A moment of surprise

Lena Hofmaier studied political science and European studies and is currently undertaking a work placement at QCEA. She is supporting our human rights programme and is mainly working on human rights violations related to EU policy in Libya. Back at home in Germany, she attends Freiburg Quaker Meeting and is involved in European and Middle East Young Friends (EMEYF).


I recently attended an event in the European Parliament called “Tracking EU migration funding in Africa” on behalf of the Quaker Council for European Affairs. The event was organised by the Green group, who were asking: How much money does the EU invest in Africa and in which projects does it end up? Who is conducting these projects?

Rather than a comprehensive presentation from European Commission staff, or from the European Parliament’s own research department, the main focus of the event was a report made by the independent journalism platform The Correspondent. Their presentation told the story of how the EU spends the money allocated to the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF).

The two MEPs who initiated the research claimed that they, as parliamentarians, did not have oversight over EU migration funding and no clear understanding of either the size of the EUTF, nor which specific projects it had funded. The MEPs were looking for a comprehensive overview of how taxpayer money had been spent, but so far this had been impossible to find – or even to create, as some documents requested by the Parliament’s research staff were said to be classified.

The last hope was to raise the issue with the investigative journalists of The Correspondent, who spent five months travelling to Africa and requesting data from sources on the ground, EU representations, and different parts of the European Commission.

EUTF. Doesn’t the name explain everything? ‘Emergencies in Africa’, right?

The EUTF was created at the height of European political tensions around migration in 2015/16, in order to address ‘the root causes of instability, forced displacement and irregular migration and to contribute to better migration management’.

Two of The Correspondent‘s findings caused a sharp intake of breath in the conference room at the European Parliament: 60% of all EUTF funds are being spent on measures to make border control more effective, and 65% of funding ends up under the control of only five organisations – none of them African. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) gets the largest share (22%). The other organisations are the UNHCR and European agencies such as Germany’s GIZ. Some participants expressed surprise that money they thought was being “invested in Africa” was controlled by European organisations, and wondered how much ownership African political institutions, businesses and community groups feel they have.

The Correspondent had focused its research on Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Overall, European governments have spent €1.5bn in Nigeria in recent years, mostly through EU mechanisms such as the EUTF. €771m is spent on migration and €378m goes into border control. Only a small proportion goes to local NGOs or establishing safe and legal ways for people to migrate.

At the event I learned that the German GIZ has received €58m from the EU for a job creation project called SKYE in Nigeria. So far so good. However, it turns out that the success of this project is measured in terms of decreasing asylum applications made in Europe. It seems that the emphasis is not helping Africans find jobs, but rather keeping them away from the EU’s borders.

Quakers in Europe, amongst many others, are keen to see European external policy that lives up to the stated values of the EU as a peace project and a promoter of human rights. Many Europeans will feel disconnected from an EU for which a principal external policy objective is to reduce migration from Africa and the Middle East.

The role of the Parliament in question

Sergio Carrera, an expert from the centrist Centre for European Policy Studies, raised his concern about the fact that a large portion of EUTF spending was not approved by the European Parliament. He explained that many countries on the African continent have been designated as being in ‘crisis mode’, which means that, by law, the Parliament does not need to be consulted before EU money is allocated.

This lack of due process is especially dangerous when it involves policies with potential implications for human rights, as is the case with the EUTF. Carrera proposed human rights assessments, similar to those advocated by QCEA over the last two years.

In her closing remarks, MEP Tineke Strik tried to end the session on a motivating note. However, given the gravity of all that we had heard, it was quite apparent that the mood in the room could not be easily lifted.

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