The EU should strengthen its inter-regional relations, especially in its southern neighbourhood

The perspective of the celebration, in 2020, of 25 years of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation – since the Barcelona Process, in 1995 – shows us how much interconnected both Europe and Africa are on a geopolitical and geo-economical perspective.

As the new European Commission President, Ursula Von der Leyen, presented it throughout the Political Guidelines for the Next Commmision (2019-2024) : « Europe (should) to have a comprehensive strategy on Africa, our close neighbour and our most natural partner. It is a continent full of opportunity and potential for cooperation and for business. It will become home to the youngest, fastest growing middle class in the world, with private consumption expected to reach €2 trillion a year by 2025. We must make the most of the political, economic and investment opportunities that these changes will bring ».

Some key figures to asses this strategic importance, when it comes to economy and demography interactions :

– 30% of African Exports go to Europe, versus just 3% of EU exports being destined for Africa.

– 40% of EU exports to Africa are Maghreb bound.

– 55% of Africa’s fossil fuel exports to Europe come from the Maghreb, 26% of this goes to Italy – as the first European importer, closely followed by Spain on 21%. Both Algeria and Libya rely on Europe to import their main export, oil, with similar proportions of 60%-70% of both countries’ oil headed for Europe in 2018.

– 3 million people (4.4 %) of the 512.4 million people living in the EU on 1 January 2018 were non-EU citizens according to EU Commission.

– 50% of non EU migrants come from Africa (10M).

– 50% of African Migrants in Europe are from the Maghreb (5M+).

In a world interrogating harshly multilateralism, inter-regional relations will become increasingly important. This is especially so regarding the MENA and sub-Saharan Africa regions. The Coronavirus crisis targeting indifferently populations across our two continents has pushed for better and bigger cooperation across the Mediterranean Sea, in a perspective of a renewed Eurafrican relation, in the perspective of the next June EU Council in preparation of the upcoming 6th EU-AU Summit in October.

But, still for many people in Europe, migration is the key concern and remain a major policy challenge for Europe

In november 2015, the EU’s New EU Neigbourhood Policy had the ambition to reconsider the relations of the 28 EU states with the 19 Middle East and North African states (on the southern and oriental shores of the Mediterranean sea), in the perspective of the consolidation of a new democratic and diplomatic agenda.

The EU has 10 active missions in Africa, seven of which are mixed military-civilian (EUFOR-Mali, EUCAP Sahel-Niger, EUTM-CAR) and the remaining are civilian. Two of them are in the Maghreb (EUNAVFOR MED « Sophia » and EUBAM in Libya).

Almost ten years after the « Arab spring », the EU is still looking for a strategic autonomy as well as a global vision characterized by it’s will to build peace, stability and security.

Therefore, a coherent, humane and fair migration policy is needed in order to help refugees and control economic migration. Specifically, the dangers of a further refugee crisis in the wake of recent events in Syria must be foreshadowed. Brussels needs to develop a sensible asylum policy that thinks longer term about the issue of migrants and refugees. Doing this is more complicated than simply stating it.

Let’s not forget also that since 2000, across the planet, an estimated 40,000 people have perished trying to reach more friendly shores for their personal development or simply for their survival. Out of them, 22,000 died while attempting to cross Mare Nostrum!

In 2019, the number of migrants exceeded 100,000 according to UNHCR. They were fleeing conflict zones in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and countries plagued with chronic instability such as Eritrea, the two Sudan(s), countries from the Sahelo-Saharan strip, the Central African Republic and the Great Lakes region.

Still, however, they were half the number of those from 2014 and far from the 1.5 million people who crossed the Mediterranean in 2015!

As shocking as these figures are, considering the tragic conditions of the Mediterranean crossing, they are only forewarning a crisis that will inevitably worsen :

– What will happen when the worsening climate and security conditions in the Sahel-Saharan strip, with an estimated population of 150 million in 2025, will create a demographic sword of Damocles on a scale unseen before ?

– How to make sure that the 450 millions of young Africans aged less then 25 years old (60% of the continent population) to fully develop ?

– How could it be otherwise when 800 million out of Africa’s estimated 2 billion inhabitants at that time, will live in African cities that have overgrown prematurely, with only a nascent infrastructure and a still uncertain capacity for employment ?

