The Migration – Development nexus in EU external relations

Recent years have seen increasing attempts to link migration and the external relations of the EU. Moreover there has been increasing attention for the link between development and migration policies, accompanied with efforts to produce synergies for improved policy coordination.

The linkage of development cooperation with migration policies has been promoted widely by international organisations from 2000 onwards. The work of the IOM, the UN Global Commission on International Migration and the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in 2006 are especially noteworthy in that respect. The external dimension of migration policy was officially embraced at the 1999 Tampere European Council, where the EU Heads of State and Government declared that the EU “needs a comprehensive approach to migration addressing political, human rights and development issues in countries of origin and transit… Partnerships with third countries concerned will also be a key element for the success of such a policy, with the view to promote co-development.”

The increasing attention for the migration-development nexus in international institutions (UN, IOM, Worldbank) is also observable the in EU-context. In 2005 the EU started to address more and more the migration and development connection. The issue of economic migration including circular migration, the temporary or permanent return of migrants to their countries of origin as well as mobility partnerships became a high priority on the political agenda. This shift towards labour migration from third countries has mainly been caused by the manifest demographic deficit in nearly all EU countries and the pressing need especially for high skilled labour. A recent policy brief from OECD suggests that development-friendly temporary programmes should be associated with more flexible and open working arrangements. There is a concern that present (national) arrangements — characterized, for instance, by fixed duration of stay, uncertain prospects for return, and tying of workers to specific employers — are not conducive to development.

The same policy brief also highlights the merits of “circular migration arrangements” associated with multi-annual visas for short-term work under flexible contracts. Some of the recent writings on this issue clearly call for more flexibility and openness in the system, such as longer and more flexible contracts, financial return incentives, options of re-entry, and free agency.

Another development of recent years has been the increasing attention for the external dimension in ‘EU’s migration policy.’ An example of this is the initiative of the Dutch Foreign Minister for the creation of a High Level Working Group. Until 2005, the external dimension of EU migration policy was, however, mainly focused on getting countries of origin and transit to sign readmission agreements. Another step was set by linking association and cooperation agreements with migration control policies, e.g in the Cotonou Agreement, Article 13. Furthermore migration issues became an important part of the European neighbourhood policy.

The project intends to give a precise overview of the various European initiatives wherein the nexus between migration and development is manifested and to analyse and compare the various forms of co-operation in other policy fields which include migration regulations. The research project intends to investigate to what extent the increasing attention in the EU for the link between migration and development is also incorporated in wider context of the EU external relations with third countries. This will include also an analysis of the European Neighbourhood policy and the EU relationship with the ACP countries.

A critical analysis of the legal framework of the various initiatives and their potential contribution to a sustainable migration management and development policy will follow.