During debates on 7 June, the majority of MEPs welcomed the European Union’s plans to enhance cooperation with third countries, especially Africa, increasing public and private investments into the development of economies and social structures of those countries to help reduce the flow of migration.
Many MEPs also warned about the possibility of repeating the same scenario that happened with EU’s deal with Turkey.
European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini presented the new ‘partner relations system for third countries’ to MEPs during the Tuesday’s plenary meeting. As part of the new system, the European Commission plans to sign agreements with certain countries: first with Jordan and Lebanon, with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia next, as well as Tunisia and Libya. This will be done to enhance border control and return mechanisms and improve the quality of life of migrants and refugees.
The goal of this strategic partnership is to reward countries that wish to cooperate with the EU and punish those who do not wish to do it properly, as reported by European Parliament’s press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotina-Znota.
Manfred Weber (European People’s Party / EPP, Germany) supported the intention for the realization of an investment plan similar to Juncker’s plan in Africa and agreed that countries that refuse to cooperate should be punished.
Gianni Pitella (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats/S&D, Itally) called for real partnership with Africa, without limiting it to migration and many common problems experienced by both continents.
Helga Stevens (European Conservatives and Reformists Group/ECR, Belgium) supported the initiative to provide financial support to Africa, but also requested strict border control, fight against human trafficking and better migrant return policy. Guy Verhofstadt (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe/ALDE, Belgium) opposed the repetition of the agreement with Turkey in relations with other countries. Paying money in exchange for border control is not a solution, he said.
Barbara Spinelli (European United Left – Nordic Green, Italy) criticized the initiative to tie economic cooperation to border control and realistic return mechanisms, because such a policy is ‘a step supporting desires of radical right forces’.
Judita Sargentini (Greens / European Free Alliance, Netherlands) warned about not repeating mistakes that were made with the agreement with Turkey, specifically using money to strengthen ‘Europe’s fortress’, instead of using the money to reduce poverty and fight against inequality.