European Footprint in North Africa
Europe is investing significant resources in North Africa, especially in security and development. Various European initiatives in the region focus on threats such as mass migration, violent extremist organizations, and socio-economic instability. Since 2004, the Africa-EU partnership allocated €2.7 billion between immediate short-term funding in the event of crises and longer-term support for institutional capacity building in African peace and security.
To deal with mass migration, the European Union (EU) has pledged to spend large sums to mitigate the refugee influx in Europe. The EU has called for greater engagement in Africa. The goal of the European Commission’s External Investment Plan is to leverage up to €44 billion in investment by 2020 and increase external funding to reach up to €123 billion for 2021-2027.
As a result of EU investments in Africa, fewer migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2018 than the previous year. Spain became the main entry point in 2018 being at around half of Europe’s total arrivals via the Mediterranean. Italy reduced its inflow sharply, mostly via cooperation deals with the government and tribal chiefs in Libya, the main departure point for sea crossings to Italy. However, Italy’s approach wasn’t without controversy.
Although Europe has been successful in mitigating the influx of refugees and migrants to its continent, the EU should continue using political, economic and diplomatic tools to bring more cooperation in Africa instead of blocking the influx of people into its territory.
Morocco and Tunisia have prioritized the prevention of attacks and the disruption of terrorist cells. However, they have not paid enough attention to the legal and judicial framework for handling people detained on terrorism charges – or to the wide range of factors that contribute to radicalization.
In terms of countering terrorism, the EU has also worked closely with North African countries. France has remained an important counterterrorism partner in Africa. The French government undertook joint counterterrorism operations with several EU partners and played an active role in counterterrorism capacity building in other countries, particularly in the Sahel region, both bilaterally and through the EU. Italy aggressively investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects and dismantled suspected terrorist-related cells within its borders.
Italy has strengthened its counterterrorism capacity building efforts in Libya, focusing on coast guard cooperation, investigative training for law enforcement, and border security measures. Spain continues to support the 5+5 Defense Initiative bringing together European and North African countries to build capacity on counterterrorism, maritime and aviation security, and disaster management.
Only by acting locally, EU and African governments can succeed in preventing and countering violent extremist organizations. The EU should invest in training police forces to strengthen its integrity, authority, and respect. Also, the EU, along with African governments, should support the reform of the judiciary system, improving, therefore, its capacity to prosecute terrorism cases.
When it comes to socio-economic instability, one of many European initiatives is the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability. According to the European Commission: “The European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa (EUTF for Africa) aims to foster stability and to contribute to better migration management, including by addressing the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration.”
The EUTF for Africa has four strategic pillars: (1) develop greater economic and employment opportunities; (2) strengthen the resilience of communities; (3) improve migration management in countries of origin, transit, and destination; and (4) improve governance and conflict prevention, through the reduction of forced displacement and irregular migration.
Additionally, to work in these three main pillars – mass migration, violent extremist organizations, and socio-economic instability, Europe should work on financial inclusion. By providing microcredits at reasonable costs to people and businesses, Europe addresses and offers simple solutions to inclusion and integration in Africa.
Europe should work with financial institutions to provide microcredit to the poorest of the poor in Africa where governments, in cooperation with external development partners could, therefore, play a fundamental role in consolidating and sustaining the microfinance sector. Considering that many Africans live on less than $2 a day, microcredits loans would help these people have an income, provide for their families, and build their confidence to later become financially independent.
Moreover, EU efforts at deepening economic cooperation should also have a focus on the education and employment of youth. The creation of schools and facilities where people can receive a quality education and vocational training would accelerate Africa’s development. Likewise, increased European investments in industry and infrastructure in Africa would not only provide jobs, but also opportunities to re-industrialize, which would foster value-added production, both for domestic consumption and for export.
In response to that, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, and the European Union agreed to support a renewable energy program worth about €142 million in West Africa. The program aims to ensure that over 1,000 rural schools and health centers will benefit from an energy supply using solar and battery technology. Such programs are essential to further the infrastructure and investments that Africa is lagging.
There is an urgent need to recalibrate EU-North Africa relations, where cooperation on economic and security issues does not come at the expense of support for democratization and the rule of law.