The Summit of Heads of State and Government of the group of 27 that will be held in Brussels in December could be the real start for European initiatives in Africa to block migrants. This was announced Wednesday by the president of the European Council Donald Tusk, thus responding to the many pressures the Italian government sends him on a daily basis.
After the agreement with Turkey, which has virtually eliminated arrivals through the Aegean Sea, the Central Mediterranean Sea is in fact the most trodden route. Tusk confirmed: “The flows into the Greek islands were reduced by 98 percent.” He also reminded that “in the past two years, the flows on the route from Africa to Italy have remained virtually unchanged.” The President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker issued a similar statement Wednesday.
The impression is that after so much talk, this time Europe could really get to enter into economic agreements with African countries with the sole purpose to stop the departures. At the December summit, the results from work in Senegal, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Ethiopia — the top five countries in the migration pact — will be presented. Actually, negotiations have already begun in Abuja, Nigeria, for an agreement on re-entries.
On Tuesday night, Matteo Renzi participated in the talk show “Porta a Porta” on the state television channel RAI 1. He again threatened to block the E.U. budget if European countries do not start welcoming migrants, but at the same time he sounded the alarm on the country’s ability to keep up with the current pace of landings without a European intervention on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. The prime minister said: “We either get to March, or Italy won’t be able to handle a year like the last one.” And he was crystal clear about the migrants: “We have to stop them.”
While waiting for Europe’s decision, the first funds to be devoted to cooperation have arrived. In the draft of the discussions, along with €280 million for the reception of migrants in Italy, there are another €200 million “for extraordinary measures aimed at resuming dialogue with African countries key on the migratory routes.”
The European Union will likely provide at least €44 billion to be invested in development projects in those African countries that agree to work together in stopping migrants. It remains to be seen what guarantees there are for the men, women and children who are fleeing brutal regimes and misery. Although both Brussels and Rome ensure that respect for human rights will be one of the essential conditions for reaching an agreement, it is clear that the only way to stop the departures is by closing borders, which can be done only by force.
On Wednesday, the director of Frontex — the European Border and Coast Guard — arrived in Rome. According to him, Europe has executed up to 40 percent of the ordered repatriations. In 2016, there have been 12,406 in Italy.