Don’t let migration determine the EU’s financial aid

In the EU, international aid is becoming increasingly governed by the member states' self-interest, and the right to asylum is violated when the EU wants to curb migration. In Concord Sweden's survey, a majority of the Swedish top candidates for the European Parliament promise to work for change. These are promises that require commitment.

May 9 2019

The EU’s policy substantially affects the lives of people outside Europe’s borders and may contribute to peace and sustainable development in the world. But with an EU in a crisis, its member states’ economic self-interest and restrictive migration agenda have had an increasing impact on the EU’s foreign policy. The growing nationalism limits democracy, freedom of association and women’s rights.

The parliamentary election on May 23 – 26 will shape Europe’s future, but also the union’s relationship with the rest of the world. The EU is a big and powerful actor in the global arena. The foreign policy budget currently under negotiation in the EU amounts to 123 billion Euros.

Concord Sweden asked the Swedish parties’ top candidates about their view on the EU’s global role. The Swedish Democrats didn’t answer the survey. The participating parties’ candidates generally expressed that they, as do we, want to see an EU that takes global responsibility.

We want to highlight four important issues where the candidates in the survey express their dedication to change the EU’s current policy.

1. The EU’s financial aid should be based on the receiver’s needs and not the self-interest of its member states.
The explicit purpose of the EU’s aid is to offer support so that people can overcome poverty and fight oppression. However, the introduction of a migration policy perspective on financial aid has led to a shift in priorities and aims.

Aid funds are used to finance efforts to counteract migration to Europe. Beneficiary countries are granted aid on the condition that they stop people in flight or receive people who have been denied asylum. It is a worrying development that is being driven forward by a number of member countries.

Here, there’s a clear divide between the Swedish candidates’ position and the tendency in the EU. “That aid has become a central tool in the EU’s attempts to prevent migrants from coming to Europe is shameful”, writes the Left Party’s Malin Björk. The Social Democrats’ Heléne Fritzon replies: ”We believe that the foremost goal of the EU’s aid policy should continue to be the fight against poverty.” Of the respondents, only the Moderate Party believes that aid should be conditioned.

2. The right to asylum should be the guiding principle in EU migration policy.
This statement is supported by all candidates in our survey. However, this is not the case today. The EU has stated that “curbing migration” is a political goal. The common asylum system (CEAS) in practice implies that the right to asylum is conditioned.

The expansion of the Libya and Turkey cooperation is an example of how people’s rights are being indirectly restricted, as is the fact that people are deported to states where they risk persecution and inhumane treatment from the authorities. We will monitor developments closely to see how the parties’ promises to safeguard the right to asylum are mirrored in real policy.

Two examples: ”Sweden needs to promote a system where the EU has entry permits specifically designated to asylum-seekers. It should be easier, not harder, to seek asylum in the EU”, answers the Green Party’s Jakop Dalunde. The Christian Democrats’ David Lega writes: ”The Christian Democrats’ basic principle is that we have a moral responsibility to help fellow human beings in need and that the right to asylum must be guarded. The large number of people who die every year on dangerous escape routes obliges us to make sure that there are legal ways for asylum-seekers to get to Europe.”

3. Strong commitments to climate issues.
Climate politics is an important part of Agenda 2030 with its 17 global goals for sustainable development. It is imperative that we make the changes required in time. What the EU does during the coming five years will determine our future. However, the right-wing parties in parliament are carrying out a climate policy at odds with Agenda 2030.

In our survey, all responding parties have been receptive to speeding up the schedule for when the EU should have reached zero-emissions, thereby adhering to the Paris agreement. One example is the Liberal’s Said Abdu’s statement: ”It’s not certain that even the Paris agreement’s emission reduction is enough, and we should be ready to toughen this interim target during the coming years.”

4. The defence of basic democratic principles
We are many who share a concern over the far-right’s growing influence over the EU’s policy. When parties with values radically different than those on which the EU was founded gain an increased influence it’s not only European democracy that’s in danger. The EU’s possibilities of contributing to peace, development and security in the surrounding world are also drastically limited. The toughened climate for environmental and human rights defenders in and outside of Europe makes the EU’s support of an independent civil society crucial. All candidates in our survey promise to advocate to secure such support.

