In a Communication  released on 7 June 2016, the European Commission proposed a new concept of cooperation with third countries, the Partnership Framework. This new approach will tie all existing EU and Member States’ instruments and tools available in external cooperation to third countries’ abilities to stop people coming to Europe. The Communications states that it is a  priority  to see a reduction of irregular arrivals and increased numbers of returns to countries of origin and transit.

According to the Communication, the EU will  develop a mix of positive and negative incentives that will be integrated into  EU’s development aid, neighbourhood, trade, energy and security policies. Countries cooperating with the EU on readmitting their own nationals and third country nationals will be rewarded, as well as those taking action to adequately host people fleeing conflict and persecution.

Agreements, or “compacts”, are proposed with key countries, and will become the key component of the overall relationship between these countries and the EU. “In the short term we will deliver compacts with Jordan and Lebanon and take steps to agree further ones with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia. We also intend to increase our engagement with Tunisia and Libya,” the European Commission stated.

There is an apparent lack of any sort of commitment to human rights standards and safeguards that will ensure that persons are not returned to countries where their fundamental rights may be at risk. Amnesty International  raised serious concerns over the idea of enhancing cooperation with Libya, highlighting several human rights violations in the country and at the hands of Libyan Border Guards. “Europe shouldn’t even think about migration cooperation arrangements with Libya if it results, directly or indirectly, in such shocking human rights violations,” stated Amnesty International’s Magdalena Mughrabi.

The Communication regularly refers to the EU-Turkey deal as a good practice to be duplicated with other countries. ECRE, as well as other NGOS and MEPS, has repeatedly warned that the EU-Turkey deal is an unlawful and unethical agreement and creates a dangerous precedent in external cooperation.

In terms of development cooperation, countries that cooperate in return and migration management will be prioritised in terms of funding. Organisations such as Platforma have already criticised this approach of tying development cooperation to the countries’ performance in the field of migration. “Diverting European Development Fund resources towards projects pursuing security objectives, such as border management and control jeopardizes long-term, global objectives to shorter-term concerns,” the organisation argues.

It is also concerning that no clear commitments are made to open up safe and legal channels to Europe. The Communication suggests rather that Europe’s international partners should assume their responsibility in global resettlement efforts. Resettlement, labour migration and visas are suggested as suitable rewards and leverage for the partner countries, following the model of the EU- Turkey deal.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 June 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.