and where relevant intensified through the development of twinning agreements between academic or health institutions for instance. In this respect, diasporas should largely be mobilised for them to impart the skills, knowledge and experience gained in residence countries. But more importantly, EU Policy Coherence for Development will have to be fully ensured in this respect through proper monitoring and evaluation.
“But more importantly, EU Policy Coherence for Development will have to be fully ensured in this respect through proper monitoring and evaluation.”
EU realism is also exemplified by the recognition that border management as well as return and readmission implementation are politically sensitive issues for third countries, these being synonymous with reduced remittances – often a vital lifeline for local communities and individuals. Considering that the Article 13 on return and readmission of the almost defunct Cotonou Agreement went unheeded due to EU partner countries’ resistance, the emphasis on returns in the new pact may constitute an enduring stumbling block for the conclusion of the so-called Post-Cotonou agreement between the EU and ACP sides and logically an obstacle to the endorsement of the proposed EU Comprehensive Strategy with Africa during the upcoming European Union-African Union Summit to be held in 2021. In light of this, the effective implementation of this multi-layered pact may prove quite challenging.