Security and migration amongst EU priorities for cooperation with "modern, democratic" Egypt
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Joint priorities adopted today by the EU and Egypt for 2017 to 2020 include a commitment from the EU to "support the Egyptian government's efforts to strengthen its migration governance framework, including elements of legislative reform and strategies for migration management," and to "support Egypts efforts to prevent and combat irregular migration, trafficking and smuggling of human beings, including identifying and assisting victims of trafficking."
The agreed priorities (pdf) on migration come under the heading of 'Enhancing stability', which also encompasses 'A modern, democratic state' - "Egypt and the EU are committed to ensuring accountability, the rule of law, the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms and responding to the demands of their citizens" - and 'Security and terrorism':
"Combating these threats represents a common goal of the EU and Egypt who can cooperate through a comprehensive approach that will address the root causes of terrorism with due respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, in order to successfully counter and prevent radicalisation and promote socio-economic development."
The section on migration issues adds that the EU:
"will also seek to support and strengthen Egyptian capacity to protect migrants rights and to provide protection to those who qualify for it, in line with international standards. The EU and Egypt will explore cooperation on the voluntary return of irregular migrants to their country of origin to ensure that migration is globally managed in a legal manner. This will go hand in hand with cooperation in addressing root causes of irregular migration, in particular underdevelopment, poverty and unemployment."
The paper mentions neither the Valletta nor Khartoum processes, two initiatives established in recent years by the EU, its Member States and numerous African states - including Egypt - with the aim of controlling and limiting migration towards Europe.
Prior to the meeting the EU was urged by human rights organisation EuroMed Rights to "raise human rights concerns publicly with its Egyptian counterpart," and to use "this high-level meeting should be the opportunity to communicate to Egypt, and to public opinion in Europe, that the EU does not endorse Egypts repressive policies and fully expects that meaningful human rights and democratic reform must take place."
Listing cases of enforced disappearance, a new law governing NGOs that "will make it almost impossible for an independent civil society organisation to survive in Egypt," the ongoing detention and harassment of opposition political activists, and the extensive blocking of websites, the organisation concluded that:
"The EU cannot expect to have a thriving bilateral relation with a country that eradicates its own civil society and locks up or kills any form of peaceful dissent."
Human Rights Watch also spoke out prior to the meeting, demanding that: "The European Union and its member states should insist on including human rights concerns on the agenda." Lotte Leicht, the group's Brussels director, said:
The EU needs to put itself squarely on the side of Egyptians who courageously stand for basic rights when meeting with a government known for mass killings rather than respect for those rights.
It appears that the EU did not heed these calls, with the Council's press release (pdf) declaring that: "The EU-Egypt partnership priorities are guided by a shared commitment to the universal values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights," and the document adopted by the two parties stating:
"The Partnership Priorities should contribute to meeting the aspirations of the people of both sides of the Mediterranean, particularly in ensuring social justice, decent job opportunities, economic prosperity and substantially improved living conditions, thus cementing the stability of Egypt and the EU. Inclusive growth, underpinned by innovation, and effective and participatory governance, governed by the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, are key aspects of these goals."
While the commitments outlined in the joint document are vague, some more detailed official thinking on cooperation with Egypt on migration matters came to light through a "non-paper" produced by the European External Action Service in December 2016.
The document was produced in the run-up to "an EU Senior Officials Mission on migration" that in January 2017 "visited Egypt to identify avenues for a stronger, more strategic and comprehensive cooperation on migration based on the future PPs [partnership priorities]," according to the an EU working document on the EU-Egypt relationship (pdf).
The paper listed seven potential priorities in detail:
1. Rights-based migration governance and management, including prevention and fight against smuggling/human trafficking
2. Cooperation with FRONTEX and Seahorse
3. Additional support to socio-economic development and migration-prone groups and host communities, and protection of refugees (including through resettlement) and other vulnerable groups of migrants
4. Pilot initiatives on legal migration and mobility (also involving Egyptian diaspora)
5. Practical cooperation to foster the return of irregular migrants to Egypt
6. Asylum and Regional Protection and Development Programme
7. Humanitarian assistance
A recent Statewatch Analysis (pdf) also offered further details on the EU's priorities and efforts in Egypt.
Council of the EU press release, EU and Egypt adopt their partnership priorities, 25 July 2017 (pdf)
EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities 2017-2020, 16 June 2017 (pdf, as adopted)
European Commission/High Representative Joint Staff Working Document, Report on EU-Egypt relations in the framework of the ENP, 13 July 2017 (SWD(2017) 271 final, pdf)
Paolo Cuttitta, Egypt: Europe's other north African border, April 2017 (pdf)
Sofian Philip Naceur and Tom Rollins, Europe's migration trade with Egypt, Mada Masr, 1 February 2017
European External Action Service "non-paper": how can we stop migration from Egypt?, Statewatch News Online, December 2016
Beyond the borders: overview of "external migration dialogues and processes", Statewatch News Online, August 2016
Nick Grinstead, The Khartoum process: Shifting the burden, Clingendael, 22 February 2016
The 'Khartoum Process': beefing up borders in east Africa, Statewatch News Online, October 2015
Maimuna Mohamud and Dr. Cindy Horst, New EU approach to Horn of Africa migration sets worrying precedent, African Arguments, 16 April 2015
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