19 December 2023
At its meeting last week, the European Council – made up of the heads of state and government of EU member states – backed the European Commission’s proposal to boost the EU’s 2021-27 border budgets by €2 billion. This is not enough for the European Parliament, however, which would like to see the budgets increased by €3 billion. Meanwhile, all three institutions have different positions on the proposed increase for development aid, which includes funding for externalised migration control.
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In 2020, the EU approved its 2021-27 budget, formally known as the “Multiannual Financial Framework,” which made almost €26 billion available under the heading of “Migration and Border Management.” This is distributed through budgets such as the Integrated Border Management Fund and the Asylum and Migration Fund, as well as to agencies such as Frontex and the EU Asylum Agency.
Under the heading “Neighbourhood and the World,” €111 billion is available for aid, development and cooperation projects, with some 10% of the total supposed to be spent on migration-related projects.
In summer, the Commission published a proposal to revise the 2021-27 budget, arguing for increases of €2 billion in the migration budget and €10.5 billion in the development budget, due to “heightened global economic and political instability,” growing global migration, and the “upward trend” of “migratory pressure at the Union borders.”
At the time, Statewatch, the Transnational Institute and 350.org condemned the proposal for proposing a huge increase in border funding whilst failing to include any new commitments for addressing climate change.
"European policy has been hijacked by a powerful fossil fuel and agribusiness lobby as well as border and surveillance lobby. They are frog-marching us all to a more dangerous and insecure future," said Nicolò Wojewoda, Europe Regional Director for 350.org.
The European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Council have since been discussing the proposal.
While the Council of the EU is yet to reach its final negotiating position, last week’s meeting of the European Council – made up of heads of state and government, rather than the ministers and officials that sit within the Council of the EU – will set the tone for its ongoing negotiations.
The European Council’s conclusions (pdf) agree with the Commission’s proposal of a €2 billion increase for the migration budget, but are thriftier in relation to the external challenges heading, stating:
“In order to allow the Union to provide the necessary support in a context of extraordinary geopolitical tension, the priorities of Heading 6 will be reinforced by EUR [7,6 billion]. This will help to maintain effective migration cooperation with third countries, including the support for Syrian refugees in Türkiye and the broader region, as well as the continuation of actions previously undertaken through the EU Trust Fund for Africa. It will also help to support the Western Balkans, the Southern neighbourhood and Africa, including partnerships and funding for the migration routes.” [square brackets in original text]
The Parliament, meanwhile, wants to splash the cash: its interim report on the Commission’s proposal, adopted at the beginning of October, calls for “a further reinforcement over and above the Commission proposal of EUR 1 billion in current prices," adding up to a total of €3 billion extra on top of the amounts agreed in 2020.
The Parliament would also like an extra €1 billion for Heading 6, Neighbourhood and the World, making a total increase of €11.5 billion above the 2020 agreement.
The final decision will be subject to negotiations, but whatever is decided, billions more euros will be going to strengthen the EU’s border system, both in Europe and beyond.
Rights groups have hit back at the European Commission’s commitment to radically increase border spending in spite of multiple human rights scandals on Europe’s borders; and contrasted it to the lack of new support and finance for climate action following last month’s record heatwave.
In June the European Commission proposed amendments to the EU’s budget for the 2021-27 period, arguing that existing finances are at “the point of exhaustion”. The changes sought by the Commission would increase the budget for “migration and external challenges” by €15 billion.
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