Development for Policy Coherence? How migration took over EU-Africa relations

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      In the first of our series of blogs ahead of ECDPM's 2017 Challenges Paper, MEP Judith Sargentini shares her perspectives on the challenges of migration in 2017 and beyond. Traditionally, the US has been in charge of ensuring the security of the Western hemisphere, whilst the European Union had the ability to be more of an ‘ethical’ force in the world. With Trump taking over the White House and the migration ‘crisis’ taking hold over the EU’s external policies, those days are over. Instead of ensuring that all other policies are coherent with development, Mogherini’s global strategy states that it is development policy that should be aligned with the EU’s strategic priorities. The EU is moving away from policy coherence for development towards a strategy where development is used for policy coherence. A lose-lose strategy where development goals will not be reached, migration flows will not be stopped, the European Union´s geopolitical ambitions will not be met, and our credibility towards our African partner countries might be lost. In Brussels, every crisis comes with its own terminology. When speaking about the migration crisis - or let us call it what it really is: a political crisis - 'tackling the root causes of migration' is the political catchphrase, while development cooperation is the means to accomplish this. Development cooperation has always been about trial and error and, as such, has transformed over the past decades to what it is today. The problem with 'tackling the root causes of migration' is that it gives the illusion that, by working backwards and taking migration-related problems as the starting point of policies, development will be the result.

      The silver bullet?

      Ministers of Interior of the member states herald this approach of ‘tackling root causes’ as the silver bullet that will both to combat migration’s push factors and to accomplish development goals. Without lingering on the fact that - should it indeed help develop these countries it most likely means an increase in migration rather than a decrease - it is safe to assume that these policies will not help these countries develop nor combat push factors. Allocating development spending geographically and thematically according to migration patterns, means that those least developed countries which are not yet on a migration route to Europe will be skipped. The money will thus be spent on border guards instead of on projects that can help eradicating poverty. The knowledge gained from the many decades of trial, error and evaluation in development cooperation shows the need for reliability and predictability of development flows. Ownership of the local population has proven to be necessary to ensure sustainable development and long-term poverty eradication. These principles of development effectiveness are thrown overboard in the migration-focused approach, with its emergency trust funds and flexible short-term instruments. Examples are the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the Partnership Framework for Migration- with its country specific Migration Compacts  - and the External Investment Plan, which was placed within the partnership framework. The year 2017 will bring changes in the OECD DAC criteria, allowing for more spending for migration under Official Development Assistance (ODA). It will be quite a challenge to ensure that the development budget is used to eradicate poverty and is not as part of the toolbox of the EU’s geopolitical strategy.

      Self-centred relations

      How does all this affect the relationship between the European Union and Africa? This relationship has never been an easy one. On the side of African states, there have always been doubts regarding the motivation of these former colonial powers and their activities in Africa. Though these doubts may not always have been justified, the recent response to the migration crisis has brought the self-serving nature of the EU’s relations with African states back to the surface, enabling African leaders to point to this as a proof of their long-standing suspicions. When the EU is funding a youth unemployment project in an African state, it might not matter much to the country in question whether this policy is communicated within the EU as a means to eradicate poverty or to tackle the root causes of migration. Unfortunately, the influence of migration on development will extend beyond this. What does matter to African states - and what will affect the relationship with the EU - is the return of conditionalities of development money. Negative incentives will be integrated into development policy, as announced by the European Commission in its communication on the partnership framework on migration. Bilateral relations will be modelled on the EU-Turkey statement. Africa will be dealing with an EU that negotiates based on short-term self-serving goals. It is to be expected that the migration pressure on development budgets will remain for many years to come. In the next year, the fifth EU-Africa summit will take place. Moreover, a revision of the European Consensus on Development is on the way and the EU-Africa relationship post-Cotonou will be further discussed. Migration is likely to probe its way into these communications and summits and as such will exert an even greater influence on the relationship between the EU and Africa in the foreseeable future. From the European Parliament’s development committee, the struggle to critically scrutinise this will continue. Judith Sargentini is a member of the Europea Parliament, affiliated with the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ECDPM or the European Parliament.      
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