Overcoming the challenges of migratory flows and an effective EU refugee policy are pre-conditions for the survival of the European Union. Socialists and Social Democrats should step out of their comfort zone and make an effective and progressive migration management policy and the EU-Africa partnership a top priority in the run up to the 2019 European Parliament elections.

 

As progressives we might not be able to win elections with our migration policy proposals, but we can definitely lose them.” This quote from the Social Democrat Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans refers to the challenges relating to the promotion of a progressive migration policy in the present political context in Europe.

In this article I would like to give five reasons why socialists and Social Democrats should move the EU Africa partnership and migration to the top of their agenda in the run up to the 2019 European Parliament elections.

First, between 2014 and January 2018, an estimated 15,565 migrants (http://missingmigrants.iom.int) drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe and many others died in the desert. Ending this drama should be our top priority. Every human being on the move, whether because of war, famine or a total lack of prospects, has the right to be protected.

Second, our voters are well aware of how Trump and the European xenophobic right wing forces want to “solve the migration crisis”. At the same time, we shy away from promoting a progressive plan for EU migration and EU Africa relations.

Such a plan should include all aspects of migration management, from saving lives at sea and in the desert to returns to the country of origin, from the care of unaccompanied minors to improved border control, from safe and legal ways to enter the EU to putting an end to violence and abuses by criminal networks, from assisted voluntary returns to socio-economic development in local municipalities.

Even if the situation on the ground is often unstable and working in and with failed states such as Libya is extremely difficult, we are building up a long term and sustainable system of cooperation with a range of African countries of origin and transit.

Third, under the leadership of the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini, the EU is in the process of redefining EU-Africa relations based on mutual respect and long term cooperation and development. While Trump pulled the USA out of the UN compacts for migration and refugees in December, the EU is doing exactly the opposite by cooperating with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Even if the situation on the ground is often unstable and working in and with failed states such as Libya is extremely difficult, we are building up a long term and sustainable system of cooperation with a range of African countries of origin and transit. The EU’s holistic approach interlinking sustainable development, security and the management of migratory flows is based on fundamental social democratic principles.

Fourth, we need to inform EU citizens why further progress on migration policy and EU-Africa relations is regularly being blocked. This is not because of the European Commission and the European Parliament. Very concrete plans have been elaborated by, in particular Social Democrat MEPs. We know what has to be done.

The problem lies with the EU Council and the scandalous behaviour of some EU Member States, who refuse to give shelter to even a small number of recognised refugees as well as a bigger group of Member States who have promised funding for EU support projects in Africa but refuse to make the necessary payments in the EU Trust for Africa.

Fifth, overcoming the challenges of migratory flows and an effective EU refugee policy are pre-conditions for the survival of the European Union. The lack of an effective EU policy and solidarity between member states erodes support for the European project, as we are currently witnessing in Italy.

Some progress has been achieved in 2017 and the Commission has presented ambitious plans for 2018, but nationalist and xenophobic forces in and outside member state governments will do all they can to prevent EU migration policy and EU-Africa relations from becoming a success.

Socialists and Social Democrats are strong and outspoken when it comes to priorities such as eurozone reform, sustainable development and fundamental rights. Let’s step out of our comfort zone and make an effective and progressive migration management and the EU Africa partnership a top priority in the run up to the 2019 European Parliament elections.

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