Euro-Mediterranean relations and international migration*


Ferruccio Pastore

(Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale-CeSPI, Roma)





An overall analysis of the external impact of a developing European migration regime can not leave aside the particular case of the EU relations with Mediterranean third countries. As matter of fact, the Sea circumscribing Europe to the South has long been and still is, beside Eastern Europe, the most important migration basin for many EU Member States. For decades, international migration has been a crucial (although often hidden) factor in the relations between countries on the two shores. In this chapter, after a quick glance at some longue durée trends in trans-Mediterranean migration (par. 1), we will try and identify the main stages in Euro-Mediterranean relations in the migratory field. In the attempt to reconstruct the succession of different migration management models, we will focus on the shift from what we will call a “competitive bilateralism”, to an essentially “defensive” unilateralism, and later to the multiplication of multilateral fora, among which a central position is taken by the Euro-Mediterranean partnership (par. 2)[1]. We will then describe how the stalemate of the migration dimension of the “Barcelona Process” has led to a revival of bilateralism and has contributed to encourage new, experimental approaches at the EU level, among which the creation of the High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration (HLWG) is probably the most significant (par. 3). Finally, also on the basis of some comparative reference (particularly to the american “Puebla Process”) we will consider the prospects for a relaunching of a multilateral framework for the management of transmediterranean flows (par. 4). In the final section (par. 5), we will try and draw some tentative conclusion from such a complex evolution for a more general reflection on the externalities of integration.

1.     Transmediterranean migrations: from virtuous interdependence to a structural conflict of interests


Drawing a paradox from a myth, it could be argued that ancient Rome, one of the major ancestors of Western civilization, was born from the extraordinary deed of a refugee from Turkey. The story of Aeneas, “[vir] Troiae qui primus ab oris Italiam fato profugus lavinaque venit litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto vi superum”[2] (Virgil, 1991, Book I [2-4]) is not so different from the story of the thousands of Kurdish refugees who today land on the Italian coasts. Perhaps the main difference lies in the fact that the Trojan hero had his own ships, and was not forced to put his fate in the hands of a trafficker.

Even without going so far back in time, there is no doubt that migrations have for centuries represented a factor of continuity in the history of the Mediterranean. And one should not think just of South-North flows: in 1492, the year considered in the West as the starting point of the modern era, tens of thousands of Jews were driven away by the Reyes Catòlicos at the end of the Reconquista. They sought refuge in the lands of the Ottoman Empire, where “they were greeted without hesitation, no doubt for economic and administrative reasons. The sultan himself gave order to facilitate their entry and integration, aware of the cultural, industrial and political contribution the Jews would have given to his country”(Sestieri, 1992, 17).

Closer to our times, nearly 500,000 Italians migrated towards Africa between 1876 and 1976 (Favero and Tassello, 1978, 12). They formed only 2% of the total Italian emigration during that century, but those transmediterranean migrants, today forgotten, contributed crucially to the modernization of the infrastructure and culture of North Africa during the years of colonial domination. They were mostly specialized manual workers, but also entrepreneurs, professionals, artists and journalists.

During the last century, the pendulum changed direction and the Northern shore of the Mediterranean, from leaving port, became the destination of mass migration. Colonial France started this trend, in urgent need of chair à canon: during the First World War, 293,756 inhabitants of the colonies and North African territories (Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians) were forced to wear the French uniform while another 183,300 were taken to work in the French industries and countryside, empty because of the huge military effort (Liauzu, 1996, 119).

Later, in France and elsewhere, Mediterranean migrations provided the main input of labor during the extraordinary period of postwar industrial expansion. At the start of the 1970s, of the 11 million foreigners in the European Community, 7 million (that is 63.5% of the total) came from the Mediterranean countries, Italy included. Excluding far away Sweden and Great Britain, which received its immigrants from the most remote corners of a dissolving empire, this proportion goes up to 82.7% (Liauzu, 1996, 159). Incidentally, it should be remembered that the Italian “economic miracle” could do without Moroccan, Algerian or Turkish workers only because the country had its own ideal migration basin in the South, at least until welfare development and the reduction of wage differentials drastically reduced the mobility of young Southern Italians.

The first oil crisis dramatically changed this pattern in which transmediterranean migrations were a factor of complementarity and virtuous interdependence between the two shores of the Mediterranean. Between 1973 and 1974, the major European countries of immigration closed their borders to new economic migratory movements. The decision was a turning point, but it was made in an administrative fashion, in silence, without parliamentary debates or any form of concertation between the receiving countries or with the countries of origin.

The main consequences of this historic change were not on the domestic scene, as immigration continued under the guise of family regroupment, but at the international level. The closure of the traditional outlets opened up new migratory circuits: on the one hand; towards the former European countries of emigration; on the other hand, towards the Arab countries enjoying the oil boom (Lybia and the Gulf states in particular).

From then on, immigration in general, and Arab immigration in particular, started to be perceived in Western Europe as a dis-economy and as a political problem, which increasingly acquired the forms of a “law and order” issue. With the progressive increase of illegal flows and the emergence of “integration” problems, particularly among second-generation Maghrebians, the political debate on immigration becomes focused on internal security issues. Even in the countries in which the functional economic role of immigration still plays a part (Italy, Spain and to an extent Germany), this specific aspect is removed from the political debate.

As a consequence, during the 1980s migration emerged increasingly as a factor of structural conflict of interests and of tensions in Euro-Mediterranean relations. In North Africa – an area undergoing a demographic boom and an economic stagnation, attacked by Islamic fundamentalism and vulnerable to authoritarian regressions - emigration represented a vital outlet to these problems. Remittances constitute an added wealth and a contribution to social stabilization. But Schengen’s Europe (the agreement dates back to 1985) was deaf to these arguments.