 

Since 2000, across the planet, an estimated 40,000 people have perished trying to reach more friendly shores for their personal development or simply for their survival. Out of them, 22,000 died while attempting to cross Mare Nostrum! And in 2018, 2262 people perished.

In 2018, the number of migrants exceeded 100,000 according to UNHCR. They were fleeing conflict zones in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and countries plagued with chronic instability such as Eritrea, the two Sudan(s), countries from the Sahelo-Saharan strip, the Central African Republic and the Great Lakes region. Still, however, they were half the number of those from 2014 and far from the 1.5 million people who crossed the Mediterranean in 2015!

As shocking as these figures are, considering the tragic conditions of the Mediterranean crossing, they are only forewarning a crisis that will inevitably worsen. What will happen when the worsening climate and security conditions in the Sahel-Saharan strip, with an estimated population of 150 million in 2025, will create a demographic sword of Damocles on a scale unseen before?

How could it be otherwise when 800 million out of Africa’s estimated 2 billion inhabitants at that time, will live in African cities that have overgrown prematurely, with only a nascent infrastructure and a still uncertain capacity for employment?

Furthermore, since 2011, the ups and downs of the « Arab Springs » have caused a massive exodus of Tunisian, Algerian, Libyan and Egyptian populations. The consequences of the resulting Libyan crisis have opened a gap that will be difficult to fill without a proactive policy of sustainable and deep reconstruction of the country, reopening real prospects for its population.

Obviously, with equal determination, the 28 EU States must now put in place binding mechanisms for a greater harmonization, both in terms of strengthening reception capacities and adapting the principle of free movement of individuals, especially at a time when some European partners in the Schengen area seem to want to restrict its proper functioning.

Of course, the abolition of internal borders cannot lead us to disregard the reinforcement of external borders. For this reason, the Schengen Information System (SIS) should first be strengthened. The principle of « flying » controls within the 26 States (amongst the 22 inside EU) belonging to the Schengen Area, should also be developed, as allowed by the Schengen Borders Code. It will also involve harmonizing the conditions for entry, asylum and visa requirements.

But, the major complication is that, Brussels must now deal with the principal opponents to a more humane and coherent and ambitious european migration policy. Thus, it is less with new measures than with a more determined and harmonized implementation that Europe needs to respond to the urgency at its borders. In this context, Brussels will need a strategy to minimise the pan-European, anti-Muslim “occidentalisation” of migration policies that nationalists and populists, if successful, would mobilise in the pursuit of its particular view of the EU and its external relations.

The creation of the European Border Agency and the Coast Guard Corps (ex-Frontex, located in Warsaw since October 2004 and renamed in October 2016), although with a modest budget (250 million euros per year) and a very small team (315 people), aims to be the EU’s « reinforced arm » against human trafficking, which is particularly lucrative for criminal organizations and the mafia (Interpol estimates the benefit for the latter at 4.5 billion euros in 2017).

The situation thus forces us Europeans, here and now, to show more solidarity and apply one of the founding principles of the European Union: the principle of substitution, meaning that the European level must take over in terms of capacity and harmonization of resources in response to the urgency of the moment, forcing European partners to consider with the same empathy those men, women and children trying to reach our coasts, whether we call them « migrants », « refugees » or « asylum seekers ».


                                          Emmanuel DUPUY, President of the Institute European Perspective & Security (IPSE)

 

Emmanuel DUPUY is President of the Institute European Perspective & Security – IPSE (www.institut-ipse.eu), think tank, focused on track two diplomacy and strategic prospective analysis, located in Paris, Brussels and Rabat. IPSE as launched and liaised with various academic and strategic institutions in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan), South-West Asia (Iran and Afghanistan) and Caucasus (Azerbaijan). He was, during the year 2011, Political advisor of french forces located in Afghanistan (in Kapissa province, Kaboul and Surobi district) during the year 2011. He is, in that regard, vice-president of french based Club France-Afghanistan. He is an associate Professor in Université Paris-Sud and ILERI & ISG (privates schools focused on international relations). He is specialized on war and security studies in Africa, Central Asia, Caucasus and MENA region. He is also a researcher associated to several institutes or research centers, working on military and strategic studies, in Switzerland (Université de Genève, UNIGE) and in China (as a Special Researcher of Ningbo Maritime Silk Road Institute). He is also General Delegate of Centrist Party, in charge of International affairs.