23 October 2011

I. EU-ECOWAS EPAs: A New Tool to Transform Migration Dynamics?

This research assesses possibly new frameworks to tackle the prevalence of illegal migration between Europe and West Africa on the inter-regional policy level. The key question discussed is ‘To what extent does the EU-ECOWAS liaison on the inter-regional level have the potential to mitigate the perceived challenges of illegal migration between the two regions.’ Based on a rich body of qualitative data derived from regional and national actors, the research breaks fresh grounds. It suggests that due to a deadlock within the political migration domain, alternative policy tools must be sought.
The peculiar characteristics of mostly labor market driven migration between the regions propose that migration dynamics can be transformed by means of economic policy tools. The EU and the ECOWAS hold unprecedentedly strong mandates for concluding inter-regional trade agreements, the EPAs. This endows the two regional actors with exceptional potential to introduce policy frameworks that, beside others, mitigate the perceived migration challenges.
This critical analysis gives valuable insights to the widely unexplored level of inter-regional cooperation in the migration policy domain. Beyond that, this explorative, process and interest oriented qualitative research has been able to look beyond the prevailing academic debates and policy proposals. The latter narrowly focus on the knowingly limited migration policies as the only possible solution. This research shows that the various societal interests and governments’ limitations in policy options have to be taken serious. But it also shows that workable policy solutions can be sought in other policy domains, like the economic one. >>> read Part II. of I./II./III./IV./V./VI. <<<
*picture original info-sourcing.com 

II. On the Move between Europe & West Africa

“Migration as such is abstract. Migration follows economic development. Migration follows globalization, both within and between the region and other parts of the world” (EU Commission, DG Home staff, Brussels).
In the past decades Europe encountered socio-economic changes that lastingly affected societal and economic structures. European societies experienced a decline and an aging of their population. This diluted the capacities of welfare state structures and compromised the labor supply to European economies. Mismatches of sectoral demand and supply led to the paradoxical situation of rising unemployment rates with a concurrent increase of labor needs. Southern European states were additionally confronted with the consequences of the EU integration processes, since their labor forces moved to the now easily accessible and more attractive North European markets. In order to sustain the economic equilibrium, Europe had to ‘import’ labor forces.
Beside others, these needs were covered by a highly mobile West African labor force.  As a result of the economic and political crisis, which the West African region experienced from the mid 1970s onwards, a share of this mobile labor force had oriented towards the thriving Maghrebi labor markets. By the end of the 1990s they increasingly extended towards the needy European labor markets.
However, European popular fears on access to welfare privileges and moral considerations of civil society on a possible West African ‘brain drain’ continuously discouraged European governments to setup a political framework that would channel the supply of labor migrants to the respective sources of labor demand. While the wider popular called for the control of what was widely perceived as refugee movements, civil society called for an extension of European asylum systems.
Decision makers confined themselves to the rather curious ‘no policy tools’. This resulted in growing European informal economies and labor markets, which attracted and absorbed illegal West African migrants. Against this background, it is concluded that illegal migration is not the actual challenge. Rather, the challenge is the generation of policy initiatives that respond to the eligible but at times opposing needs of societal groups in the face of the underlying socio-economic changes in Europe. Illegal migration is found to be a consequence of such unmet challenges and hence has to be addressed via these. >>> read Part III. of I./II./III./IV./V./VI. <<<

III. Going Inter-Regional: Futile Migration Policy Strategies

“Ultimately ECOWAS, like ourselves is an organization, which the member states (…) have decided to put together. So [it] depends on the resources, the commitment and the political will that member states put into the common project” (EU, EEAS staff, Brussels).
The pressure to act on the prevalence of illegal migrants from West Africa to Europe lead policy makers to locate migration policy initiatives to the inter-regional level to the EU and the ECOWAS. However, the enquiry into this recent development reveals that regional actors have been heavily restricted in initiating migration policies. National member states passed on the hostile attitudes of voters on labor migration policies and granted regional actors only a highly limited mandate. Like this, the regional actors, too, were prevented to initiate a political migration framework in response to the socio-economic changes.
The inter-regional cooperation on migration evaded to the area of migration & development. Interventions were located within the West African region, aiming at enhancing intra-regional migration. However, such migration policy initiatives experienced limitations of a similar nature. West African governments showed reluctance with implementing the free movement of people on the intra-regional level in the face of their tensed national labor markets. In this regard, the inter-regional initiatives, which targeted intra-regional migration on the political level showed as little potential to mitigate the prevailing socio-economic challenges and illegal migration movements as did the national political initiatives. >>> read Part IV. of I./II./III./IV./V./VI. <<<

IV. Tales of Labor Demands & Trade/Investment Interests

“If we are still together to work, it means that on our side we know what we gain from this kind of partnership and I am sure that on their side they know very much what they are gaining from us” (ECOWAS, Department of External Relations staff, Abuja).
Up to here, the findings were rather disillusioning. Nevertheless, it was at this point, where the advantages of the qualitative research came into play. Interviews with organizational staff highlighted a number of key stakes and interests, which fundamentally changed the setting.

·   West African voices reinforced that, unlike prevailing scenarios of crisis and conflict in European minds might suggest, the mobility of West Africans was mostly income oriented. African migrants locate their principle centre of life in their countries of origin, but saw themselves compelled to use citizenship as a tool to secure access to labor markets and therewith income. In this respect, a mechanism that would grant consecutive legal access to the needy sections of European labor market and incorporate adequate transfer mechanisms for welfare contributions would forestall questions of citizenship and membership to welfare communities.

