The ongoing Refugee emergency is being described as an unprecedented humanitarian migration crisis for the EU.
As stressed in the Communication « Managing the refugee crisis: immediate operational budgetary and legal measures under the European Agenda on Migration » the Commission feels the obligation to « show the world that the Union is capable of managing this crisis » and has called for the collaboration of all Member States to ensure the balance between solidarity and responsibility.What comes new to the table is, besides the debate over relocation and resettlement, a new set of measures not only operational and legislative but also budgetary. In fact a total of 1.7 billion of Euros will be deployed to address the Refugee crisis between 2015 and 2016.
But where does this money come from? Are we talking about new funding or are we simply assisting to an operation of “budgetary engineering” using Carlos Coelho’s words?
The situation is indeed more complex and stands in the middle of these two opposites.
First of all a clarification between the funds that will be deployed in 2015 and 2016 is needed.
The communication published by the Commission identifies a set of priority of actions to be taken within the next six moths, including the adaptations which need to be made to the budget for 2015.
Concerning the funding for 2015 the Commission announced an additional €801 million Euro for the refugee crisis. Despite this the sum has not been included in the Draft Amending the Budget 7/2015.
The instrument by which the commission proposes amendments to the already agreed 2015 budget, in fact, is not touched by the totality of this sum but only by a total of 401.3 million for the refugee crisis. The reason why the budget will not be amended for the other 400 million is that this money was originally foreseen in reserves or for measures in similar areas of activity, which will now be used to tackle the refugee crisis specifically.
On 8th October 2015, the Council approved additional financial assistance from the 2015 EU budget in response to the refugee crisis. This puts in effect the commitments made by the European council on 23rd September 2015. The European Parliament now needs to give the go-ahead to the appropriations.
More specifically, the draft amending budget foresees four main points
First of all €100 million for the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the International Security Fund for emergency assistance to the most affected Member States in 2015. These two funds have been set up for the period 2014- 2020 and are both focused on a better management of the humanitarian difficulties that the Union is going to face for the next seven years.
While the ISF is managed by both the Europeans and National programs, the AMIF is channelled for the 88% through shared management centred on multi-annual national programmes. On the other side around 11% of this funding under shared management will be allocated for specific actions and the support for the Union Resettlement Programme. The remaining 12% is divided between Union actions and Emergency assistance and is implemented through direct management. The regulation over these funds was strongly criticized by the member of the National Front Gilles Lebreton (ENF), who claimed that a change in the AMIF regulation might be necessary, the actual budgetary architecture, in his opinion, does not allow a real control of the objectives and the credits by the European Parliament.
Nonetheless these funds are not the only ones touched by the Commission’s communication; in fact an additional contribution of 1.3 million is foreseen to increase the funding for the three relevant EU agencies to cover 60 additional staff for FRONTEX, 30 additional staff for EASO and 30 additional staff for, for 2015.
To this regard during the debate conducted by the LIBE Commission last Thursday an interesting discussion was engaged between deputes. The issue was in fact discussed from several points of view.
First of all a strong critic was made by Mallin Bjork, Swedish depute member of the GUE on the budget proposals made by the Commission. In her opinion in fact, the communication of the Commission was way too much focused on the prevention of refugees coming to the European Union rather than on a better management of the crisis itself. She stressed the fact that the resources devolved to FRONTEX, EASO, and Europol are part of an instrumentalised focus on smuggling. The problem in the Mediterranean, according to the Swedish depute opinion, is that there is not a safe way to access Europe for asylum seekers. This position was later endorsed by Sipper Birgit, Danish depute member of the S&D group who stated that “smugglers are doing double business, they are not only smuggling people in Europe from Syria but they are also promising to people who will never fulfil refugees criteria that they will make their way to Europe. On the other hand also those people who do fulfil the criteria step up to smugglers because there is no other way to access Europe. Therefore resettlement needs to be the first step, but not the only one, we need to make possible for asylum seekers to have a safe way to Europe”.
Still on the agencies issue Cecilia Wickstrom, member of the Sweden Folkpartiet liberalerna, brought the attention on the agencies as an instrument to better manage the crisis: “What Europe needs today is to add measures in order to ensure, that EU agencies are, at the end of the day, are able to manage all the challenges that we are facing. We must address these challenges together on a joint approach. […] What we need in the long term, is more structure and fundamental debate on how to cover the tasks of the agencies, we are always pointing out that these agencies should do more but we need also to solve the dramatic problem of underdimensionment and underfunding. What is needed is a fundamental rethink of the responsibilities of the Member States and the EU and a fundamental transfer of responsibilities and resources from the national level to the European level. Personally, I am deeply convinced that this can add effectiveness. In order to do that, we need to dare the fundamental question, whether the Member States or the Union should take the responsibility for the external border control. I am therefore happy to hear about the extension of the mandate of FRONTEX but I think that the same extension is needed for EASO. »
Thirdly the Commission has proposed to add €300 millions to reinforce the European Neighbourhood Instrument to allow for an increase of the EU Regional Trust Fund in Respond to the Syrian Crisis and to provide assistance to third countries hosting refugees form Syria in 2015. These funds, together with a reorientation of funds from the Instrument of Pre-accession, will allow the total EU level funding for the Trust fund to reach more than €500 million. Member State contribution moreover should match the EU funding so that the Fund would reach a total of at least €1 billion.
The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis also known as the “Madad fund” is described by the Commission as one of the most effective instruments to support Syrian refugees.
The fund is meant to support projects in various sectors including basic infrastructure, such as water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management, access to services, health, education support and support to livelihoods.
Despite this the criticism over the specific use of this fund was intense during the last LIBE committee meeting. As depute Sipper (S&D) has underlined during the meeting this scepticism derives mostly from the fear that the money that Turkey and Africa are receiving from the European Union will be used for border control mostly, leaving the fight to eradicate the reasons that push people to get to Europe aside.
In addition to the proposed reinforcement of the ENI and in line with the Commission’s Communication of the last 23rd September, the Commission has proposed to use 200 million for Humanitarian Aid still in 2015 to cover the most urgent humanitarian needs of displaced people fleeing the conflict in the region. This decision derives from the observation that the World Food Programme, the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation and other partners have suffered major shortfalls and interruptions in the supply chain of food and health provision. Moreover most EU Member States have reduced their contributions to the World Food Programme. By consequence the Commission called on Member States to restore funding for food Aid via the world food programme to 2014 to match its commitment.
However the 2015 budget is not the only one touched by the adjustments in favour of a better migration policy, in fact and an additional amount of 900 million is foreseen for the 2016 budget. These resources will be accessible by the start of 2016 when the full 2016 budget will be available, under the condition of approval by the Council and the European Parliament.
A total of 900 millions was proposed in order to ensure certain continuity with the measures proposed for 2015. Indeed providing a breakdown of this amount, the Commission proposed to devolve 600 million to the increase of funding for AMIF and IMF together with a strengthening in terms of staff for agencies and an additional 300 million for Humanitarian aid for refugees.
By consequence, on one hand the 600 million funding proposed by the Commission for migration and border funds will support the help to “hotspot” areas, the contribution needed by the most affected Member States and the financial support to Member States on relocation.
On the other hand the Humanitarian aid funds will boost the capacity to respond to requests from Non Governmental Organisations or UN agencies to bring immediate and targeted help.
At the end of the day it is not hasty to state that a lot has been put on the table regarding the budgetary measures to tackle the refugee crisis. A captivating debate derived from the Commission’s proposal. By discussing the budgetary measures, in fact the LIBE deputes have taken the chance to bring to light some of the crucial issues of the ongoing and future migration policies adopted by the Union.
When talking about resources and assistance to States it is important to make reference also to the strong discussion over the balance between money and consequent actions that took place during the last weeks.
Concerns over the support given to Serbia and Macedonia counting €1,7 millions to tackle the challenges of the ongoing crisis were raised. The serious allegations with the police forces and authorities with the treatment of asylum seekers in these countries are bringing a new question to the debate. Is it right to support countries where human rights violations are being denounced by several actors?
It’s still early to give a definitive answer, but this scenario leaves us fully aware of the impact that this emergency is going to have not only on the way money is spent in the Union but also on the way support, funding and management are and are going to be conceived in Europe from now on.
For Further Information :
-.Communication on Managing the refugee crisis : http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/european-agendamigration/proposalimplementationpackage/docs/communication_on_managing_the_refugee_crisis_en.pdf
-. Press Release of the 23rd September : http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5700_en.htm
-. Draft amending Budget: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2014_2019/documents/libe/dv/com_2015_0485_/com_2015_0485_en.pdf
-. Proposal for a Decision on the Mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument for immediate budgetary measures under the European Agenda on Migration: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2014_2019/documents/libe/dv/com_2015_0486_/com_2015_0486_en.pdf