On 19 June 2018, the Committees on Budget, Budgetary Control, Foreign Affairs and Development jointly organised a joint hearing entitled Assessing the flow of external EU migration funding. Fanni Bihari, from ACT Alliance EU, represented our confederation in this public debate aiming at assessing the flow of current expenditure on the migration-related projets and the EU Trusts Funds.
Find below the main take-aways of her presentation, a useful summary of CONCORD’s position on that matter.



What are the legal obligations and legal references of the EU when it comes to migration?

A. The Lisbon Treaty:

The European Union is a community based on shared values, to be found in the Lisbon treaty – the respect of human dignity, freedom, equality, the rule of law, respect for human rights.

B. The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms:

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, among others, contains the obligation of non-refoulement, the notion that people cannot be sent back to life threatening situations, and the prohibition of mass expulsion.

All EU Member States are party to the European Convention on Human Rights not to mention the universal human rights instruments that also bind the actions of individual EU Member States’ towards people under their jurisdictions.


As a result of the political crisis on migration in 2015, significant changes were made in the EU’s funding instruments for external action. The EU’s self-interest to stem migration and the flexibility of its instruments to deliver seem to overshadow the traditional development cooperation based on values, partnership with third countries, respecting the principles of sustainable development and the primary aim of poverty eradication.

An example of this shift is the EU Trust Fund for Africa (see CONCORD recent papers: policy brief – report), where there are some positive examples but there are also numerous examples of Trust Funds programmes negatively impacting: human rights of migrants in Libya, regional mobility which people’s livelihoods depend on, lack of genuine partnership with recipient countries, lack of space for local civil society to participate in the planning and implementation of programs.


The instrumentalisation of aid for the EU’s foreign policy interests and putting aid under the conditionality of migration control cannot be the way forward in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework. Migration is going to remain on the political agenda so treating it as an opportunity for all parties involved, looking at migrants as drivers and assets of development and creating sustainable and human-rights sensitive programs is the only reasonable answer.

However, flexibility and crisis responsive-programming exclusively centred around the EU’s and its Member States self-interest seem to take priority while narrowly understood migration management is also central in the EU’s planned external action budget. This is not the way to ameliorate relations with third countries or to strengthen the well-being of developing countries. Neither is it a sustainable way to improve migration reception towards the EU. Short-sighted solutions, which follow a number of legally questionable precedents like the EU-Turkey Deal or the EU’s cooperation with Libya, only lower arrivals temporarily while putting lives at risk and disregarding the EU’s own standards and principles.


Migration-relating programming should have a role in the EU’s external action, but money should be spent on supporting partner countries in developing safe, orderly and regular pathways for migrants across all skill-levels with a focus on supporting regional mobility between countries who depend on migration for their development.

Budget can be allocated for voluntary returns and reintegration which are human rights-based, sustainable and dignified, with focus on a whole-of-government approach to reintegration as well as a commitment to non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsion. Development aid should never be used for forced returns.

It is also important to address root causes of human mobility, but it must always be based on a thorough analysis of the context, in consultation with migrants and displaced persons, host communities as well as the local and national governments. The specific needs of women, children and vulnerable persons must always be considered.

Let us in this context just note that the most extreme situations of poverty addressed by EU development policy and those situations generating migration towards the EU are usually NOT the same.

The aim of EU financial support should be to create sustainable solutions that address legitimate grievances: particularly around demographic processes, rule of law, social accountability, wealth distribution, gender justice and access to social services, not to stem migration.

Cooperation with countries hosting large displaced populations must have a prominent place in EU external action related to migration, as more than 80% of displaced persons are staying in developing countries. The needs of displaced persons and the needs of host communities must be supported to find durable solutions. This can only be effective if it provides local representatives, local and national governments and international aid providers with the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in the design and implementation of projects. Support for internally displaced persons should also be provided by these programmes.

All these priority areas must be accompanied by programmes supporting persons in need of international protection and their recognition among mixed migration flows to ensure non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum.


The European Parliament and its Members have an important role in drawing up and later scrutinising the budget and in stepping up to protect the EU’s role as a respected, principled global actor and number one aid donor. In the current political climate, it is increasingly crucial to stand up for human rights and fight for sustainable development.

We count on the European Parliament as the champion of human rights among the EU institutions to support civil society in this. Let’s move this forward together. We, at CONCORD, are looking forward to cooperating with you on the details of the next budget! 


If you could not attend or want to have the full picture of the debate, have a look at the live streaming below: