Breaking barriers: Making EuroMed mobility work

Article published on Nov. 21, 2006
Article published on Nov. 21, 2006
From 22 to 23 November, the Libyan capital Tripoli hosts the EU-Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development. On the agenda: formal measures in favour of EuroMed mobility

Immigration: so easy to talk about, yet so difficult to resolve. The real problem is that a wide range of political wills need to be united and coordinated.

‘Whilst we understand the decision taken by the US, fortunately, for us in Europe, the construction of walls is a thing of the past; we don’t wish to see it happening in any other place.’

On a recent visit to Chile, the European Parliament delegation unequivocally – if somewhat indulgently – made its objections to US anti-immigration measures: the construction of a wall along its border with Mexico.

For now, the EU and the African Union are coming together in Libya on November 23 in the hope of taking their agreement in principal: that border control is necessary. Even more so, it is a conceptual scaling of greater barriers – an increase in Euro-African cooperation. This is essential if a degree of balance is to be brought to the map of inequalities that forces millions of people to emigrate.

Eduard Soler is responsible for the Mediterranean programme of the CIDOB Foundation, an international relations research centre based in Barcelona. When asked for his opinion of the projected US-Mexico frontier wall, he confirmed that ‘barriers’ did indeed exist between Ceuta y Melilla (Spanish enclaves on the northern coast of Africa) and Morocco, albeit in the shape of a complex system of high fences.

Emigration: both a solution and a problem

The Moroccan writer and country expert Tahar Ben Jelloun describes the situation in his latest novel ‘Partir’ (Leaving). Malika, a young factory worker from Tangiers, asks his unemployed neighbour Azel to show him his qualifications, who replies:

‘And you, what will you do later? – Leave. – Leaving is not a trade. – Once I have left, then I will have a trade.’

Leaving is sometimes the only solution, but often it implies even more problems than the obvious ones of cramming too many people into tiny flats, or the danger of death on the seas. There is also the huge sums extorted by groups of organised criminals as payment for illegal transit; the ‘brain drain’, which is effectively selling off the future economy of already poor countries.

A shift in strategy

To combat this ‘brain drain’ amongst other measures, the EU and the African Union recommend the development of a programme whereby highly-qualified Africans who work in Europe are encouraged to carry out aspects of their work within their own country. This is without the risk of losing their employment in Europe. These plans, however, clash with those of certain European leaders, such as Frenchman Nicolas Sarkozy, who want to make entry into Europe a privilege only available to the most highly-qualified workers. No doubt this reinforces the ‘brain drain’.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is calling for ‘organised immigration’ as outlined by Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. To that end, the EU will make a commitment in Libya to establish a presence in Africa. This will assist in the policing of frontiers.

Money, but for what?

The EU has frequently drawn attention to the astronomic figures that have been dedicated to the development and modernisation of Africa for years: more than €12,000 million for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2004; and more than €5,300 for the Mediterranean zone in 2005/ 2006.

Why, then, given such funds, do the expected results not materialise? The simple explanation is the existence in the South of various dictatorial regimes which, in the words of Eduard Soler, ‘represent not the national interest but rather their own very personal ones.’ To get through this impenetrable barrier to change, the EU and the countries along the southern Mediterranean coast founded the EuroMed Partnership eleven years ago. It's innovative aim was to link any financial aid intended for development in the South directly to political reforms.

Today, with the knowledge that only Morocco has made the appropriate advances, the Barcelona Process, (another name for the Euromed Partnership), is being reformulated. For example, in the plan approved for Jordan, it states that there should be new laws concerning political parties, which, adds Soler, ‘is something more than simply demonstrating a loose intention to reform.’ In the past this was the only prerequisite to receiving European aid.

It’s something which serves to remind us of the imbalances to be found all around the planet. In the midst of globalisation, it’s time for the ostriches to get their heads out of the sand.

Photos: Eduard Soler (ES); a 6 metre-high fence dividing Spain and Morocco (Prodein-Pedrobea/ Flickr)