Events since the start of 2015 in the Mediterranean seem to confirm an old truth about EU migration policy, namely its reactive nature. Policy and political élites had to witness another tragedy to open a debate on how to change migration policies. If we look at the first nationalities of people entering irregularly into a European member state in 2014, we note that several of these countries of origin have been in desperate conditions for years now, as in the case of Syria or Eritrea. However, besides the feeling of discomfort about these policies, one could object that, while not bold, this set of policy measures could still be effective. This article looks at the actual novelties included in the package of measures recently released by the Commission, and discusses their likely efficacy. In a well-established pattern, EU policy and political élites seem to perceive what is happening in the Mediterranean along four dimensions: border control, irregular migration, asylum and refugee policy, and (limitedly) legal migration. This way of understanding human mobility is nothing new, as these four categories were already present in the Treaty of Maastricht signed in 1992. The Commission has divided its last package of initiatives into measures to be quickly adopted, and measures for the medium- to long-term. Continue reading

After the recent tragedy in Lampedusa, we have heard a number of politicians and commentators saying that what Italy needs to face the current refugee crisis is more support from the European Union. What does this really mean? First, there is a frequent misconception concerning actual volumes of EU financial assistance. This in turn raises two further issues. What is the current state of affairs in terms of funds received by Italy compared to other Member States? How much can the EU realistically provide in support for a national migration system? In other words, to what extent can the EU substitute for a functioning national migration system? Secondly, there is, as always in EU affairs, questions of power and sovereignty. I will address each of these points in turn. Continue reading