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  • on 14.10.2014
  • at 12:30 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Francesco Petrelli (CONCORD Italia): ‘Ms. Mogherini must make migration a top priority’ 0

‘We cannot expect other countries to respect EU values when people trying to reach Europe are denied the basic right to life’, says Francesco Petrelli, spokesperson for CONCORD Italia. ‘Migration concerns all Member States, not only those situated along the Mediterranean Coast, and it should be a top priority in the EU’s political agenda’. In an interview with Afronline.org, Mr. Petrelli discusses the high points expressed by Federica Mogherini – the EU High Representative-designate for Foreign affairs and Security Policy – during her hearing last week, enounces CONCORD’s priorities and shares his expectations from European institutions, including the European External Action Service (EEAS).

CONCORD Italia is a branch of CONCORD Europe – the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs. As the main interlocutor with EU institutions on development policy, CONCORD works to ensure policy coherence and sustain European Non-governmental Development Organisations (NGDOs). Francesco Petrelli is particularly concerned with the issue of migration in the Mediterranean region.

Last week the EU High Representative-designate for Foreign affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, gave a convincing three-hour hearing at the European Parliament. Looking back, how did you judge her performance? And how do you consider her approach to migration, development and European civil society?

First of all, Federica Mogherini recognized the European Parliament’s role as an interlocutor for civil society and European citizens. This may seem obvious, but she referred to it both in her initial statement and several times throughout the hearing. The second point – which is important coming from the mouth of a High Representative – was her acknowledgement that Europe’s foreign policies should focus on ‘prevention’ rather than ‘cure’, seeking structural solutions to issues that lead to instability and conflicts. Going back to civil society, Ms. Mogherini announced her plans to tour European capitals and meet CSOs. I hope this attention will be extended to civil society in the global South, who are essential work partners for our operations and efforts to raise awareness outside the EU. Indeed, focusing on ‘prevention’ instead of ‘cure’ requires a strong culture of dialogue and exchange with civil society around the world – not only through Federica Mogherini, but also from the European Commission and other governmental institutions.

Replacing ‘cure’ with ‘prevention’ is also impossible to achieve without European policy coherence, which was discussed several times during the hearing. Unfortunately reality is far from coherent. For example, there are strong contradictions between EU development and trade policies, which undermine the European Commission’s Development Cooperation and ‘Agenda for Change’. Although MEPs often overlook this point, Ms. Mogherini recognized the importance of policy coherence, particularly when it comes to development. If we continue ignoring the discrepancies between trade and development policies, all efforts and resources devoted to Development Cooperation could be wasted. The same goes for environmental and climate change politics. It is absurd to invest in food security whilst promoting trade systems that encourage ‘land grabbing’ and lead to volatile food prices, risking conflicts today and in the future.

Finally, Federica Mogherini called for a new political vision in which European foreign policy is devoted to people and communities, prioritising justice, equality and human rights. This is vital for Europe to become a global player and ensure ‘prevention’ over ‘cure’. I also was struck when she referenced Lampedusa and the need for greater coherency in the implementation of European Union values and principles. Ms. Mogherini herself acknowledged we cannot expect others to respect these values when people trying to reach Europe are denied the basic right to life. In my opinion, migration should be considered a top priority in the EU’s political agenda. Whilst central and western European countries were easily integrated, we seem to have forgotten our commitment to the Barcelona Declaration signed two decades ago. There needs to be a radical change in EU migration policy. This issue concerns all Member States, not only those situated along the Mediterranean Coast, and it should be faced at a European level. Looking at data, numbers and predictions for the EU show there will be 33 million less workers in 2030 and 60 million people older than 65. This will place unprecedented pressure on the workforce and welfare provision. It is time Europe confronts migration as an opportunity to develop an active society in the future.

What does European civil society expect from the European External Action Service (EEAS) and Federica Mogherini? Which comes first on CONCORD’s priority list, in Italy and in Europe?

We expect Europe to step up the fight against poverty, which has recently become a fight against inequality. The past few years have seen an unprecedented rise in inequality and social exclusion, between and within individual countries. Tackling this situation is a prerequisite for development and should become the core of European policy. The same goes for the nexus between migration and development, given the Commission itself referred to migrants as ‘enabling factors’ for development in both donor and host countries. Not to mention the obvious link between poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. We live in a world where people behave as if resources were unlimited, and Europe should act against this. Preserving natural resources is key to avoiding environmental hazards and economic disasters that could trigger widespread conflicts. These themes will be addressed by the post-2015 Development Agenda, which will be determined by the United Nations next year. The EU must play a strong role in building this Agenda, presenting itself to the global forum as a single entity with a common position shared by all Member States.

As a European NGO, we consider development aid and Official Development Assistance (ODA) fundamental to achieving poverty reduction and sustainable development. Private actors also have a significant impact – and the $130 billion devoted to public development does seem small compared to the $435 billion of remittances expected to reach LEDCs by 2015 – but we believe it is important to maintain development aid as an efficient and transparent platform of support. At CONCORD, our agenda is devoted to promoting equality, policy coherence, environmental sustainability and (budget permitting) making our own financial contributions to ODA.

In what ways can European civil society both accompany and police the European external relations service?

At CONCORD we act as ‘watch dogs’. We have accumulated knowledge and experience working with civil society around the world, and we represent their call for advocacy, development and international cooperation. With several partners in the global South, our role as a European NGO is to maintain dialogue and act as institutional interlocutors – the same which we expect from Ms. Mogherini. We are available but we also police, speaking out if principles are not respected or when European policy is incoherent. Our lobbying advocacy is aimed at the Commission, the European Parliament and governments in Member States. The aim is to be efficient and competent in our work, suggesting constructive alternatives and maintaining a good relationship with European Institutions. CONCORD represents a fragment of European public opinion and citizens in NGOs working on the same issues. We confirm our availability, and hope for a sincere and open dialogue with the High Representative-designate. At CONCORD Italia we have witnessed her openness towards civil society. Let’s hope she carries this availability into her new role.

By Sofia Christensen – Afronline.org

Edited by J. Massarenti

Photo credit: Afronline.org 

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