EU moves ahead with military response to migration; pushes for Europe-wide migrant "quotas"

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The EU's proposal to try and deal with the crisis in the Mediterranean by destroying boats used to transport migrants is moving ahead, with foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini making the EU's case for military action to the UN Security Council today. The proposed military effort will feature in the Commission's forthcoming 'Agenda on Migration', to be published on Wednesday (pdf), which will revolve around four themes: "a strong common asylum policy, the fight against trafficking and the prevention of irregular migration, managing external borders, and a new policy on legal migration."

According to The Guardian:

"Britain is drafting the UN security council resolution that would authorise the mission... It would come under Italian command, have the participation of around 10 EU countries, including Britain, France, Spain, and Italy, and could also drag in Nato although there are no initial plans for alliance involvement.

"...The British draft is believed to call for the 'use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers'."

Yesterday Member States' defence ministers met in the French city of Lorient to discuss "the sharing of intelligence about smugglers to prevent the flow of migrants." They "agreed on sharing of intelligence about smugglers to prevent the flow of desperate migrants via Libya, but said a UN mandate would be necessary if effective action were to be taken."

Libya is opposed to the proposed military action. Libya's ambassador to the UN told the BBC World Service:

"The Libyan government has not been consulted by the European Union. They have left us in the dark about what their intentions are, what kind of military actions they are going to take in our territorial waters, so that is very worrying.


"We want to know... how they can distinguish between the fishers' boats and the traffickers' boats."

The EU's policing agency, Europol, has already set up a 'Joint Operational Team' (JOT MARE) (pdf), which is supposed to "tackle the organised criminal groups who are facilitating the journey of migrants by ship across the Mediterranean Sea to the EU."

Presumably the language of the proposed UN Security Council resolution will be rather more precise than the press reports surrounding it, which have freely conflated the terms 'smuggling' and 'trafficking'. In international law, there are significant differences between the two acts. Perhaps the key point to note, as put in article published by OpenDemocracy last November, is that:

"Migrants consent to being smuggled and their relationship with the smuggler stops once they have reached their destination. As defined under the law, victims of human trafficking do not always consent to the end result of the transaction, even if at times they do, and even if they do originally agree to a new job, a new location, or to being smuggled. The initial consent becomes legally irrelevant to the crime once the trafficker has used threat, coercion, or fraud to exploit the victim."

The EU's military initiative follows on from the EU's "ten point action plan on migration" (pdf) agreed in April, which included a proposal for: "A systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers." The "ten points" agreed in April are in fact just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attempts to deal with migration in the Mediterranean. See: Implementation of the actions under the Task Force Mediterannean and the Justice and Home Affairs Council conclusions of October (pdf). The 'Task Force Mediterannean' plans include 37 seperate proposals.

It has also emerged that the EU will try to force Member States to accept refugees through a quota system. According to a Commission proposal leaked by The Times and reported elsewhere:

"To ensure a fair and balanced participation of all member states to this common effort... the EU needs a permanent system for sharing the responsibility for large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers among member states."

The UK's new Conservative government is opposed to the plans, and EUobserver has reported that the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called them "mad and unfair".

The forthcoming Agenda on Migration follows on from the Commission's Agenda on Security, published two weeks ago. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos recently reasserted the need for strengthening cooperation with its "Southern neighbours - Egypt in particular," in a speech given during a trip to Egypt (pdf).

IN THE BACKGROUND: As the EU and its Member States work towards launching a military mission in the Mediterranean, it is worth considering the hope that some high-level figures in both EU and national politics have for a fully-fledged European army. Jean-Claude Juncker, for example, has recently reasserted the need for an EU army: "A bunch of chickens looks like a combat formation compared to the foreign and security policy of the European Union." See: Juncker: EU Military Forces? All Squawk, No Bite
(Defense News, link)

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