Fear of Migration: Is the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood Policy Fading Away?
The Arab uprisings constituted a major turning point for most of the countries in the EU’s southern neighbourhood as well as for the EU itself, which had to respond to these developments. During the uprisings, people demanded freedom, basic human rights and better prospects for the future. Five years on, the democratic aspirations embedded in the uprisings have largely been replaced by fears of growing instability and insecurity in the region. Only in Tunisia has the ensuing transition led to some positive developments, although the situation is still fragile. Egypt is again under military control, and the violence continues in Syria and Libya. The rise of ISIL/Daesh is another destabilizing factor which the EU is facing in its neighbourhood. The worsened security outlook for the broader region has led to significant migration flows to neighbouring countries and the EU. Thousands of people are trying to reach Europe at any cost and the EU is ineffectual in preventing risky trafficking by unsafe vessels, resulting in the loss of lives at sea. These are just a few of the consequences of the Arab Spring, clearly indicating that the EU policies, since the popular uprisings began, were neither sufficient nor effective. The EU’s neighbourhood policy was primarily intended to serve as an instrument to accelerate economic cooperation between the EU and its neighbours, but it was also applied as a response to the Arab Spring. It is against this backdrop that the EU is currently reviewing its Neighbourhood Policy. This process aims to consult as widely as possible both with partners in the neighbouring countries and with stakeholders across the EU, in order to frame the future direction of the ENP. The earlier attempt to streamline the ENP in 2011 to better respond to the ongoing developments, including migration, has had limited results. The developments in the region have underlined challenges related to the ENP, which was initially designed to create stability by accelerating economic cooperation between the EU and its neighbours. However, restricting illegal migration is far from these original aims, which also included advancing “people-to-people” contacts between the EU its Southern Partner countries. Additionally, yet outside of the ENP context, the Commission has proposed immediate and midterm measures to tackle the crisis situation in the Mediterranean by increasing patrols, internal burden sharing, and by suggesting that member states should consider CSDP operations in order to dismantle traffickers’ networks and to combat the smuggling of people. Based on the frustration related to the ENP on both sides of the Mediterranean, this paper asks to what extent migration, which is a deeply political question and firmly in the hands of the EU member states, can be tackled within the ENP framework. The paper will first discuss the ENP as a response to developments in the EU’s southern neighbourhood in general, and then analyse the key ENP instruments utilised to address the migration challenges that have emerged.
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