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EU-Africa: the modest results of the Valletta summit

The summit of countries from the opposite shores of the Mediterranean ended with some positive results and with the creation a 1.8 billion euro “Emergency Trust Fund” for assistance to development. But several problems drag on within increasingly complex migration

The viewpoints are substantially different. Europe views migration from Africa and Asia as a sort of threat entailing social costs for citizens coupled by aspects linked to external and internal security. So, why open the door? Africa, on the other hand, considers migration a necessary option to decrease demographic pressures at national level connected with poor economic development, poverty (material and non-material alike, as in the case of education), and political instability. Moreover, migrants are increasingly becoming an important source of financial remittances. So, why keep the doors shut?

Dividing chasms. The EU-Africa summit held November 11-12 in Malta’s capital La Valletta (the island is an epitome of migration flows between the two continents, as Lampedusa in Italy, and on the Middle-eastern front, the Greek island of Lesbos), has brought to the fore dividing chasms.

Nonetheless – is the message intended – these gaps need to be bridged for the mutual good.

The themes addressed by representatives of over 60 delegations – EU28 along with a considerable number of African Union countries, the UN, as well as several international organizations – highlighted humanitarian emergencies (rescue at sea, combating trafficking, welcoming those fleeing from hunger and war) and those of political-economic nature (stemming departures through development aids, controlling external borders as well as the Mediterranean Sea, facilitating the repatriation of those who have no right to asylum , envisaging special channels for regular and controlled migration …). In the background, European public opinion opposes the inflow of migrants, governments object European solidarity (notably the fatigue of integrating 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy into the rest of the EU) new barriers are created (after those in Hungary and Croatia, now also in Slovenia), while limitless reception registered in Germany and Sweden is being called into question.

Tackling the causes of migration. In his closing speech Donald Tusk did not renounce listing several positive aspects: in Valetta was signed an action plan for strengthened cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean. The President of the European Council set five ambitious goals: addressing the root causes of migration; strengthening cooperation on legal migration; ensuring the protection of migrants; preventing trafficking in human beings; securing the return to Africa of those who have the right to stay in Europe. Tusk added: “we have agreed a long list of very concrete actions to be implemented by the end of 2016.” These include, “enhancing employment opportunities in regions of origin and transit of migrants”, doubling the number of scholarships for African students and researchers, joint initiatives against migrant smuggling and trafficking.

However, African leaders appeared reluctant to discuss the repatriation of “economic migrants” who are not entitled to international protection.

In the Maltese capital was also launched an “Emergency Trust Fund” for “stability and to tackle the root causes of irregular migration.” One billion 800 million euro will be invested “for Africa’s development”, thereby creating “an alternative option to emigration.” The president of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, tasked with managing the fund (most of which will be supplied by the EU budget and donations from several Countries), remarked: “Through development cooperation the EU has been substantially contributing to tackling the root causes of poverty and migration. Today, we are taking a step further.” Thus, the investments already allocated or promised to Africa have reached almost 20 million.

A small step. Indeed, La Valletta will not solve all migratory problems. However, it can be considered another step within a strategy that is growing clearer every day, not without second thoughts, misunderstandings and selfish closures. Moreover, the focus on Africa is not enough, given the increasing inflows from Asia, Turkey and from the “Balkan corridor” in the past months. These are further chapters of the same biblical exodus arriving to Europe every day, perhaps unstoppable but not unmanageable.

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