This situation was aggravated by the sudden closure of important migration outlets in the Arab world. From the 1970s, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates adopted a policy deliberately aimed at recruiting Asian labor instead of Arab migrants. The percentage of the latter group declined from 69% of the total immigrant population in 1975 to 30% in 1985. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing international military intervention also had devastating effects. At the start of 1990, 2.8 million foreigners resided in Irak and Kuwait, of which over 2 million came from Arab countries. The war and the consequent tensions within the Arab world force at least 400,000 Egyptian immigrants, 250,000 Jordanians and Palestinians, and 700,000 Yemenites to leave the region (Liauzu, 1996, 156).

In the light of this development, what are today’s medium and long-term prospects for transmediterranean migrations? Even if the catastrophic demographic expectations of the mid-1990s have recently been reevaluated,[3] the Mediterranean continues to be probably the deepest socio-economic and demographic fault-line in the world. It would be “wrong to expect a significant reducition of immigration from the Maghreb to Europe in the short and even medium term due to a decline in the fertility rate. The effects [of this decline] would be hardly noticeable for at least a decade” (Coleman, 1999, 501).



2.     Migration management models: from competititive bilateralism to the multilateral bet


This evolution in transmediterranean movements changed quite radically the weight of migrations in transmediterranean migrations, transforming them from a fundamental factor of economic complementarity to a source of contrasts and perhaps tensions. As a consequence, the models for the political management of flows are also undergoing profound change.

At the peak of the development of active migratory policies,[4] the European countries importing labor managed the entry flows on the basis of a competitive bilateral model. In the 1950s, and more so in the 1960s, these countries openly and fiercely competed on the international labour market to broker detailed bilateral agreements with the exporting countries on both shores of the Mediterranean (Greece, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey). In turn, the exporting countries competed between themselves for the largest quotas and best entry conditions.

The unilateral closing down of the frontiers of the receiving countries at the start of the 1970s terminated abruptly this model of “brokered” flow management. The following stage distinguished itself for its rigorous unilateral approach to the regulation of migration flows on part of the receiving countries.

The European countries of immigration gradually developed complex systems for migration control that were imposed on the countries of origin as a given fact. This model developed from isolated cases of single receiving countries, and evolved thanks to a growing coordination at the intergovernmental level (at first through technical working groups, then through political involvement in the context of Schengen and of the EU third pillar). The comprehensive introduction of visa regimes even for short stays,[5] of forms of liability of air and sea carriers transporting undocumented migrants and the use of strong diplomatic pressures on the countries of origin for the readmission of illegal migrants, [6] became, together with other measures with similar objectives, the core of national migration policies and of their European coordination.

The impact of “stop policies” on Euro-Mediterranean relations was devastating. The unilateral closure is perceived by the Arab élites as a hostile action equivalent to the building of a “Fortress Europe”. This perception, still alive, is aptly summed up in a recent speech of the Moroccan Minister for Social development:

“[…] from the end of the 1970s, the only dominant political approach to immigration [was] the idea of zero immigration. Zero immigration is not a policy, it is a non-policy that paved the way for unorganized forces – and I am talking here of forces that are not organized institutionally, but very active in society – to interfere directly in the labor market, outside the framework of laws and rules, and without the respect of norms of behavior regarding the exchange of human beings and the circulation of people. Contrary to expectations, this did not create a zero growth of migration flows. Rather, it created the opposite: a growth of immigration. I am a witness of this phenomenon; I come from a country that generates immigration. At the end of the 1970s my country had 800,000 citizens abroad; today there are over 2 million, thanks to the non-policy of immigration” (Alioua, 2000, 1).[7]

Leaving aside the polemical aspects, this analysis reveals two crucial “perverse effects” of stop policies: the creation of an illegal market, ruthlessly exploited by criminal organizations, and the stabilization of migrants in the countries of destination, through family regroupment and the creation of socially and culturally united immigrant communities that, to an extent, perpetuate themselves.

Towards the end of the 1980s, political élites started to become aware that strict unilateralism in migration issues was hard to sustain at the broad political level and not very productive in terms of migration control at the policy level. As the European Community developed its strategy for progressive and conditional integration of the Eastern half of the continent, it became increasingly apparent that:

“Europe cannot afford to allow the Mediterranean basin to be marginalized, since the ensuing economic decline there could be damaging to Europe on the environmental, political and security fronts, as well as economically (energy supplies) and socially [the reference to migration is evident]. The signs are already apparent in environmental deterioration, social and political unrest and the existing conflicts around the Mediterranean. But they could reach unimaginable proportions[8]

The first attempts to build a dialogue on migration issues with the countries of the Southern shore occured in the Western Mediterranean within a subregional and multilateral context. From 1983 onwards, first with the French-led “Mediterranean Forum” and then with the 5+4 summits (which became 5+5 with the entry of Malta),[9] France, Italy, Portugal and Spain initiated a broad dialogue with the Maghreb countries (plus Mauritania) in which migration issues soon emerged.[10]

Developments in the Maghreb encouraged such initiatives. The creation of the Union of the Arab Maghreb (UMA) at Marrakech in February 1989 seemed the first step towards a gradual integration between these countries. But the failure of UMA in 1992, the grounds of which were prepared by the inter-Arab divisions over the Gulf war and then precipitated by the Algerian crisis and sanctions against Libya, led to the paralysis of the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue initiatives.