Thus answers, for example, Feminist Initiative’s Soraya Post: ”A basic feminist principle is democratic participation, and here, civil society plays an extremely important role in the world. We see a global decline in, and direct threats against, feminist, anti-racism and LGBTQI movements within civil society. This poses a global threat to democracy, and we want the EU to take it seriously.”

More candidates mention that they want to withdraw EU funds for member states who don’t follow the basic democratic guidelines in the EU Treaties. One example is the Moderate Party’s Tomas Tobé who says that: ”[W]e want to withdraw EU funds for countries that breach the principles of the rule of law.”

The Central Party’s Fredrick Federley writes: ”For me, it’s about concrete issues such as that Poland and Hungary shouldn’t be able to access EU funds if they don’t abide by the principles signed when they entered the union.” 

The promises of the Swedish candidates offer hope. They also entail a great responsibility for those elected May 26. Along with the democratic parties in Europe, they have the power to shape the EU’s future. That will mean putting pressure on their colleagues in the party groups and their government. We, the Swedish organisations who work with global issues, promise to take our responsibility and hold the parliamentarians accountable.

Signatures, coordinated by Concord Sweden:
Anders Malmstigen, secretary-general, Svenska missionsrådet
Jêran Rostam, national president of RFSL Ungdom
Anna Barkered, secretary-general, Latinamerikagrupperna
Silvia Ernhagen, chief executive, Hungerprojektet
Louise Lindfors, secretary-general, Afrikagrupperna
Malin Nilsson, secretary-general, Internationella Kvinnoförbundet för Fred och Frihet, IKFF
Henrik Alberius, president of Caritas Sverige
Peter Brune, secretary-general, War Child Sverige
Mariann Eriksson, secretary-general, Plan International Sverige
Carolina Ehrnrooth, executive director, Svalorna Indien Bangladesh
Rosaline Marbinah, president of LSU- Sveriges Ungdomsorganisationer.
Anna Svärd, secretary-general, Barnfonden
Catharina Gehrke, secretary-general, SOS Barnbyar
Anna Tibblin, secretary-general, We Effect 
Maria Schultz, spokesperson, Vi-skogen
Lotta Sjöström Becker, secretary-general, Kristna Fredsrörelsen
Martin Nihlgård, secretary-general, IM Individuell Människohjälp
Andreas Stefansson, secretary-general, Svenska Afghanistankommittén.
Ulrika Strand, secretary-general, Fonden för mänskliga rättigheter
Ulrika Urey, chief of staff, Fair Action
Petra Tötterman Andorff, secretary-general, Kvinna till Kvinna
Karin Wiborn, secretary-general, Sveriges kristna råd
Lena Ekroth, president of PRO Global/Pensionärer utan gränser 
Julia Andén, chairman, Svalorna Latinamerika
Ingela Holmertz, secretary-general, ActionAid Sverige.
Sandra Ehne, national president of RFSL
Göran Alfredsson, president of MyRight
Stina Götbrink, secretary-general, Hand in Hand
Lena Ingelstam, international manager, Rädda Barnen
Lars Arrhenius, secretary-general, Läkarmissionen
Eliot Wieslander, secretary-general, Läkare i Världen
Anna-Karin Johansson, secretary-general, RFSU
Anna Widoff, vice president of Svenska Västsaharakommittén
Alán Ali, president of MÄN
Daniel Grahn, secretary-general, Erikshjälpen
Agnes Hellström, president of Svenska Freds- och Skiljedomsföreningen
Hanna Dahlström, chief of staff, FIAN Sverige
Martin Ängeby, secretary-general, Svenskt internationellt liberalt centrum (Silc)
Erik Lysén, manager, Act Svenska kyrkan
Mona Örjes, president of i IOGT-NTO-rörelsen
Frida Dunger Johnsson, executive manager, Emmaus Stockholm
Anna Sundström, secretary-general, Olof Palmes Internationella Center
Anna Stenvinkel, secretary-general, Forum Syd
Niclas Lindgren, director, PMU, Pingstmissionens utvecklingssamarbete
Andreas Axelson, president of KFUM Sverige
Cecilia Chatterjee-Martinsen, secretary-general, WaterAid Sverige

The opinion article was published in Aftonbladet May 9 2019