Internal EU-Document: „Update on State of Play of External Cooperation“, July 2023

July 23rd, 2023

The Commission Services of the European Council regularly edit updates "on the state of play" to the Working Party on External Aspects of Asylum and Migration, which is a preparatory body of the European Council. We have published the update January 2022, May 2022, February 2023 on this website. We have now received a new document, Update on the state of play, 14. July 2023. Here we provide an overview of the latest developments on EU-African migration cooperation as mentioned in the document.

The update

The document provides an updated overview of the main external migration dialogues and processes maintained by the EU worldwide since 2019. It is compiled by the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS). The document was previously known as the Global Approach to Migration Management (GAMM) update, which was compiled since 2005. As in the previous updates, the EU activities regarding migration control are listed in tabular form, sorted by regions and processes.

Worldwide in scope, this blog post provides a short overview of the key developments mentioned in the update pertaining to EU-African migration politics.

Whats new?

One of the new cooperation instruments - the so-called 'Talent Partnerships' - launched with the 2020 New Pact, is visibly taking shape. Besides 'Talent Partnerships,' neither responding to the needs of European labor markets, nor to the aspirations of persons on the move, they have been put on the table in negotiations with non-EU states. Egypt and Tunisia are among the priority countries of the said partnerships seems feasible and negotiations took place in June and July. Meanwhile, discussions on a potential Talent Partnership with Nigeria and Senegal show that accepting deportations of nationals is a key stake for the EU. While the Commission has commenced the assessment of the 'feasibility' of Nigeria to launch a 'Talent Partnership', the timing for the said partnership for Senegal is considered "not ripe, considering the overall level of cooperation, including readmission."

This strongly indicates, that deportations remain EU interest number one in cooperation with African countries. On the matter of deportation, Nigeria and the EU have launched negotiations on a so-called 'readmission agreement' resulting in a tentative version concluded in September 2022. Meanwhile, Senegal has accepted to engage in a regular dialogue on migration that also covers deportations and agreed to a deportation related indicator in its EU budget support. This makes EU development aid directly conditional upon deportations.

In keeping with the containment oriented EUropean outlook on migration, counter migrant smuggling and support for border infrastructure is high up on the agenda in negotiations with various African countries. In July 2022 the Commission launched its first 'anti-smuggling operational partnerships' with Niger and Morocco. Further, the Common Security and Defense Mission EUCAP Sahel Niger participates in the 2023 Operational Action Plan on Migrant Smuggling of theEuropean Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats and has been put on the list of priority on external cooperation of Europol. Joint Investigation Teams, that bring together Nigerien, Spanish and French police to investigate cases related to migrant smuggling have entered their third phase in March this year and received €13 million funding under the 'Flexible Mechanism' of the Regional MIP 2021- 2027.

Support to border infrastructure stands out especially with North African countries. A '2023 Southern Neighbourhood migration package' worth € 279 million was adopted on 26 June 2023. It focuses on fighting 'smugglers' and human traffickers, strengthening border management, and assisted voluntary return in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Further, under NDICI, the central EU development funding instrument, the Commission adopted €23 million action on protection and a € 23 million action on border management in Egypt, while in November 2022 budget support of € 152 million granted to support Morocco to implement its national migration strategy, "including in the area of borders management and anti-smuggling."

Further, efforts to increase Frontex' footprint in Africa are traceable in the document. Negotiations on both a Frontex status agreement and working arrangement with Mauritania are ongoing. Meanwhile, technical discussions with Senegal on how to possibly strengthen cooperation with Frontex are held. A Frontex working arrangement was signed between the European Border and Coast Guard and EUCAP Sahel Niger in July 2022.

While, seemingly, more a background issue, the leaked document also indicates that the continuation of the Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger, and hence the externalization of asylum processing through the 'backdoor', remains a key topic under discussion.

Political amnesia and technocratic violence of EU 'migration management'

While providing a broad overview, the deafening silence of the document on the political realities - spanning from the racism and repulsion in Tunisa, the looming uprisings in Egypt, violently oppressed pro-democracy struggles in Senegal, the recent war in Ethiopia, to the ongoing violent abductions and extortion of people on the move in Libya - is indicative to the technocratic violence of EU "migration management."

Not only depoliticize these technocratic summaries the issues at stake by portraying 'cooperation' between the EU and on EU states as merely linear processes based on apparently neutral indicators, they also erase the complexities of the contexts in which these policies are made. This is indicative of the distance European bureaucracy has from actual realities on the ground. Confined in conferences and buffets, following their own wording and 'policy logics', it seems as if technocrats lack a feeling for the social situations and eruptions to come. The only reality that seems important to mention towards co-decision makers are the millions they spend for dictators and „migration management“.