05/2007: Koos Richelle

MAY 2007

Koos Richelle
Director-General of EuropeAid
(European Commission, Brussels)


‘Key features and outcomes of the European Commission’s
development cooperation activities on migration and asylum affairs’


Ü Eurasylum Ltd: EuropeAid’s mission is to implement the external aid instruments of the European Commission, which are funded by the European Community budget and the European Development Fund. This includes responsibility for all phases of the project cycle, from identification and appraisal of projects and programmes, to preparation of financing decisions, implementation and monitoring, and evaluation of projects and programmes. In the field of migration and asylum, under its Cards, Tacis, Meda and Fed programmes, EuropeAid has been supporting a wide range of development and technical assistance interventions in most developing and transition countries worldwide. Can you sum up some of EuropeAid’s key activities in the field of migration and asylum, describing their scope, intervention strategies and major outcomes, and highlighting some concrete project examples drawn from different regions of the world?

Ü Koos Richelle: The main instruments, as you have indicated, have indeed consisted of the various geographic programmes. However, in reality, the number of concrete projects – which is still relatively limited  does not reflect the very high level of political attention paid to the issue of migration. This is so for two main reasons: first, the mindset of the people working in the development sector has had to adapt to the fact that development and migration are linked, and that, indeed, it can be in the interest of our partner countries to improve, for example, their migration management capacities. Secondly, in our long-term strategic documents, such as the Country Strategy Papers (CSPs), migration issues used to be almost absent. This is now changing, since, for example, for all African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) countries, migration profiles were drafted and will be included in the CSPs.

Now, to come back to your question, I want to stress that we are trying to find a balanced approach. On the one hand, we are supporting actions which can be interpreted as being more ‘restrictive’, such as support for document security, border management or the provision of facilities for border guards, for example in the Ukraine. On the other hand, however, we also support projects that aim, for example, to stimulate legal migration, defend migrants rights, and ensure better protection for refugees. These projects are designed to stimulate the positive effects migration can have on the development of our partner countries. Examples of such projects can be found in North and West Africa, but also in Asia and former Soviet Union states such as Moldova.

Ü Eurasylum Ltd: The main EU thematic financial instrument in support of development co-operation activities in the field of migration and asylum, which is complementary to EuropeAid’s geographic programmes, is the AENEAS Programme.The purpose of this programme is to promote EU cooperation with third countries in the field of migration and, in partnership with them, to contribute to: the development of legislation in the field of migration; the development of legal migration; the development of legislation and national practices on international protection and asylum; the development of policies to stem illegal migration, including trafficking in human beings; and the facilitation of readmission and sustainable reintegration of returnees. The AENEAS yearly budget was approximately EUR 30 million in 2005 and EUR 40 million in 2006. Can you discuss some of AENEAS key project interventions and most noteworthy outcomes to date?

Ü Koos Richelle: Actually, the AENEAS programme started in 2004, with a budget of approximately EUR 34 million. The projects selected under AENEAS 2004 have now been running for approximately one year, and the initial results are positive. Since all the projects are basically in the middle of their implementation phase, it might be too early to report on concrete outcomes. However, to give you some examples of the wide scope of actions supported, we have funded a human rights network to enhance civil society participation in human rights management of migration and asylum in the Southern Mediterranean and Middle East; we have provided a EUR 4 million contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) programme to promote poverty alleviation through the development of remittance services supporting the rural poor; and we work with UNHCR to develop a coordinating mechanism to respond effectively to asylum, migration and border management challenges in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.

Obviously, not everything was perfect during the first year of implementation, and we have constantly tried to improve, for example, issues of co-ordination with the Delegations of the European Commission. This has improved considerably during the evaluation of the 2005 call for proposal (which had a budget of EUR 44 million), and the Delegations are now closely linked to the selection process.

Some very interesting projects have been selected, and I am especially curious to learn more about the outcome of some of the more ‘avant-garde’ projects. These include an interesting project that aims to create the preconditions for improving the management of labour migration between Egypt, Morocco and Italy. Another project seeks to promote regular migration from Colombia to Spain and to enhance the development impact of migration. We also work with Ghana, to build local capacity to control illegal immigration by preventing and combating document fraud, and by improving the processes through which documents are issued in Ghana.