The first multilateral forum in which migration issues were discussed at a high level between countries of immigration and of emigration was not limited to the Mediterranean, but had a global scope: the United Nations Conference on Population and Development held at the Cairo between 5 and 13 September 1994. One significant merit of that important event was to place demographic dynamics – and migration in particular – among the main current challenges and to emphasise their political implications. But at the practical level, the structural divergences that emerged during the proceedings between the more developed countries with declining birth rates and the others, led to a modest outcome of generic commitments to continue the dialogue. On the crucial aspect of illegal immigration, the Action Plan approved at Cairo was just a vague statement of intent:

“[…] Governments of countries of origin and of destination should try to find satisfactory solutions to the problems caused by undocumented migration through bilateral or multilateral negotiations on, inter alia, readmission agreements that protect the basic human rights of the persons involved in accordance with relevant international instruments” (point 10.20 of the Action Plan).

Nonetheless, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership still represents the most ambitious and continuous attempt to tackle the political aspects of transmediterranean migrations in a multilateral framework.

According to Brussels, the grand design of interregional cooperation launched in Barcelona in 1995 should have reached an agreement between all parties for a consistent and efficient management of migration flows. As the Commission’s communication upon which the Partnership is based states, “if migration pressures are not adequately managed through a careful cooperation with the countries concerned, it is easy to predict the risk of friction to the detriment of international relations and the immigrant population itself”.[11]

But the real intentions of the two blocs of the partnership – the member states and the twelve Mediterranean partners, plus Mauritania as an observer – differed quite dramatically from the beginning. For the European countries, the only real priority was to secure greater cooperation from the countries of origin and of transit in the fight against illegal immigration, while for the non-EU countries the priorities were the protection of its emigrant communities and the maintenance of the vital economic resource represented in remittances.

The conclusions of the Barcelona conference well illustrate the terms of the debate, disjointed on two separate levels: the first, rather generic and focused on the positive aspects of transmediterranean migrations; the second, technically more detailed but equally unproductive, centered on the fight against illegal immigration:

“the Participants agree to establish a partnership in social, cultural and human affairs. To this end:


-  They acknowledge the importance of the role played by migration in their relationships. They agree to strengthen their cooperation to reduce migratory pressure, among other things through vocational training programmes and programmes of assistance for job creation. They undertake to guarantee protection of all the rights recognized under existing legislation of migrants legally resident in their respective territory;

-  In the area of illegal immigration they decide to establish closer cooperation. In this context, the partners, aware of their responsibility for readmission, agree to adopt the relevant provisions and measures, by means of bilateral agreements or arrangements, in order to readmit their nationals who are in an illegal situation […].

The compromise illustrated in these few sentences represented a stalemate that was not overcome in the next few years during the following meetings. The second Euromediterranean ministerial meeting in Malta (15-16 April 1997) and again, the mid-term ministerial meeting in Palermo (3-4 June 1998) simply reiterated the commitment to strengthen Euromediterranean cooperation on migration issues. The poverty of the preparation work and the lack of political courage on both sides severely limited any substantial progress in the field. Even the following Stuttgart summit (15-16 April 1999) concluded its works without reaching any tangible results, despite the many recommendations.[12]



3.     The stalemate of the Barcelona process and renewed bilateralism


The stalemate in the migration field of the Euromediterranean partnership was, no doubt, due to the high sensitivity of the issue and to the importance of the political and economic interests implied. However, the failures of the past few years are also at least partly due to the way the EU set the terms of this aspect of the Barcelona process. To avoid choosing whether migration was a security or an economic issue, the member states and the EU placed migration issues in the so-called third pillar of the partnership, within the context of social and cultural issues. The third pillar became a useful - but not strictly necessary - appendix of a process that identified cooperation in the fields of security and economics as its central element.

The cultural assumption behind this structure, as illustrated in its organizational and financial set up, is a rigid economic belief according to which the main objective of the partnership should be economic integration. Indeed, the agreed aim is to create a free trade area by 2010. Market integration should create, as a nearly spontaneous consequence, the enabling conditions for the harmonization and integration of other fields, from the political and military to the social and cultural.

This conceptual approach seems to stem from an optimistic and abstract understanding of the lessons of European integration and ignores the important weaknesses and asymmetries in the economic interdependence in the Euromediterranean space, which are evident, for instance, in the trade and financial fields. This model underestimates the role of interdependent relationships generated by migrations in the cultural, political and economic fields. The role of remittances provides an example. As the Italian Currency Exchange Office (Ufficio Italiano Cambi-UIC) revealed, in 1997 official remittances of immigrants in Italy towards North African countries exceeded for the first time the net Italian direct investments in the same area (Italian investments totaled Lit. 30 billion, against the official figure of Lit. 40 billion of remittances. This latter figure should be at least doubled to take into account remittances sent via unofficial channels).

The market-based approach of the partnership has until very recently led to a lack of investment of intellectual, political and financial resources for the creation of a negotiated strategy to regulate transmediterranean migration flows. Only over the past few months has an awareness started to grow, in different contexts and at different levels. Euromediterranean integration “requires a rethinking of the so far unsuccessful conceptual approach based on the replacement of factors [direct investments and trade flows, in place of migration flows], in favor of a more pragmatic policy and of a greater opening to migration flows” (Rhi-Sausi, 2000, 8).

Given the substantial stalemate of the Barcelona process and the continuing need to strengthen cooperation with the main emigration and transit countries in the Mediterranean basin, the member states (especially the Southern ones) and European institutions searched for alternative paths.

In the framework of the more general trend of proliferation of bilateral agreements on readmission with the main emigration and transit countries,[13] the governments of many European countries have reached agreements or commenced negotiations in this field (starting from the above mentioned Spanish-Moroccan treaty of February 1992).

