A New Beginning in the Mediterranean Immigration Policy Francisco Aldecoa. Catedrático de Relaciones Internacionales UCM y vicepresidente del CFEME.

I hope that the new Mediterranean Immigration Policy may become a new beginning  to cope the human tragedy in the European coasts.

The growing and ongoing humanitarian tragedy in the Mediterranean.

One of the great problems that all of us as Europeans have is the tragedy in the Mediterranean, where there are thousands of refugees and hundreds of people dying at sea during the last months. Some looking for a better life, and some simply looking to survive. They are victims of human traffickers and in a certain way also victims of the insensitivity of European public opinion.

We must clearly state that the responsibility for the solution of this crisis is the responsibility of the EU as a whole, not just the Mediterranean countries, specifically Italy, Greece, Malta, Spain and others.

Moreover, I think it is possible to apply Article 222 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the so-called “solidarity clause” to this situation. This article establishes “The Union and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the object of a… natural or man-made disaster. The Union shall mobilise all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States.”

The relevant decision of the European Council of the 23rd of April is the beginning of the change.

In my opinion the declaration is a great step since it states that, “the situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea. “ And that is why it declares that “We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility.”

For this reason, the European Council entrusts various agencies such as EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST to use force through a possible CSDP mission with the objective of fighting against smugglers following international law.

Days after, the High Representative asked the United Nations Security Council to authorize the use of force, which still has not been obtained.

The Immigration Agenda

The Commission has created a very complete and relevant agenda that establishes a combination of measures for the following months as a consequence of the decisions adopted by the European Council, called “A European Agenda on Migration.” This agenda has different measures, some of them related to the resolution of root cause problems and thus tied to the EU development cooperation policy.

However, media outlets have only focused on the issue of quotas – the way the refugees would be distributed among member states and the criteria for their distribution.

The conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council on CSDP of the 18th of May.

Perhaps the most effective decision has come out of this Council – the decision to launch a crisis management mission.  The decision states that the Council “approves the Crisis Management Concept for, and adopts the Council Decision establishing a CSDP operation to contribute to the disruption of human smuggling networks, in line with international law.”

This decision is already in operation. It’s under the command of an Italian admiral. The only thing missing is the UN Security Council authorization to know the scope of the mission and the extent of the possible use of force beyond international waters where such need may arise.

Conclusion

It is important to understand that there has been a great advance and a new beginning to confront the man-made tragedy in the Mediterranean. The success of this new policy will depend on the support of European citizens and all the member states and on the understanding that this is a European problem and hence the solutions have to come from the EU as a whole and not just from individual member states.

We hope this step will materialize into a new and substantial immigration policy, which will resolve this tragedy in a definitive way.