In total, 67 projects were selected under these two calls, and we are now in the final stages of the 2006 Call for Proposals. One issue that worries me somewhat is that, following the evaluation of the proposals, 40% of the projects were granted to international organisations, 30% to NGOs and only 20% to Member States. We would like to see a more active role of our Member States, including on projects which might not directly serve their national migration interests. This might include, for example, projects involving diasporas established on the territory of the EU member states. Paradoxically, this will serve a double purpose, since research shows that migrants with an active link to their home countries, for example through the creation of small businesses, tend to reintegrate more effectively into these countries in case of return.

Ü Eurasylum Ltd: On 20 December 2005, the Presidents of the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament endorsed a major EU development policy document, the European Consensus on Development, which constitutes a milestone in the history of EU development co-operation. For the first time in fifty years, common values, principles, objectives and means to eradicate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals were defined at the European Union level. In the field of migration, the European Consensus on Development reaffirms, inter alia, that the EU will strive to make migration a positive factor for development, through the promotion of concrete measures aimed at eradicating poverty, facilitating remittances, limiting the ‘brain drain’ and, more broadly, integrating migration and refugee issues into all country and regional strategies and partnerships with third countries. Considering that the European Union is the world’s largest provider of development assistance, and that EuropeAid also supports activities implemented by a range of UN agencies and other international organisations, how would you describe the relative role and contribution of EU development cooperation in the field of migration within the global development aid efforts in this policy area?

Ü Koos Richelle: Well, here I would like to take the opportunity to focus on the future, and on what we have been preparing in recent months, since we have now entered a very different development aid environment. We have a new budget, new instruments, new programming documents, and to stay with our topic, increased awareness of the role of migration in development.

When the Millennium Development Goals were adopted in 2000, migration was not mentioned in the final document, and the relationship between migration and the MDGs was not receiving significant attention, despite the fact that the link between migration and development was increasingly being recognised. In the long term, development can reduce migration pressures and migration can have a significant impact on a country’s development. Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) often do not adequately address this link. As mentioned earlier, we ourselves have only recently started to include migration in our programming documents, and in addition to the new thematic programme on migration and asylum, other thematic programmes now take migration-related issues into account. These include the investing in people programme, as well as the European Initiative for Democratisation and Human Rights (EIDHR). Under the 9th EDF, we have earmarked EUR 25 million for an ACP migration facility, which should contribute very substantially to our co-operation efforts with these countries. Furthermore, we intend to work closely with these countries to help them integrate the migration dimension into their national development policies.

Migration can play an important role in the achievement of the MDGs, both in a negative and positive way. The United Nations Population Fund published a report in 2005 on the role of migration in achieving the development goals. The report shows that there is wide scope for migration-related activities to contribute to the MDGs. With regard to relations between host countries and countries of origin, there are many possible win-win scenarios. Unfortunately, the lose-lose scenarios (brain drain, social tensions, stricter entry procedures etc) receive most of the attention. It is our aim to contribute to changes in this area, both by promoting the perception of voluntary migration as an opportunity, instead of as a problem, as well as by promoting good practices on migration and development.

As you know, the European Council adopted in December 2005 the ‘Global Approach to Migration’, which also takes a balanced approach towards migration. EuropeAid works closely with DG RELEX, Development and JLS to ensure full co-ordination to the follow up of this Global Approach. Obviously, our role is crucial in certain aspects of its implementation.

This coming Summer we will publish two new documents. The first will be a study on how to operationalise our commitment to strengthening the positive nexus between migration and development. The second document will be a tool-kit for our delegations to support them in planning and designing projects in this field.

So, as you can see, despite the fact that we have spent some EUR 400/500 million on asylum, migration and border management projects since 2000, we are still only beginning to act seriously on the strengthening of EuropAid’s contribution to EU development cooperation in the field of migration, within the global development aid efforts. But we have prepared ourselves well.