EU institutions have supported this type of diplomatic activity by including, in the Euromediterranean association agreements clauses committing the parties to a targeted dialogue regarding readmissions. The agreement with Tunisia (reached in Brussels on 17 July 1995 and in force since 1 March 1998) establishes a “regular dialogue” between the parties covering “all issues connected with […] illegal immigration and the conditions governing the return of individuals who are in breach of the legislation dealing with the right to stay and the right of establishment in their host countries” (art. 69, par. 1, let. d). The same agreement gives priority to “resettling those repatriated because of their illegal status under the legislation of the state in question” (art. 71, par. 1, lett. b). A nearly identical clause is in the agreement with Morocco (reached in Brussels on 26 February 1996 and in force since March 2000).[14]

Despite this progress, the European approach, based on repressive tools, especially regarding readmissions, has started to show all its limits. Taking back illegal emigrants is highly unpopular for the government of any country with strong emigration pressure. These countries, understandably, tend not to publicize the signing of readmission agreements and not to apply them rigorously.

Some European countries have tried to overcome this problem by adding various types of incentives to diplomatic pressures. The Italian experience in this field has proved interesting, by combining financial benefits and technical assistance,[15] with privileged entry quotas for work reasons in the framework of the annual entry planning that Italy carries out since 1998. Among the countries that have benefited from this preferential treatment, apart from Albania, are Tunisia and Morocco, which have been given substantial visa quotas in 1998 and in 2000.[16] The draft quota planning decree for 2001, currently under the scrutiny of Parliament and of the relevant social organizations, confirms 3,000 visas for Tunisians, but reduced the number to 1,500 for Moroccans. This revision reflects the dissatisfaction of Italian authorities with regard to the degree of cooperation on part of Morocco in readmission. It also reveals the endurance of tensions and substantial differences of interests in this field.[17]

The failure of the migration aspects of the Euromed partnership stimulated a renewal of bilateral activity on part of the European countries most interested in migration and, at the same time, encouraged the search for innovative alternatives even at the European level. The example that stands out is the current experiment of the High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration (HLWG) that the Council created towards the end of 1998.[18]

HLWG activities are strongly linked, directly and indirectly, with the European policy on transmediterranean migration. The HLWG has concentrated its interdisciplinary analysis on the causes of migration flows and on the interpillar planning of control and prevention policies and focuses on two Mediterranean countries. Albania, and its environs, is the most important country of emigration in the region (in terms of the relation between number of emigrants compared to the population). Morocco is the Mediterranean country with the highest number of citizens resident abroad (after Turkey) and with the greatest potential for further emigration in absolute terms. The other four countries analyzed by the HLWG are also generators of migration flows that pass through the Mediterranean basin: Afghanistan and the surrounding area; Iraq, and, unofficially, a strong interest in Turkey; Somalia; and Sri Lanka.

The innovative role of HLWG’s activities stems mostly from its interdisciplinary approach to migration phenomena and from its focus on preventive, as well as repressive, measures against illegal movements.[19] But this initiative led to some partly negative consequences on Euromediterranean relations in the migration field.

During its first year, the HLWG produced five Action Plans (approved by General Affairs Council and then adopted at the Tampere European Council on 11 October 1999) plus the Plan for Albania and its surrounding area (approved by GAC on 13-14 June 2000), which was delayed due to the Kosovo crisis. The plans are not binding and are conceived to direct and harmonize the EU’s and the member states’ external action towards these countries in the field of migration. But the plans were set up unilaterally, without any consultation of the governments of the countries concerned. This type of approach, while understandable in the case of countries without an internationally recognized government (such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq), is hard to explain for the other countries. In the case of Morocco, a country well-known for its attachment to the symbolic – and practical - dimension of sovereignty, the HLWG’s unilateral approach caused some disappointment and temporary standstill of relations, understandable given the expectations created by the Euromediterranean Association Agreement.

Having eventually recognised the mistake, the HLWG declared its intention to make up for it:

The exercise launched by the HLWG must overcome the reluctance of the target countries which refuse to accept unilateral implementation. The implementation of the Action Plans thus implies a genuine partnership between the European Union and the target countries. There is a danger that the sense of a lack of consultation between the European Union and the Action Plan target countries will lead to a flat refusal by those countries to cooperate in the implementation of the Action Plans. That is why cooperation between the European Union and the target countries is indispensable for the achievement of the objectives of the Action Plans. These Plans must put the emphasis on the desire for partnership between the European Union and the target countries and their implementation must involve defining reciprocal commitments accepted by common accord”.[20]

In the case of Morocco, this new direction led to the creation of a Subcommittee on Immigration and Social Affairs within the institutional framework of the Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco. Its initial task should be to reformulate the HLWG Action Plan taking into account the Moroccan objections and transforming it into the basis for a comprehensive and lasting cooperation.

Also, a number of measures included in the Action Plan have already been financed by MEDA funds and that the same opportunity should be granted in the MEDA II financial framework (2000-2006).[21]

These important developments in Euro-Moroccan relations have not eliminated all differences. Indeed, at the United Nations Conference (Palermo 12-15 December 2000) for the signing of the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, Morocco refused to sign to the Protocol for the fight against trafficking in illegal migrants, together with other important Mediterranean countries of emigration, such as Algeria, Egypt and, for different reasons, Israel.



4.     The regional dimension, freedom of movement and development


The proliferation of dialogue channels and of bilateral (national and European) cooperation initiatives is accompanied by degree of skepticism on the endurance of the regional approach, which on paper characterizes the Euromediterranean partnership. Doubts are surfacing in the bureaucracies of the member states (Italy included) on the utility and feasibility of the Euromed set up. In short, many are wondering whether it is possible to develop a direct dialogue and to strengthen bilateral cooperation with the main countries of emigration and transit, and whether it is worth insisting on the regional and pan-Mediterranean approach.

These doubts are not far-fetched and are based on the awareness of the objective political problems – which have increased with the deepening of the Middle East crisis – and on an apparent inconsistency.

