EU-Africa emergency trust fund receives mixed reaction from MEPs
EU leaders launch new plans to tackle the worsening refugee crisis.
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has announced a €1.8bn EU-Africa emergency trust fund aimed at tackling the "root causes" of Europe's refugee crisis.
The trust will be funded through EU financing instruments as well as direct contributions from the 28 EU member states; it has garnered €81.3m so far.
Building on the €20bn already donated annually to Africa by the EU, the fund will finance projects ranging from training and small-business grants and combating food shortages to projects aimed at cutting emigration and tackling radicalisation.
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Juncker, speaking at an emergency EU summit in Malta, said, "This emergency trust fund for Africa, set up at a record speed, shows once more the EU's commitment to swiftly reply to the large challenges we are facing in the region."
He continued, "For the Africa trust fund and our response to be credible, I want to see more member states contributing and matching the €1.8bn the EU has put forward."
The launch was welcomed by members of the European Parliament, though several MEPs have warned that more needs to be done to effectively manage the crisis.
Manfred Weber, chair of Parliament's centre-right EPP group said, "we welcome the decisions and the action plan adopted. They should now be swiftly implemented."
"However, African countries must show their willingness to help. For the EPP group, EU development aid to African countries must be linked to cooperation in the return of migrants not granted asylum."
Parliament's S&D group foreign affairs spokesperson, Richard Howitt, acknowledged Europe's "shared commitment to a comprehensive approach and to provide the right short-term response to current pressures."
However, he highlighted the need to adopt a "long-term perspective which will allow Europe to address the underlying causes of the refugee crisis," with increased funding, "only one element in tackling the crisis."
Chair of the GUE/NGL group , Gabi Zimmer, called for the EU to adopt a more open migration policy, accusing EU leaders of working with "dictatorships in Eritrea and Sudan," while eroding the "EU's own values of freedom and human rights."
She added, "The agreement will see the EU sending some refugees back to the authoritarian regimes and situations of poverty and hunger from which they fled."
"What we really need is a radical change in European trade and development policy, serving first the people in developing countries and not European corporations."
The need to find a solution to the refugee crisis has never been more pressing. The Commission estimates that three million more refugees will arrive by the end of next year - almost three times the number the EU has had to process so far this year.
The African emergency trust fund is just one strand of the EU's efforts to alleviate the crisis. Europe's leaders are currently attempting to negotiate a €3bn deal with Turkey that would see Ankara take on increasing responsibility for migrants trying to enter Europe from across the Mediterranean.
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