News > Research Workshop "Democracy and Migration in the Euro-Mediterranean Area"
Research Workshop "Democracy and Migration in the Euro-Mediterranean Area"
The EuroMeSCo Secretariat, in collaboration with the Centre of International Studies at the University of Cambridge, held a research workshop on "Democracy and Migration in the Euro-Mediterranean Area" at Pembroke College in Cambridge, on 27-28 September 2007. The aim of this seminar was to bring together some of the researchers involved in related EuroMeSCo projects, as well as a few external experts, to discuss individual findings and to facilitate cross-fertilisation.

The workshop was introduced by Dr. Tobias Schumacher (EuroMeSCo secretariat, Lisbon) who pointed out that the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) and thus Euro-Mediterranean relations since 9/11, and even more so since the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005 respectively, have become exposed to an increasing degree of securitization, particularly in policy areas, such as immigration, asylum and border control. In a way, it seems, according to Schumacher, as if there existed a consensus among the political elite on both shores of the Mediterranean that the way terrorism is expressing itself nowadays, was considered to be a new phenomenon that can only be countered through the introduction of highly restrictive measures at the expense of civic liberties. Whereas this trend affects the rights of third-country nationals in particular, or third-country nationals with an Islamic background to be more precise, the securitization of Euro-Mediterranean relations and policies has resulted in a rather unforeseen revitalization of sorts of parts of the EMP’s hitherto rather dormant first basket. Schumacher argued that while the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the numerous conceptual flaws that are underpinning the first basket, precluded the latter from being implemented properly, the recent change of the security climate in the Euro-Mediterranean area contributed to a rapprochement between the EU, EU member states and their counterparts in the South and led to an intensified cooperation in the field of anti-terrorism legislation. According to Schumacher, this is reflected, for instance, by the adoption of a Euro-Mediterranean code of conduct on terrorism, and an informal understanding that allows EU member states on the hand to externalize – and thus outsource – areas of migration control and on the other hand Arab Mediterranean regimes to give priority to stability over political liberalization and democratization, the latter of which is the ultimate normative objective of the EMP. In view of this, Schumacher remarked that it seems as if there were at least three dichotomies that needed to be addressed: 1.) how to combine security/securitization with processes of political liberalization?; 2.) how to fight terrorism and pursue the relevant measures without curtailing civic liberties and personal freedoms and violating human rights?; 3.) how to relate the European Neighbourhood Policy’s alleged incentives that are supposed to be on offer in exchange for reform to the increasing tendency of EU member states to clamp down on immigration?

These initial remarks paved the way for the first session, which was introduced by Francesca Galli (Cambridge University) and George Joffé (Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge). In their presentation on “The Legal and Political Implications of the Securitization of Counter-Terrorism Measures across the Mediterranean”, they pointed to an overreaction that was generated by the incidents of political violence, as mentioned above, and examined whether, and if so, to what extent, this had led to a securitization of both policies and legislation within the EU. With this in view, they identified developments in European security policy, in terms of the Union´s declamatory policy and the construction of new security institutions, as well as the application of externalisation and intensive trans-governmentalism to security policy across the Mediterranean. They reviewed the latest developments in the security dialogue between the EU and the southern Mediterranean partners and touched upon the evolution of domestic security policies within France and the United Kingdom and the Maghreb. Galli and Joffé explained that while the events of 9/11 contributed to bringing the security discourses of the EU and North Africa closer together and a common, yet highly simplified understanding of what constitutes the main security threats, i.e. political Islam, they emphasized that this did not bring about further agreement on how to tackle this and other alleged threats, and what practices need to be promoted in order to so. In other words, as was remarked by the two speakers, the EU and its southern Mediterranean partners do not share a unified approach to radical Islamist groups, nor even towards the concept of transnational terrorism. Ironically, the very fact that European policy-makers claim to have a very clear understanding of the nature of the predominant security threats, they persist in considering that authoritarian governments and some co-opted secular opposition parties need to remain their privileged interlocutors. Unsurprisingly, this implies that hard security concerns (continue to) take precedence over the development of democratic states and, as a consequence, the security situation in Europe´s southern neighbourhood remains precarious. In the subsequent discussion, there was a broad consensus among the participants that if the EU and thus the EMP´s first basket were to be ultimately successful, attempts at (re-)building security regimes should rebalance Justice and Home Affairs concerns with other essential elements of both the Union´s and the southern Mediterranean partner´s external policies, on the basis of international law and respect for human rights. Moreover, participants were reminded by Dr. Georgios Karyotis (University of Strathclyde) that the externalization of threats that is somewhat underpinning the actual securitization of the discourse started already before 9/11, and they agreed that it is increasingly difficult to reverse that trend, as it was considered to be highly ideologized.

The second session, introduced by Galit Palzur (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), followed up on this debate, as it focused on “The Repercussions of 9/11 on the Asylum Policies of selected EU Member States towards Asylum-Seekers from the South”. In her presentation Palzur tried to established a correlation between variables, such as the influence of public opinion, the power of interest groups, the overall economic situation in countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom, the relationship of the country in question with the US, and thus the degree to which these countries may be exposed to a terrorist attack, and how these factors would impact upon individual asylum policies. Based on this matrix, she argued that the events of 9/11 represented a turning point with respect to asylum policies especially in France and Germany although measures, such as the Debré Laws, the Chèvenement Laws and the “Sicherheitspaket I”, were introduced already ahead of the terrorist attacks in the US. Furthermore, she maintained that security concerns had increasingly shaped asylum policies particularly vis-à-vis Muslim asylum-seekers and pointed to the declining approval rate of asylum seekers in the countries under study. This sparked a debate over the feasibility of the applied variables, and there was widespread agreement that it is crucial to distinguish between refugees and migrants and to abandon the somewhat artificial and analytically problematic distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim asylum-seekers.

In the third session, Xavier Aragall (IeMED, Barcelona) gave an overview of an ongoing EuroMeSCo project on “New Directions on National Immigration Policies: the Development of the External Dimension and its Linkage with the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership” and raised the question to what extent EMP states are externalizing their policies and which role the EMP plays in such a process. While Aragall argued that the Euro-Mediterranean framework should be utilized as a system of arbitration of sorts with respect to the identification of commonly accepted solutions to shared problems in the field of migration, it was stressed by others that a higher degree of Europeanization may not imply a higher level of coherence with the southern Mediterranean partners. In this context, it was pointed out by some participants that the governmental elite of most of the southern Mediterranean partner countries do play a rather active role and implicitly provided the basis for the EU to externalise and adopt tighter security measures in the wake of 9/11, as many of the southern leaders had already anticipated the development of the current securitization discourse some years ago when they themselves pointed to the phenomenon of transnational violence.

In view of these presentations and comments, the participants reached the conclusion that the time has come to “deconstruct the constructed”, i.e. to de-securitize the current discourse that conceives of migrants both as potential threats to the stability and homogeneity of European (and southern Mediterranean) societies, and as potential terrorists. According to the participants, this must go hand in hand with a Euro-Mediterranean-wide debate about common security governance that is based upon the safeguarding of individual rights, greater accountability of governments and thus real transparency of security/counter-terrorism measures.

To see the programme, please click here

To read the conclusions of the workshop in Arabic, please click here