From the point of view of migration, the Mediterranean is not a homogeneous space. While the European shores, integrated in a free movement area, represent an immigration basin with increasingly shared characteristics, on the Southern shore are countries of immigration (Israel and Libya) as well as countries of emigration. In the latter group are countries of declining emigration potential (Turkey) and others in which the migration pressure is set to increase, at least over the short and medium term (Morocco). A further factor makes the picture more complex: most of the African and Middle Eastern countries of the partnership are also becoming transit areas for irregular and illegal migration flows from Subsaharan Africa and Asia. Finally, Cyprus and Malta, which have become important “shunting stations” of transmediterranean migration flows, are in the process of negotiation accession to the EU and, within a few years, are likely to become an offshoot of “Community space”, in the heart of the Mediterranean.

In this context, a forum for multilateral cooperation and dialogue on migration issues (with 27 members, 29 including Libya and Mauritania, or even 39 members, in the event of a “big bang” EU enlargement) represents an extremely complex challenge. But this should not tempt the Union, and its member states, to reduce its commitment in the field.

A successful example of a political and institutional experiment made in another crucial migration basin is the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), otherwise known as the Puebla Process from the Mexican town that witnessed its birth in 1996. It represents a powerful argument in favor of a regional approach that integrates and gives a strategic direction to the various bilateral initiatives. The RCM is a forum for political discussion, supported by a light administrative structure (the secretariat, re-named Virtual Secretariat because it does not have its own staff or headquarters, is shared by the member states on rotation and de facto managed by the International Organisation for Migration), involves eleven countries of North and Central America (Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, USA), which meet regularly (twice a year at the level of officials, and once a year at deputy ministerial level) to discuss the most diverse aspects of the migration phenomenon. RCM approaches all issues in an integrated fashion, currently articulated in six areas: i) "Migration policies"; ii) "Link between development and migration"; iii) "To combat migrant trafficking"; iv) "International cooperation for the return of extra-regional migrants"; v) "Human rights"; vi) "Technical cooperation”[22].

Given its success so far, RCM intends to accompany its research activities, information exchange and political dialogue, with more practical initiatives. These include the creation of a Consular Protection Officer Liaison Network, the strengthening of the existing network of officials for the exchange of information on the fight against the trafficking in migrants (Liaison Officer Network for Ongoing Exchange of Information to Combat Trafficking in Migrants), and the creation of a regional information system to exchange information on border control (Migration Information System in Central America – SIEMCA).

The success of the Puebla Process, involving, despite their different characteristics, immigration, emigration and transit countries on equal footing, shows that the heterogeneity of the countries involved does not hinder a fruitful regional cooperation in migration issues[23]. On the other hand, even if the EU and its member states came to the conclusion that the countries on the Southern shore of the Mediterranean were too diverse (from the point of view of migration) to deepen regional cooperation, there would be no real obstacle to adopt narrower geographical frameworks for cooperation. A strategy of dialogue and enhanced cooperation with the Maghreb countries, which have relatively homogeneous problems from the migration point of view, could be possible if not desirable.

This type of EU approach would be supported by the recent renewal of integration dynamics in the Arab West. The signing of the Moroccan-Tunisian agreement (on 16 March 1999) for the creation of a free trade area by 2007 is an important indication, as much as the Moroccan Foreign Minister’s announcement (October 2000) on the intention to start working on the first Mediterranean subregional grouping with Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan.[24] In this case, the area involved is much larger, but the initiative could have a rapid and deep impact on the Maghreb.

The idea of circumscribing Euromediterranean cooperation in a number of fields to specific geographical areas is gaining favor in the EU. As an internal document of the Euromed Group prepared for the Marseilles Conference goes:

“S’agissant de la coopération régionale, l’Union devrait réaffirmer le principe selon lequel l’ensemble des programmes régionaux sont accessibles à tous les partenaires, étant entendu que toutes les formes de coopération régionale devront être encouragées. Ainsi, des projets réunissant un nombre plus restreint d’Etats membres et de partenaires méditerranéens dans des configurations pouvant varier en fonction des actions retenues pourraient être envisagés”[25].

In a tour of the Maghreb capitals in January 2001, the President of the European Commission gave similar indications. In the search for realistic ways to inject some vitality in Euromed cooperation, Romano Prodi privileged the sub-regional dimension, stating that the “Barcelona agreements are still the basis for North-South integration, but a further step is needed” and that “the EU will give precedence to projects aiming at facilitating the integration of the Maghreb”.[26]

It is worth mentioning that, together with the encouraging example of the Puebla Process, there are other compelling reasons to support regional cooperation, which relate to the nature of current transmediterranean flows.

At a time of accelerated globalization and of increased job uncertainty, international migrations (including those in the Mediterranean) are increasingly becoming complex geographical and existential itineraries, involving a number of reversible stages, and in which the possibility of returning (or of a new starting point) is never ruled out. The migrant is no longer a person who, during his or her life starts a “new” life elsewhere, changing his or her belonging from one national space to another. More often, the migrant is a person who chooses mobility (however conditioned that choice may be), widens its social, cultural and economic horizons, and places him/herself in a transnational area, which often becomes his or her only “nation”.

Scholars, analysts and (later) policy-makers have only recently started to recognize this profound transformation of migration phenomena, with different outcomes on the political field. For some, the “transnationality” of contemporary migrations has become an excuse to oppose stable integration of immigrants based on the full accession, however gradual, to the citizen rights of Western democracies. Others see the growth of the transnational dimension as a favorable trend that policy should support and direct for broader reasons: it represents an extraordinary opportunity to maximize the positive impact of migrations for both the sending and receiving countries.

