International Politics
EU summit on migration: far from consensus

Migration über das Mittelmeer

Migration über das zentrale Mittelmeer. 

© picture alliance / Daniel Kubirski | Daniel Kubirski

On February 9 and 10, a special summit was held in Brussels to focus on the EU's migration policy. One of the topics at the summit was the European Union's cooperation with relevant countries of origin in joint migration management. What was not addressed was the fact that many people set out precisely because they have no legal means of entry. However, the polarizing issue that continues to divide member states became a sideshow in light of Ukrainian Prime Minister Selenskyi's visit.

The conclusions of the summit did not contain any new announcements and the discussion was one-sidedly focused on migration prevention. Thus, the heads of state and government mainly called for the implementation of existing action plans, such as those for the central Mediterranean region or the Western Balkans. Another topic at the summit was the cooperation of the European Union with relevant countries of origin in joint migration management. In view of a repatriation rate of only 21%, countries of origin should be put on a stronger leash within the framework of the EU's visa policy. In individual cases, this would also mean that visas would be withheld from citizens if the countries of origin did not cooperate in the repatriation of irregular migrants. However, the harmonization of the respective repatriation practices in each member state would be at least as important.

Migration impasse: Legal entry to the EU

What was not addressed was the fact that many people set out precisely because they have no legal means of entry. Creating legal migration channels should therefore be just as much a focus of the debate, not least against the backdrop of the dramatic shortage of skilled workers that is emerging not only in Germany. This would not require reinventing the wheel, but rather making better use of existing instruments such as the EU Blue Card, as Ann-Veruschka Jurisch of the FDP, a member of the Bundestag, commented in the context of the current legislative debate on the Skilled Workers Immigration Act: "It is important to me that we make full use of the European means of the Blue Card. This also includes allowing immigration for workers in non-academic professions. Germany is suffering from a labor shortage that will become much more intense in the coming years if we don't take countermeasures now."

Even though legal migration is mentioned as an incentive for better cooperation with countries of origin in the summit's final document, the focus of the discussions was clearly on tightening further restrictive measures in joint border management, for example through the border management agency Frontex or improved data monitoring. EU leaders agreed on "substantial" funding to reinforce cameras and border personnel but did not cross the red line of direct funding for fences or even walls, as Austria, for example, had recently called for.

Considering these challenges, the Madrid office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom launched the Migration Policy Group as part of the Mediterranean Dialogue project: an association of liberal policymakers and experts to coordinate and advance policies on migration issues across Europe.

Liberal solutions in the Mediterranean region

In this context, an action plan was developed to strengthen the network of liberal policy makers and experts in this field. The aim is to promote exchanges on ongoing initiatives between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbors. Late last year, the Foundation in Madrid, in collaboration with the West Africa office, organized a visit to Senegal to study and better understand the causes of emigration from the region. Key findings from the trip are captured in a forthcoming report, EU Migration Policy Making: “A Euro-Mediterranean Glimpse on Cooperation with Key Third Countries.” The focus of the report is to highlight best practices and provide new approaches for a constructive and forward-looking debate on migration management in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

The Migration Policy Group initiative stems from the conviction that cooperation between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbors needs to be strengthened. It aims to bundle existing expertise and promote exchanges on migration management issues, as well as highlight the importance of EU cooperation with key third countries.