28 March 2012
Western Mediterranean Forum
From Tunis in 2003 to Malta in 2012: the first 5+5 Dialogue summit since the Arab uprising focuses on immigration and security
The Western Mediterranean Forum (made up of the governments of Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia,) met in Malta on 5 and 6 October 2012 to take part in the 5+5 Dialogue. Although working groups on a variety of issues (transport, defence, migration, home affairs, or the environment) have met regularly since the Forum's establishment in 1990, the Malta summit was the first meeting of the heads of states and governments in nine years (and since the uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East began in December 2011).
Announcing a "new phase in the wider regional dynamics" brought about by the "political transformation experienced in the Maghreb", the Malta Declaration adopted on 6 October differs from the 2003 Tunis declaration  on two major issues: the introduction of a migration task force and cooperation on security issues.
The Malta declaration
promotes cooperation on a number of security issues, ranging
from civil protection systems, conflict prevention, and regional
security (focusing especially on "transnational arms trafficking"
and "destabilising threats originating in neighbouring regions")
to transnational terrorism and organised crime.
The 2003 declaration was far vaguer and consisted more of declarations of intent, with paragraphs broadly condemning "terrorism [and] organised transnational crime". The 2012 declaration is specific about the practical implementation of the security agenda, stating the need for "training activities, technology transfer, intelligence cooperation and development aid". This ambitious cooperation plan reflects certain aspects of the EU's new Neighbourhood Policy  and the Dialogue on Migration, Mobility and Security , both issued in May 2011 in the wake of the Arab uprisings.
Making development aid conditional on security objectives is also in line with EU communications from 2011 in which "stricter conditionality and incentives for best performers" [see note 3] are part of the new approach to Europe's "neighbourhood".
The EU's 2011 Joint Communication
on a Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity  with
the Southern Mediterranean stated:
"A radically changing political landscape in the Southern Mediterranean requires a change in the EU's approach to the region - the underlying themes of differentiation, conditionality and of a partnership between our societies are part of the ongoing review of the European Neighbourhood Policy".
Task force on migration
Reflecting the EU's 2011 Communication on a Dialogue for Migration, Mobility and Security  and the newly recently-adopted 2011 Global Approach to Migration and Mobility , the Malta declaration lays much emphasis on migration management and the fight against irregular migration and its root causes.
Contrary to the Tunis declaration of 2003, which simply referred to conclusions adopted during the previous 5+5 Dialogue on migration, the Malta declaration contains one specific section on "migration and development" in an effort to promote a comprehensive migration management strategy that does not focus on "control measures only".
The interest in cooperation
in this area was confirmed by the Tunisian prime minister Moncef
Marzouki who announced the creation of a "humanitarian task
force" on migration "to prevent these migrations and
help people in order to avoid tragedies at sea."
The prime minister's statement echoes the growing concern expressed by politicians and civil society over the death toll at sea of irregular migrants trying to reach European shores. "The democratic urgency is immigration," said Marzouki. "Our youth has strong aspirations but we cannot perform miracles" regarding economic development and they "will have to be patient". 
It remains to be seen how efforts to prevent irregular migration will be made compatible with the right to emigrate, as enshrined in article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But it seems that the North African countries, whilst apparently basing their migration strategy on humanitarian concerns and development aspirations are also aligning themselves with the EU's aims of combating irregular migration and promoting circular migration in the claimed aim of helping development in migrants' countries of origin.
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