Depoliticising migration

The issue has become too politicised at a time when there is a pressing need to find pragmatic solutions.


A broad agreement between the 28 EU Member States on the implementation of migration policies is out of reach to be updated according to the June EU summit. The subject is notably controversial; the issue has become too politicised at a time when there is a pressing need to find pragmatic solutions. If we don’t find a solution, the issue could overtake the democratic debate prior to the European Parliament elections in May 2019. The pragmatic vision of Michel Foucher: the depoliticisation of migration.


It’s possible to move forward if we can distinguish between the short term and the longer term, between solutions that have been discussed in a restricted group from a global approach. The German attempt to mutualise the consequences of a unilateral decision in 2015 was bound to fail, as it ignored all previous debates and the history of the nations of the European Union. Also, the present external migration only affects a few distinct countries.

The first priority is the harmonisation of the right of asylum. The disparities are significant: Germany accepts 57% of all applications, the Netherlands 80% and Sweden 72%, whilst France accepts only 26% (and Hungary 15%). According to the European Stability Initiative, four member states received three quarters of all asylum applications (Germany, France, Italy and Greece) and handled half a million applications in 2017. On the basis of such findings these member states should be able to agree amongst themselves in terms of how best to harmonise the conditions for obtaining political asylum, at least in the short term, without having to wait for a near impossible EU-wide agreement.

The other priority is to continue to work with the respective countries of origin whose nationals are not entitled to the right of asylum, which is the vast majority of applicants. An awareness of increasing disparities in terms of standards and ways of life makes the will to leave irrepressible.

We must therefore go beyond the present readmission agreements and develop a Euro-African co-development strategy.

Why can a Euro-African program based on contractual movement not be envisaged? Annual quotas for migrants, traveling without risk, movement of people for the purpose of training (students, medical assistance / caregivers, apprentices, leaders of associations, journalists, artists, etc.) in return for a promise to return to the country of origin, in collaboration with migrant associations. Such a quadripartite agreement between the member states and associations of the countries of origin and those of destination would be supported by significant European funding. This innovative Euro-African policy is not restrictive in nature, nor would it exclude working in parallel on deterring migrants from leaving together with local authorities or NGOs.

Such a migration program for training and return would combine, in strict subsidiarity, the EU, the member states and the local agencies. We must therefore go beyond the present readmission agreements and develop a Euro-African co-development strategy.

In short, it is a matter of “depoliticising” the question of migration by treating it as a question of mobility and to provide it with pragmatic answers based on precise knowledge of the history and geography of the flows.

It is a matter of “depoliticising” the question of migration by treating it as a question of mobility

But for such policies for non EU citizens to be acceptable, a greater effort must be made to implement measures, more than equivalent , in favour of those European citizens who have lost hope and are in need of help. Rather than paying attention to national-populist leaders who claim to embody ”the people” while undermining democracy, it would be crucial to address those who vote for such leaders and to manage the Cohesion Funds in such a way that our goal of a Social Europe can be achieved. Electoral maps clearly show the places such interventions should take place.

The European Union must demonstrate its purpose and usefulness to those who feel left out. To prevent the migration controversy from turning the democratic debate into national-populist rhetoric, the project of a social Europe must be considered a top priority. Intelligent management of Euro-African mobility should form part of an ambitious social policy of the European Union.

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