This is a commentary on the CoFoE proposals on ‘Migration’. CoFoE is the European Union’s hybrid citizen’s panel on the future policies and structure of the Union. Migration is often the issue where racism within the state and population expresses itself most strongly. Debate has become very polarised. If you’re interested, in the issue, you’ll remember the stories and pictures of the Greek refugee camps, and deaths in the Med and in the Channel together with the EU’s payments to Turkey, and the prosecution [ also here ] of rescue ship captains by Italy. Let’s hope this is the opportunity to bury “Fortress Europa”.

We should together recognise that one of the founding forces of the EU was the post ww2 atmosphere; recovering from war and its consequent mass displacements. In the European nations the tragedy was experienced by whole populations as victims or combatants.

There seems to be a growing need for authenticity and authority when speaking and writing, which I should ignore. Good ideas will survive dishonest attacks. I am proud though to be part of the group of people that initiated Lewisham Labour’s campaign which led to Lewisham becoming the first City of Sanctuary.

In order to comment on the proposals, I need to remind myself that Migrants can be categorised as workers, refugees, family unifications and students. As citizens of the world, we owe refugees a duty of care, as citizens of a currency zone we need workers to come to work and as humans we should help families to live together in safety. We should also be grateful that people want to come to our universities to study.  Sadly, in the UK, there is a xenophobic and ungenerous view that refugees are more deserving than workers, and that both of this class of migrants are full of liars and fraudsters and we need a punitive infrastructure to deter and imprison such malefactors. The UK shameful historic record on closing down the right to pass one’s citizenship onto spouses, and even children is on record. Civilised countries should do better. I am unable to comment on the other member states of the EU but it is clear that many countries in the EU have a post-colonial legacy and Germany has been generous in its approach which has caused its own tensions. I note the EU’s shameful partial response to the UN Global Compact on Immigration, which was a missed opportunity to show a united, world leadership on this critical issue. It shows the resistance in the the political leadership in the EU/.

This isn’t an article about the UK and its policies but designed as a late commentary on the CoFoE citizens panel 4’s proposals on Migration and the impact it would have on the EU.

What citizen’s want.

It seems that migration is a split competency in the EU, complicated by the common border agreement “Schengen” having a couple of opt-outs. [ Ireland, Romania & Cyprus ] . There exists a common border agency and coast guard agency, Frontex.  I trolled a UK yougov site once suggesting that the UK when a member should join Schengen in order to reduce the workload at the border; it didn’t go down well, although if I remember it scored about 50-50 so I had my supporters. Citizenship laws remain the preserve of the Member States, which may be one reason that there are no proposals on a human rights based approach to family citizenship rights. (CFR A7 & 9) There probably should be.

The ECP4 report also contains a series of proposals on foreign affairs which I have not commented on here, and many will have been superseded by the events in the Ukraine war.

I think the report is better than many expected. Certainly, there were some, to my mind, quite objectionable proposals on the digital platform, but none have made it through to this report.

There are 18 proposals that deal with migration and borders. Proposal 40, the last one, is,

We strongly recommend a complete overhaul of all agreements and legislation governing asylum and immigration in Europe. We further recommend that an ‘all of Europe’ approach be adopted.

ECP 4 Proposals to the COFOE Plenary

This is basically rip it up and start again, and the sub text is progressive and generous. I think it unlikely that this is the approach that will be taken and it maybe better that a more concrete plan and/or endpoint is handed over to the Commission/Council/Parliament. I find it curious that this is the last proposal. It takes a lot of reading to get there.

The Citizens’ Panels work in groups and develop the proposals independently; this  is why there are six proposals, (29, 33, 34, 36, 37, 39 & 40) proposing a common, fast, shared (in terms of funding, and final destination) migrant acceptance system and that the Dublin System, arguably designed to allow refugees to express a preference but now seen as a means of trapping refugees in the first country that they arrive in should be rewritten. There are two proposals asking for better welcoming facilities for refugees and other migrants. (10 & 31).

The fear in Another Europe is that any common system is likely to involve compromise between the most welcoming member states and the least welcoming, but the burden carried by the border states who are poorer, is disproportionate and should be shared, both in terms of processing cost, and in terms of acting as a final destination. We should also remember that the refugees have a view as to where they want to live, they may have family or be better suited to live in some countries rather than others. This preference must be an important factor.

A common migration system would be quite a big ask for the member states; they would be permitting another member state to agree to asylum applications but arguably, freedom of movement (for labour) is just as big a sharing of sovereignty.

Two proposals (7 & 28) talk of more broadly recognising extra-EU qualifications & maintaining common labour protections standards inc. but unmentioned a minimum wage. Number 28 talks about mitigating a brain drain from poorer areas in the EU, but Regional Policy is a better way of doing this. This ECP is weaker than some on proposing goals and programmes promoting economic equality and social security measures.  It would be a shame, or maybe a disaster if these demands were lost in a politics as usual scramble for power by the usual culprits.

Recommendation 27 talks of economic aid to “countries outside the European Union and from where there is a high outflux of migrants” and I can see nothing wrong with this, although it mustn’t become a subsidy for those countries’ border guards and refugee camps. The language has been carefully chosen to fall the right side of the line of acceptability but could disguise some very bad policy. Recommendation 9 talks of overseas offices of the EU for the issue of working entry permits. This would be an extension of competency and may easily go wrong although again in principle this might work effectively.

Determining if any of these proposals require treaty change is difficult for me, as I am not a lawyer. The two causes, that I have identified of treaty change are an extension of competencies and a change in the structures of the EU and/or the relationship between the institutions and member states. There is also the ‘Enhanced Co-operation Process’ which is an alternative to Treaty Change, although there maybe some resistance to using it as there seems to be a desire to minimise a varied commitment to the EU and its programmes. If so, the accelerationists mustn’t maximise their change agenda and in order to reduce the amount of opt-outs.

The end of fortress Europa?
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3 thoughts on “The end of fortress Europa?

  • 30th March 2022 at 1:36 pm

    The genuine creation of a European citizenship managed collectively by the member states through the institutions of the EU would be a major extension of competency and almost certainly require treaty change.

  • 30th March 2022 at 1:46 pm

    In should also add, that there seems to be a paradox in that 3rd country workers are admitted to a state to work but cannot move; this is why people wanting to go on tour, need complex and multiple visa applications and why when granted residence, people are limited to the countries that grant that residence, although since there’s no internal border control, they can travel, but not work. This was dicussed on a thread on the digital platform where opinion was divided, between those who thought that Brits in Europe should have their citizenship and mobility rights protected and those who thought this was a just disposition given the position of the UK government.

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