·   Following the contributions of the ECOWAS staff, the central interest of inter-regional cooperation pertained to a strengthening of economic relations. They called for technology transfer, investment into processing and production industries and eventually trade in processed goods. These were considered a direct means to the end of socio-economic prosperity of the region. As the staff highlighted, this would indirectly increase regional employment opportunities and decrease the incentives of illegally migration to Europe. Also, it would indirectly increase the incentives for West African governments to implement the Free Movement Protocols.

·   The contributions of European voices highlighted that beyond the lip service of European governments paid vis-√†-vis their electorate, they fostered interests in a targeted labor migration system in order to sustain the European economic equilibrium. This should, beside others, address the young and increasingly educated West African population. Such a system would respond to sectors that were under strain due to a mere lack or a mismatch of labor forces. It would thereby forestall a competition with national/regional labor forces. Also, it could circumvent issues of brain drain by factoring in West African labor needs. Eventually, this would increase the labor opportunities to legal migrants and thereby decrease incentives for informal European labor markets, economies and illegal migration. Eventually, it would reduce the incentives of migrants to use asylum systems as a means to access European formal and informal labor markets and relieve asylum systems to protect the rights of those in need.

·   The political and economic reforms, which numerous West African governments underwent in the past decades, aiming at making trade and investment in and with the region more attractive, are still widely unknown. Nevertheless, European voices highlighted that the region is considered to be of increasing relevance to Europe in regard of investment and trade relations. This would potentially boost West African economies and employment opportunities. >>> read Part V. of I./II./III./IV./V./VI. <<<

V. EPAs: A Framework to Transform Europe-West Africa Migration Dynamics

“There is potential in EU-ECOWAS cooperation in the increasing exchange of trade. Not only trade of goods that are processed in West Africa but also trade of services” (ECOWAS, Trade Dept. staff, Abuja).
In light of these considerations, the potential of inter-regional cooperation has to be considered from a new angle. The qualitative data suggests that the underlying socio-economic challenges could potentially be addressed through cooperation in the economic domain. In this domain, the EU and the ECOWAS have been holding comprehensive mandates, which endow them with the right to negotiate trade agreements with each other, on behalf of their member states. With this, in their attempts to mitigate the prevailing challenges, the regional actors move from being a ‘supplementary’ instance for policy initiative, as in the case of the political migration domain, to the primary authority of policy initiative.
A tentative analysis of the ongoing trade negotiations between the EU and the ECOWAS (Economic Partnership Agreements –EPAs) reveals that trade tools have the potential to serve as a framework to facilitate the interests that were articulated by regional and national actors. The trade in service dimension has a framework at its disposal, which, despite the national sovereignties, could facilitate targeted, sector oriented labor migration in compliance with the needs of European and West African economies. Further, the dimension of trade in goods harbors the potential to set up a framework for trade and investment that fosters the socio-economic situation of the ECOWAS. It could potentially be used to stimulate the trade between the regions and especially investment into the West African region beyond the currently prevailing development dimension. >>> read Part VI. of I./II./III./IV./V./VI. <<<

VI. On Inter-Regional Potentials & Policy Recommendations

“Migration is very emotional, having to do with ideas of citizenship and how society is organized. I guess Member states do not mind if a bunch of technically minded nerds do tariffs for them” (EU Commission, DG Trade staff, Brussels).
From this, it is concluded that the inter-regional cooperation between the EU and the ECOWAS bares huge potential to mitigate the underlying socio-economic challenges that both regions experience. This in turn could indirectly transform the inter-regional migration dynamics. This research reveals that the potential of inter-regional cooperation to change the prevailing migration patterns is not to be sought with political migration policy frameworks. Rather, as a result of the particular economic character of inter-regional migration, and the strong trade mandate of the two regional bodies, potential lays in the area of economic policies.
The ongoing trade negotiations between the regions still have to overtake numerous hurdles in order to set up the framework, which could guide the future trade relations between the regions. From this, a number of policy recommendations can be derived: 

·   Up to date, the EU predominantly used the trade in service regulative framework, in particular to enable the strong European skilled service sector access to foreign markets. EU policy makers should assess how to possibly incorporate the service dimension under Mode 4 (the movement of natural persons), in the EPAs with the ECOWAS, as a tool to respond to sector specific labor demands of European labor markets (e.g. construction). Here, they should incorporate the peculiar labor needs of West African societies.  

·   The major focus of the EPAs has been allocated to the development dimension of a safe and stable investment climate. While this is a pivotal precondition to sound trade relations, the unproportional focus on the development dimension left aside the actual initiation of trade, investment and technology transfer. EU policy makers should use the EPA framework as a means to stimulate trade and investment with especially the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, which is the heart of both, the European and the West African economies.

·   European national governments play a central role in this. National economic policies should incorporate the communication of the trade and investment opportunities within the West African region, especially towards the European SME sector.  It is this sector which is flexible and can respond within a relatively short period of time to investment opportunities in a widely unknown market such as the West African market.  

·   The EPAs have often been communicated as an EU tool to exploit its respective trade partners. Certain asymmetric negotiation dynamics may potentially favor unequal agreements. However, ECOWAS policy makers should proactively use the EPAs as an opportunity to promote their own interests as in the immense potential of the West African economy, in particular its dominating SME sector, in order to attract international investors and stimulate trade.

·   Both the ECOWAS and West African governments have to comprehend that the limited space at hand of the EU and European governments on migration policies is mainly electoral. Therefore, ECOWAS policy makers should use the trade in service dimension as an opportunity. They should assess the potential that the provisions under Mode 4 have with regard to playing out their comparative advantage of abundant, cheap and increasingly well educated labor forces.

·   West African governments play a pivotal role in this. With the implementation of policy frameworks on trade, investment and technology transfer, they should keep in focus that these are not ends in themselves but rather a means to bring about socio-economic prosperity to the entirety of the West African society.
>>> read Part I. of I./II./III./IV./V./VI. <<<
*picture original ehow.com