By Luca Lixi.
Luca Lixi is a doctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield, conducting research on migration governance in Europe as part of the MIGPROSP project. Read more about his work here.
Since the Central Mediterranean route became the main source of irregular arrivals by sea to the EU much political energy has been spent on how to solve the problems arising from the uncontrolled movement of irregular migrants. So far, little progress has been made in developing a humane and medium-long term plan, which protects migrants as well as looking after the interests of the EU. It is against this background that the European Stability Initiative (ESI) has developed a ‘Rome plan’ for a credible and sustainable asylum and migration policy in the Mediterranean. Gerald Knaus, director of ESI and the architect of the (in)famous EU-Turkey deal, wants, through this plan, to make the case to ‘take-back realism’. He intends, in fact, to develop a strategy that can put together principles, tools and interests. Given the paucity of proposals for realistic strategies that guarantee the EU’s values whilst also being politically implementable, this strategy should be welcomed as a contribution to debates on sustainable and humane migration policies. In this paper, however, I criticize some shortcomings of the ‘Rome Plan’. I argue that, overall, this strategy does not offer a viable alternative to the status quo as: 1) it fails, yet again, to give adequate space to the interests of key stakeholders, namely African countries; and 2) it is framed by a narrow and simplistic narrative that understands migration as being driven by the ‘pull factor’, created by the possibility of settling irregularly in Europe. I conclude by suggesting that, while it is important to foresee a plan that also includes elements such as return with Third Countries (TCs), there is no shortcut to this. Cooperation partnerships need to be strengthened with TCs keeping in mind that wins and losses should be equally distributed between all stakeholders involved.
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