The keyword of this new cultural and political paradigm is co-développement – a neologism of French origin (Naïr, 1997) -: a parallel and synergetic development of the country of origin as well as of the receiving one, in which the migrant acts as the initiating and pulling factor. However, it should be pointed out that despite the attraction of this prospect, it must be cleared of an intrinsic ambiguity that makes it open to manipulation:

“It is not a question of conceiving circular integration as an alternative to an impossible linear integration; nor is it an issue of finding a balance between progressive and anti-immigration approaches, which would be based on a mistake [often summarized in the commonplace statement: ‘let’s help them in their own country’]. Rather, the point is to confirm the value of traditional integration policies, based on the gradual acquisition of political, economic and social rights, and the achievement of equality and equal opportunities between immigrants and citizens (even if this approach has not always been successful in the countries of old immigration). It has become urgent to accompany this approach with other strategies that aim to encourage ‘circular integration’ and that enhance the potential of other immigrant actors”.[27]

Elements of this debate are starting to emerge at the European institutional level. The President of the European Commission recently referred to transmediterranean migrations and its relative policies in highly innovative terms

The biggest challenge we shall probably have to face will be to transform economic and demographic disparities in the area - often a source of misunderstanding and tension - into an opportunity for further growth. Immigration must become a means of fostering development. In the years to come, Europe's need for new workers is bound to increase, together with immigration flows. Only through a joint effort on both sides of the Mediterranean will it be possible to handle this situation and benefit from its potential. Immigration policies must not be simply reactive but rather conceived in a long-term perspective centered on the creation, over the next thirty years, of an integrated area of around nine hundred million people” (emphasis added)” (Prodi, 2000, 2).

The EU’s Common Strategy on the Mediterranean, approved at the Feira Council in June 2000, contains some important commitments in this direction:

Building on the acquis of the Barcelona Process and further to the Conclusions of the European Council in Tampere, the EU will:


-  promote transparency and greater predictability of legal systems in the partners in order to encourage foreign investment, and to encourage lawful migrants to pursue activities in favour of co-development with their countries of origin;

-  ensure that the rules of transfer of profits are liberalised and find solutions avoiding double taxation, particularly for lawful migrants and those with dual nationality;


-  work with Mediterranean Partners to address the question of migration, taking into full consideration the economic, social and cultural realities faced by Partner countries. Such an approach would require combating poverty, improving living conditions and job opportunities, preventing conflicts, consolidating democratic states and ensuring respect for Human Rights;

- develop a common approach to ensure the integration into society of Mediterranean Partners' nationals who have been lawfully resident in a Member State for a certain period of time and hold a long-term residence permit, aiming at approximating their legal status in that Member State to that enjoyed by EU citizens" (emphasis added)” (Danese and Stocchiero, 2000, 38).

This type of strategic prospect, aiming to transform migrations in a factor of codevelopment and integration between the two shores of the Mediterranean, as they have been in the past (see para. 1), requires that the various existing bilateral cooperation initiatives are integrated through ambitious region-wide programs.[28] Only broader strategies can contribute to the creation of a migration management system that can live up to the current reality in which linear and definitive flows of post-fordist and post-colonial origin are over. The Mediterranean is increasingly remapping itself as a space for transnational mobility and a global migration crossroads.



5.     Conclusions. Policy adaptation under pressure and the risks of negative externalities


Assessing the impact of the recent progresses of European integration in the field of immigration and asylum on Euromediterranean relations is definitely not an easy task. There several reasons for this inherent difficulty.

In the first place, given the vastity and heterogeneity of the area considered, the externalities of integration in this particular case differ deeply from country to country. Therefore, they can hardly be described synthetically, on a regional basis, as it is instead at least partly the case for the CEECs.

A fundamental distinction has thus to be made at least between three main groups of countries:

a) Mediterranean third countries which are predominantly labour importers, such as Lybia and Israel. In these cases, no tangible externality is yet to be seen. In the near future, one possible field of interaction between EU countries and other Mediterranean immigration countries could be represented by a growing competition on the international market of highly skilled immigrants (in particular IT technicians and professionals, especially in the case of Israel). In that perspective, if Member States will progress further on the way of the harmonization of admission rules and of integration policies, this could raise European competitiveness in this particular area and produce negative repercussions on neighbouring advanced economies;

b) Mediterranean candidates to the accession which are essentially transit countries from the migration point of view (Cyprus, Malta). The analysis of externalities done for Central and Eastern European countries is largely applicable also to these cases;

c) Mediterranean third countries which can still be classified as labour exporters, even if this function is more and more often coupled with a transit role and, in certain cases (such as Turkey and Morocco), with an increasingly important position as receiving States for temporary migration, “stranded migrants”, irregular migrants rejected at the EU frontiers and other atypical, insufficiently studied products of contemporary international mobility.

In the case of this latter category of countries, the analysis of the externalities of integration is particularly relevant but also fraught with methodological and conceptual difficulties. From the methodological point of view, a major obstacle is represented by our poor knowledge of North Africa and Middle East countries’ migration policies, which are neither a matter of systematic information exchange with European governments nor, until now, a subject of focused scholarly interest. From the conceptual point of view, it has to be stressed that whereas the notion of “policy transfer” (see Introduction) is undoubtedly a powerful analytical tool to study the relations of the emerging European migration regime with other immigration countries such as Switzerland, Norway and most of the CEECs, it has a limited effectiveness in the case of sending countries, of Mediterranean ones in particular.

As we have shown above, migration is still largely perceived as a dividing factor in Euromediterranean relations (par. 1). In this respect, the recent evolution towards a new paradigm, in which a regulated circulation of persons between the two shores is seen as mutually beneficial, has produced little practical effects until today (par. 4).

