For a fair exchange between an aging Europe and a dynamic Africa

In his speech on April 25th about the European project, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a strategic leap to prevent the decline of Europe. According to Ghazi Ben Ahmed, this leap also requires the implementation of a policy that both controls entries into the EU and opens legal pathways for migration.

Aging population, declining workforce … Because pressing demographic challenges threaten its economic competitiveness and the sustainability of its social protection systems, Europe can no longer afford to ignore the economic and social implications of immigration, especially if it aims to move towards a wartime economy and strategic autonomy.

Neither Laxity Nor Populism

The new European executive, particularly within the Schengen area, must lead the establishment of innovative cooperations and develop policies based on a renewed narrative, without yielding to either laxity or authoritarian populism. The currently proposed models have proven ineffective, as evidenced by the memorandums of understanding that the European Union has signed with Tunisia and Egypt to externalize migration management. These agreements only serve to strengthen authoritarian regimes, disregarding the fate of migrants and the inhumane treatment they often endure.

Similarly, subcontracting agreements like those concluded by the United Kingdom or Italy, which envisage transferring migrants to third countries, often far from their countries of origin, must be reevaluated. These practices, far from solving problems, simply shift responsibilities and exacerbate the ethical issues related to migration. This was highlighted by Emmanuel Macron in his recent speech at the Sorbonne, where he condemned such actions as a “geopolitics of cynicism that betrays our values, builds new dependencies, and will prove totally ineffective.”

A balanced European solution does not involve retreating inward but effectively protecting borders against a massive influx of irregular migrants while scrupulously respecting human rights and promoting legal and chosen migration. It is crucial to implement policies that not only control entries but also simultaneously open legal pathways for migration.

Prioritizing Short-Term Mobility

To open these legal pathways, we could design visas for short-term migration or mobility based on temporary contracts, renewable for five years, allowing migrants to work in Europe for six to nine months per year before returning to their home country and ensuring they can come back the following year. These measures would have the advantage of meeting labor needs in key sectors while allowing migrants to maintain strong ties with their home countries, thus promoting economic development through acquired skills and remittances. Furthermore, such an approach would enhance social cohesion in Europe by reducing tensions and combating negative stereotypes associated with immigration. This implies that African partners also have their share of responsibility and obligations so that everyone benefits.

The challenge, therefore, lies in finding a balance between the demands of the EU and those of its southern neighbors. The new European executive and member states must address both illegal and legal migration. This means, on one hand, humanely treating illegal migrants that southern countries will commit to taking back and, on the other hand, offering southern countries some form of compensation for each legal migrant who comes to live and work in the EU. It is imperative that the EU stops viewing Africa merely as a talent pool to exploit without reciprocation and recognizes the need for close collaboration with this continent to build its strategic autonomy and transform it into a power. Additionally, without active support and renewal, this talent reservoir risks drying up.

Combining Security, Humanity, and Economy

Emmanuel Macron’s call for a “powerful Europe” appears to be a “good impetus”—according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who reacted to Macron’s speech in a tweet—and a rallying cry for a Union aspiring to combine security, humanity, and long-term economic vision. Coincidentally, at the same time, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, speaking before the Sejm, the lower house of Parliament, outlined his vision of Poland’s role in the European project in almost identical terms: “The EU has become a geopolitical project. Poland’s role is to support this process.”

Thus, within the Weimar Triangle, a cooperation platform bringing together Poland, France, and Germany, a shared political vision is emerging to strengthen Europe. This strategic vision for a “powerful Europe” calls for a renewal of EU migration policies, which should no longer be merely reactive and security-focused but also proactive, integrated into a comprehensive approach to sustainable development and North-South cooperation. This vital project for Europe will require not only bold proposals—like those put forward by Emmanuel Macron—but also an increased capacity to overcome internal divisions and rethink leadership dynamics within the European Union. In this context, a certainty emerges that the outgoing President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, discredited and seen as an obstacle to this vision, is probably no longer the right leader to carry this ambitious project forward.

Article written by Ghazi Ben Ahmed and translated from French by Jeune Afrique, on 21 May 2024

Ghazi Ben Ahmed

Founder and President

Ghazi Ben Ahmed

Founder and President

A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary