Poverty reduction, jobs, SMEs and climate change, as well as strict rules on human rights and tax transparency: these are the key features of a recent agreement between the Council of the European Union and European Parliament to tackle the root causes of migration.
With migration projected to be one of the biggest issues in the upcoming 2019 elections, the institutions have placed high priority on bringing migration management to the forefront of policy making at the EU level. “The current system is plainly broken,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission at the High Level Conference for Migration Management last week. Alluding to the recent migrant crisis, he noted that, “we all saw too vividly how the current system cannot cope under pressure.”
The High Level Migration Conference, which brought together many of the major institutional players in the European Union, emphasized the need to view migration as an issue that goes beyond domestic concern in order to better prepare for the future. Focusing on the increased need for solidarity amongst EU member states and an EU budget made with migration in mind, European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani stated that, “it is time for a paradigm shift: first we must set political objectives – to address the concerns of our citizens – and on that basis allocate the resources required.”
While much of the conversation focused on improving the current migration system through asylum policy, border security measures and cooperation between member states, a strong emphasis was also placed on addressing migration at its root. Approaching migration using a “global strategy,” the various European Union institutions were encouraged to mobilize “legislative, diplomatic, financial, security and humanitarian instruments” in countries bordering the EU to ensure the stability of external borders and prevent mass influxes of migrants.
Recent activity at the institutional level suggests that this global strategy is making its way through the legislative system. On Wednesday, June 28th, EU Ministers and MEPs informally agreed upon the implementation of a new European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD). A pillar of the European External Investment Plan, the fund aims to encourage €44 billion in private investments by offering a combination of grants, loans and financial guarantees worth €3.3 billion to boost jobs, growth and stability in Africa and the EU neighborhood.
Rather than providing aid solely in the form of classic development assistance, the EFSD will draw upon the success of the existing EU blending framework, wherein grants and guarantees are used to mobilize further private sector investment in areas in need of development. The fund, through these types of guarantees, hopes to reduce the risk involved in investing in more politically and socially fragile areas, creating a sort of risk-sharing mechanism for investors and alleviating the investment “bottleneck” in Africa and the EU neighborhood. It is from these areas that many irregular migrants originate.
Along with these guarantees, the fund also comes with a set of operating rules. As such, the funding will be “focused on fighting poverty, creating jobs, youth, women and small enterprises.” Support must also comply with internationally agreed development standards. As well, strict rules will be placed on human rights and tax transparency – respect for human rights, International Labour Organization standards and international rules on responsible investment will be required.
“We have definitely improved the Commission’s proposal,” said co-rapporteur Eider Rubial Gardiazabal, “not only by enhancing the development aspects of this regulation, but also by including EU values such as human, social, labour and environmental rights in line with the Paris agreement, which will improve the lives of thousands of people in Africa and neighbouring countries.”
While it remains that the EU neighborhood and Africa are not always supportive of private sector investment, the European Commission appears to be confident that implementing a coherent framework for investment, as outlined in the European External Investment Plan, will improve the overall policy and investment climate in these areas.
Special guest at the High Level Migration Conference, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, noted that, “the national government is grateful for the assistance of Europe and its member states” in helping to settle migrants. He also stated that he hopes for “help [from the EU] for the countries of origin to improve their economic situation and keep more potential migrants within their borders.”
This sentiment was shared by Antonio Tajani, who argued that, “today more than ever, Africa’s and Europe’s interests are bound up with one another. We are friends, we share languages and cultures. We must work as equals, and we must look at Africa through African eyes.”
The European Fund for Sustainable Development is just one of three pillars in the overall European External Action Plan, which provides further measures to improve upon investment procedures. On the condition that it is approved by the Foreign Affairs, Development and Budget committees, the EFSD is set to go to plenary vote on July 6th.