Cooperation between EU and Mediterranean third countries in the migration field is still quite occasional, sectorial and inspired to a short-sighted and narrowly utilitarian philosophy on both sides. Such cooperation, which is still predominantly taking place at the bilateral level - where occasional convergence of interest is easier to realize and to turn into operational cooperation arrangements - can be better described in terms of negotiated adaptation to EU-dictated standards than of proper policy transfers. As a matter of fact, recent European diplomatic efforts towards the countries on the Southern coast of the Mediterranean basin were not aimed at transferring articulated and comprehensive policy models, but rather at imposing specific behaviours in very circumscribed fields such as readmission and exit border controls, aimed at deterring and stopping undocumented migration and human smuggling. Such spot-like type of cooperation has little in common with the adoption of complex migration management models wich the EU sets as a rigid conditionality in the framework of the enlargement negotiations or even within the much looser forum of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe.

The degree of effectiveness of the European efforts aimed at obtaining by Mediterranean counterparts tangible cooperation against irregular migration are variable. Without aiming here at a systematic assessment, it can be stated that more visible positive results were obtained in cases in which immediate and concrete “compensations” were foreseen in exchange of a steadier and more active cooperation. In this respect, the peculiar Italian experience in the relations with Albania, Morocco and Tunisia - briefly recalled in par. 3 - seems particularly promising. In other cases, the adaptation to EU-dictated control practices remains mostly confined to the level of declarations.

As we have illustrated, the degree of direct and concrete engagement of European institutions as such in the management of trans-Mediterranean migration flows has until now been too modest to authorize any serious inference on the externalities of EU integration in this context. However, if there was any such externality, it was of a negative sign, as suggested by the analysis of the impact of the HLWG activities on the relations with Morocco (see par. 3). In that particular case, in fact, a progress in internal integration (especially from the point of view of “interpillar” dialogue) brought to (or, at least, was perceived as) a return to unilateralism, which caused a temporary cooling of Euro-Moroccan relations in this policy area.

However, even if the general posture of Euro-Mediterranean relations in the migratory field is far from ideal, some recent developments – such as the positive outcomes of the fourth Euro-Mediterranean Conference (Marseilles, 15-16 November 2000) and the recent relaunching of the “5+5” forum (see par. 5) – leave hope for the unfolding of more virtuous externalities in the years to come. But to attain this is a major political (and cultural) challenge which will require a strong dose of cohesion among Europeans around the guidelines for “partnership with countries of origin” set in the Conclusions of the Tampere European Council (October 1999), and an equally strong dose of political courage and intellectual openness to all Mediterranean partners.










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* To be published as a book chapter in S. Lavenex and E. Uçarer (eds.), Externalities of Integration: the Wider Impact of the Developing EU Migration Regime, Lexington Books, 2002. A shortened Italian version of this chapter has been in “EuropaEurope”, 1/2001. The author thanks Rosa Balfour for the crucial help in reviewing the English version.

[1] The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership – known as the “Barcelona Process” - is a comprehensive multilateral forum for dialogue and cooperation between EU institutions, Member States and twelve Third Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, the Palestinian National Authority, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey; Mauritania and more recently Lybia were granted observer status at some meetings), launched at a conference of EU and Mediterranean foreign affairs ministers in 1995 (Barcelona, 27-28 November 1995). According to the Barcelona Declaration approved on that occasion, the fundamental objectives of the Partnership are a) to establish a “common Euro-Mediterranean area of peace and stability” based on the respect human rights and democracy; b) to create an “area of shared prosperity” through the progressive establishment of a free-trade area between the EU and its Partners and among the Mediterranean Partners themselves; c) to develop human resources, promote understanding between cultures and peoples in the Euro-Mediterranean region. These three fundamental objectives correspond to three distinct areas of cooperation, often defined “pillars”, on the basis of a somewhat misleading analogy with the EU institutional structure. In its section specifically devoted to the social and cultural dimension of the Partnership, the Barcelona Declaration deals explicitly with migration; the signatory States thereby:

“- acknowledge the importance of the role played by migration in their relationships. They agree to strengthen their cooperation to reduce migratory pressures, among other things through vocational training programmes and programmes of assistance for job creation. They undertake to guarantee protection of all the rights recognized under existing legislation of migrants legally resident in their respective territories;

- in the area of illegal immigration they decide to establish closer cooperation. In this context, the partners, aware of their responsibility for readmission, agree to adopt the relevant provisions and measures, by means of bilateral agreements or arrangements, in order to readmit their nationals who are in an illegal situation. To that end, the Member States of the European Union take citizens to mean nationals of the Member States, as defined for Community purposes”.

For a general overview of the Barcelona Process, of its institutional mechanisms and of its main political achievements, see

[2] “The man who first from the Trojan lands, after long travails by land and sea imposed by gods, reached in exile Italy and the Lavinian shores by will of fate” (translation by the author).

[3] See, for example, the important work of Y. Courbage: Scenari demografici mediterranei. La fine dell’esplosione, Edizioni della Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli, Torino, 1998. Its main results can be found in the “Banca dati sul futuro delle popolazioni mediterranee”, see

[4] An “active” or “expansive” migratory policy aims to promote and discipline regular migratory flows, usually for economic interests. The main aim of a “passive” or “defensive” policy is to reduce inflows and, in particular, to fight irregular flows. These two aspects of migratory policy can coexist in the same country and at the same time, with varied degrees of influence of one aspect on the other.

[5] Italy and Spain introduced the compulsory visa for citizens of Magreb countries respectively in September 1990 and May 1991. In February 1992 France introduced fees for visas.

[6] Among the first aggreements on readmission between European and Mediterranean countries are that between Spain and Morocco of February 1992 and between France and Algeria of April 1994.

[7] Translation by the author.

[8] European Communities, Economic and Social Committee, Opinion on Economic Cooperation with Maghreb Countries, ESC Opinions and Reports, CES(92)1041, 1992, p. 5, quoted in Collinson, 1996, 47.

[9] The first meeting, offically called the Conference of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the Western Mediterranean, was held in Venice in October 1990; the next was held in Algiers the following year.

[10] International migrations conceived as a “security issue” should have received special attention within the framework of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CSCM), as proposed by Italy at the Palma de Mallorca CSCE summit of September 1990. The proposal was criticised for being too ambitious and generic and got stranded mainly thanks to France’s opposition, which preferred initiatives specific to the Western Mediterranean, where its interests lie. See Collinson, 1996, 50.

[11] Commission of the European Communities, “Una politica mediterranea più incisiva per l'Unione europea: l'instaurazione di un nuovo partenariato euro-mediterraneo”, Communication of the Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament, COM(94)427 def., Bruxelles 19 October 1994, 6.

[12] See for example the (rather generic) recommendations in the Recommendations on the Union’s Mediterranean Policy” (11 March 199), adopted by the European Parliament for the Stuttgart Conference.

[13] For an analysis of the many agreements reached by Italy since 1997, see Pastore, 1998. In a comparative perspective, see Hailbronner, 1997.

[14] With the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty and the start of the integration process with regard to immigration and asylum policies, the Tampere European Council (15-16 October 1999, point 27 of the Presidency Conclusions) established that the Community institutions have acquired the competence to negotiated readmission agreements. It appears that this competency, that does not exclude the member states’ powers, is about to be exercised. At the JHA Council of 29 May 2000, ministers reached a broad agreement, however partial, on a text that would give the Commission the mandate to negotiate a EU readmission agreement with Morocco. This text would also provide a model for the due negotiations with Pakistan, Russia and Sri Lanka.

[15] In the exchange of Memos with Tunisia (6 August 1998), Italy committed Lit. 15 billion for the technological modernisation of Tunisia’s border control equipment and a further Lit. 500 million to build reception areas for third country citizens readmitted by Tunisia while returning to the country of origin. These negotiations occurred in parallel with the meeting of the Joint Italy-Tunisia Committee on cooperation between the two countries that led to the disbursement of Lit. 150 billion over three years (plus the already committed Lit. 100 billion) for development projects in Tunisia.

[16] The Prime Minister decree of 16 October 1998 provided for a maximum of 1,500 visas for Moroccan citizens and 1,500 for Tunisians. The 2000 decree (8 February 2000) doubled that amount for both countries. In 1999 there was no real planning decree, so the Prime Minister confirmed the previous year’s agreement (through directive, 4 August 1999). In the absence of disaggregated data, one can presume that even in 1999 Moroccan and Tunisian citizens enjoyed the same preferential treatment to enter in Italy for work purposes.

[17] For an analysis of Italian readmission policy in the context of its migration policy, see, Pastore, 2000a; and Pastore, forthcoming 2001. According to unofficial statements by competent goverment officials, the “sanction” of the reduction of the entry quota for Moroccan nationals is producing positive results, in terms of a more intense cooperation between Italian and Moroccan authorities in readmission procedures.

[18] On the origins of HLWG, see the detailed analysis by Joanne Van Selm in this book; see also Pastore, 2000b.

[19] See above.

[20] Point 55 of the HLWG Report to the Nice European Council (7-9 December), in the annexes to the Presidency Conclusions. The Report, first approved by the GAC on 4 December 2000, made a clear and honest assessment of HLWG’s activities.

[21] The HLWG has suggested applying the same option of using MEDA funds for measures relating to migration issues to Turkey.

[22] A recent strategic paper, which will be discussed at the next deputy ministerial level (Costa Rica 2001), the Regional Consultative Group Meeting (RCGM), made up of the officials of all participating countries, suggests reorganizing its acitivities around three areas: i) "Migration policies and migration management"; ii) "Human rights of migrants"; iii) "Migration and development". For further information, see the official internet site: .

[23] For an in-depth comparative analysis of some regional fora for the management of international migration, see Klekowski von Koppenfels, 2001.

[24] Agence Europe, Le Maroc a annoncé l'intention de créer, avec la Tunisie, l'Egypte et la Jordanie, le premier regroupement sous-régional en Méditerranée, 30-31 ottobre 2000, p. 10.

[25] Euromed Group, Presidency, Quatrième Conférence Euro-Méditerranéenne des Ministres des Affaires Etrangères (Marseille, 15 and 16 November 2000). “Lignes directrices de l'UE”, Doc. Séance N° 32/00 Rév. 2, 25 October 2000, point 37.

[26] Maghreb. Prodi: accelerare l'integrazione, in «Il Sole-24 Ore», 14 January 2001, p. 2. On 26 January 2001, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of five Southern European States (France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain) and the five Maghreb States met in Lisbon, following a Portuguese initiative, in order to discuss the possibility to reactivate the “5+5” cooperation. See Le Monde (AFP), Europe-Méditerranée, 27 January 2001, p. 4.

[27] G. Danese - A. Stocchiero, Una politica di "integrazione circolare" degli immigrati, in CeSPI, «Immigrazione e processi di internazionalizzazione dei sistemi produttivi locali italiani», Working Paper n. 9, giugno 2000, Commissione per le politiche di integrazione degli immigrati, Dipartimento per gli Affari Sociali, Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, Roma, p. 38.

[28] Even from this point of view, there are encouraging developments at the EU level. After the important meeting of high level officials of the Euro-Mediterranean countries on "Migrations et échanges humains" (6 October 2000), which had been preceeded only by expert meetings (The Hague, 1-2 March 1999), the fourth Euromed Conference, held in Marseilles on 15 and 16 November 2000, seems to have marked a turning point. Apart from the favourable acceptance of the conclusions of the high level October 2000 meeting and the encouragement to continue this kind of dialogue, the Marseilles summit agreed to the creation of a regional programme for the justice and home affairs field. Once this programme is running, there will finally be an operative tool to promote and finance projects in fields such as the fight against illegal immigration, as well as the promotion of the role of migrants for co-development and support to their integration.