LONDON: The EU could adopt a “carrot and stick” approach to stop the repatriation of migrants to non-EU countries and illegal immigration, applying economic and diplomatic pressure on other countries to stem the flow of people to Europe, leaked documents suggest.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, EU countries received 159,410 people across the Mediterranean in 2022, while 179,600 were given notices to leave EU member states for their countries. In total, only 33,600 did so.
Pressure has been building in Europe, particularly in Sweden, which took in the most refugees per capita of any EU state during the 2015 migrant crisis and which took over the rotating EU presidency this month, to find ways to reverse the one-way traffic of people. From Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
In a draft communique, seen by The Guardian, ahead of a meeting of 27 EU leaders in Brussels next month, the EU suggested the EU could pay aid to non-EU states as they prepare to accept the future repatriation of their citizens, along with the bloc. Assessing ways to reduce illegal migration by “developing, trade and all relevant EU policies, instruments and tools, including access to legal migration including visas”.
A meeting of interior ministers in the Swedish capital Stockholm this week will also look at ways to reform Europe’s policies on migration, including by facilitating migration to other European, non-EU states, with Serbia high on the agenda.
Serbia currently does not have visa requirements for many countries from which migrants travel, making it a “hub for illegal immigration” in the EU, according to a cross-party group of Dutch lawmakers in December.
The intervention by Dutch politicians was aimed at persuading Brussels to apply pressure on the Balkan state, which is an EU membership candidate, to change its visa policy to be more in line with its EU neighbors or risk having its application rejected.
This week, the Dutch government called on the European Commission to use all the tools at its disposal to discourage migrants and return failed asylum seekers, including using trade agreements and development aid.
Sweden’s ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, meanwhile, called for a “carrot and stick” approach to immigration in Europe.
Speaking to reporters recently, he said: “Haven’t we come to a point where we have to use both the carrot and the stick a little bit more efficiently than we’ve been doing so far? The carrot is always easy, but we have to look more carefully … at our stick.”
However, there are fears that using development aid as a weapon to get other countries to comply with the EU’s wishes could have a detrimental effect on the countries that need the aid the most, and from which many of the migrants who wish to repatriate to the EU originate. Poverty, instability and other factors.
Oxfam’s head of EU office Evien van Roemburg told The Guardian: “The EU’s obsessive focus on externalizing its migration responsibilities is inconsistent with its continued statement of equal partnership with non-EU countries. Instead, the EU bullies them to serve their narrow-minded political objectives.
“Aid means helping people out of poverty so that immigration doesn’t stop.”