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Limited results of AU-EU summit demonstrate difficulty of third-country partnerships with tight near-term focus & mismatched goals
Press Release
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Limited results of AU-EU summit demonstrate difficulty of third-country partnerships with tight near-term focus & mismatched goals

BRUSSELS — The failure of last week’s African Union-European Union summit to produce tangible commitments on migration, beyond a long-overdue plan to evacuate thousands of African migrants stranded in Libya, demonstrates the difficulty of partnerships that do not reflect the contexts and priorities of all partners, as a new report outlines.

With some officials describing the summit as a step back from commitments made at the Valletta conference that preceded the 2016 launch of the Migration Partnership Framework, the Migration Policy Institute – MPI Europe report offers a timely moment to assess whether EU ambitions have been lost in translation. Or are they just too far removed from those of their African partners?

The report, 'EU Migration Partnerships: a work in progress', examines the Migration Partnership Framework agreed to by European policymakers as a means of advancing migration-management goals within a broader context of cooperation on development and other areas. The partnership framework identified five priority countries: Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, with hoped-for engagement with others as well. Though such partnerships with migrant-transit and sending countries have been a feature of policy for two decades, policymakers latched onto the concept with new urgency after the migration crisis of 2015-2016.

MPI Europe Director Elizabeth Collett and co-author Aliyyah Ahad compare these second-generation partnerships to earlier models, finding them more sophisticated in leveraging existing bilateral relationships and with a greater migration focus than prior agreements (referred to as mobility partnerships).

But they caution that there are flaws inherent in the conceptualisation of the framework that could limit effectiveness of the partnerships. Among them: A reactive focus on countries that are of concern today, rather than a pre-emptive strategy to engage with countries that might experience instability in the future and become the new transit routes and origins for migrant and refugee flows. 'In five years’ time, it is likely that the EU locus of concern will have shifted, raising questions about the validity of the present investments', the authors write.

Even as EU policymakers are pledging to mobilise up to 44 billion euros in investments for third-country partners, the report questions the lack of solid EU benchmarks for success. 'Investing deeply and in a high-profile manner, as is being done through the partnership framework, demands evidence that these investments will lead with relative certainty to demonstrable change. However, aside from a binary focus on decreasing flows and increasing returns, few benchmarks are clear', the authors find.

Originally drafted for a meeting of MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration in February 2017, the report examines the varying migration landscapes in several EU partner countries: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali and Niger, as well as their political, economic and policy contexts.

Read the report at: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/eu-migration-partnerships-work-progress.

This is the third in a Transatlantic Council series, 'Building Partnerships to Respond to the Next Decade’s Migration Challenges'. The series concludes with a Council Statement on Thursday that captures the Council’s discussions over innovative ways to foster collaborative bilateral and regional cooperation at a time when migration-management and refugee-reception systems have been heavily taxed by unplanned mixed flows of migrants and asylum seekers.

Reports in the series are collected here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/migrants-migration-and-development-transatlantic-council-migration/building-partnerships.


The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. MPI Europe, based in Brussels, provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe.