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Europe Spurred to Action on Mediterranean Migration

Tunisian coast sign

A sign on the Tunisian coast. Credit Flickr user noborder network.

On Sunday, April 19th, a boat carrying as many as 950 people capsized in the Libyan waters south of Italy, focusing international attention on the problem of illegal immigration and human trafficking in the Mediterranean. An estimated 800 people drowned in this latest incident, where eyewitnesses stated that hundreds had been locked under the deck of the ship, with no chance of escape. But this shocking tragedy, while it may be the worst to date,  is only a fraction of the much larger death toll that has resulted from attempted migration across the Mediterranean, which has reached 1,727 so far in 2015.

The individuals risking their lives to reach Europe through the Mediterranean do so for many, valid, reasons. They flee their home countries to escape war, poverty, or political persecution that has erupted in many African and Middle-Eastern states since the Arab uprisings of 2011. This type of migration is known as “irregular migration,” which involves foreign nationals living in countries in which they do not have a legal status, or foreign nationals working illegally in a country in which they do have a legal status. But, sadly, due to the horrendous and dangerous conditions on many of the boats that carry these migrants, many of them never reach their destination. Migrants often pay large sums of money to owners of vessels to carry them across the sea. However, the vessels are often not equipped to carry the amount of people that are placed on board. This leads to dangerous conditions and wreckage, whereby thousands of migrants have lost their lives in the past several years.

In a special meeting of the European Council on April 23rd, the Council discussed this growing problem and action that could be taken to save lives in the Mediterranean. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, urged the Council to take action.

“Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration,” the President urged.

At this special meeting the Council released a statement that included several key promises. The first is to strengthen the EU presence at sea, by tripling the financial support for search and rescue operations. The second objective is to pursue the traffickers themselves, through existing international legal channels.  Thirdly, the Council vowed to prevent illegal migration by working with the countries from which the migrants flee in attempts to solve some of the problems that lead to the illegal migration. And lastly, the Council agreed to strengthen cooperation within European Union member states to comply with the Common European Asylum System, which is based on the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees, and attempts to maintain a common European policy on protecting those asylum seekers who are fleeing violence in their home countries.

The European Council’s action on this issue is hugely important to finding an end to the tragic loss of life that is happening in the Mediterranean. But the UN is also recognizing that the problem is a global issue of human rights, and is taking action of several fronts as well. The UN Refugee Agency has been assisting those who are rescued at sea or attempting to make the journey to pursue asylum status, but this often means taking the refugees to detention centers where conditions are very poor. In an April 19th press statement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stressed that finding a solution to the problem will involve not only helping those who are seeking asylum, but attempting to “address the root causes” of the migration that’s happening in the Mediterranean.

Find more information about this issue with the resources below.

Web Resources

OECD Factbook 2014: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics: Migration and employment DOI:10.1787/factbook-2014-8-en

European Union – Clandestino – Database on Irregular Migration

UN Refugee Agency

CBS News – Death in the Mediterranean

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Battaini-Dragoni, Gabriella. 2002. “The Distinctive Role of the Council of Europe in Migration Management: The Case of the Euro-Mediterranean Region.”European Journal Of Migration & Law 4, no. 4: 1-497. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2015).

Mountz, A., & Loyd, J. M. (2014). Constructing the Mediterranean Region: Obscuring Violence in the Bordering of Europe’s Migration “Crises”. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 173-195.

Raeymaekers, T. (2014). Introduction Europe’s Bleeding Border and the Mediterranean as a Relational Space. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 163-172.

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Lazaridis, Gabriella (2010). Security, insecurity, and migration in EuropeBurlington, VT : Ashgate.

Tapia, Stéphane de. (2008). The Euro-Mediterranean migration systemStrasbourg : Council of Europe Pub.

Kneebone, Susan,, Stevens, Dallal,Baldassar, Loretta. (Eds.) (2014). Refugee protection and the role of law :conflicting identitiesNew York, NY : Routledge, 2014.

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Chai Wai Series: The Future of the European Union: A Shared Vision?

Please join the International and Area Studies Library for the following event:

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The event will include members of the Chicago Consular Corps in a conversation related to issues affecting the future of the European Union.  In anticipation of this event, explore some of the important background information about the European Union, then join us for “Tea or something” on March 12, from 2:30-4:00 p.m. at the International and Area Studies Library, Room 321 Main Library to engage in the conversation.  The discussion is sponsored by the European Union Center, the Center for Global Studies and the University Library.

Origins of the EU

The European Union traces its roots to the aftermath of World War II, when the countries of Europe were seeking solidarity to protect against further discord and war. The economic fallout from the war was immense, and this was also a motivating factor in creating organizations to unite the countries of Europe. In 1949, the Council of Europe was created when ten states ( Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom) signed the Treaty of London. With the aim “to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress” (Statute of the Council of Europe), the Council became the first pan-European organization. The Council of Europe now includes every European country except for Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Vatican City.

The Three Communities

In 1950, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which merged the coal and steel sectors of member countries, ensuring that none could create weapons of war to use against the others. In 1957, these same six countries signed the Treaties of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).  The purpose of the EEC was to merge the economic markets of member countries, and Euratom merged the atomic energy industries of member countries.  In 1967 ECSC, EEC, and Euratom joined to become European Communities. In 1973 Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom (with Gibraltar) joined the European Communities. These countries were followed by Greece (in 1981), and Spain and Portugal (in 1987).

By Kolja21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The EU is Created

In 1993, the Treaty of Maastricht officially created the European Union, which consists of three pillars: “the European Communities, common foreign and security policy and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters” (Europa). The EU currently includes 28 countries. One goal of the Treaty of Maastricht was the creation of a common currency within the European Union. In 1999, the Euro became this common currency and the European Central Bank  was launched.

Financial Crisis

In September of 2008, the global financial crisis hit Europe and the rest of the world. Specifically, the financial recession affected the European Union by inciting what is known as the Eurozone Debt Crisis, wherein some member states were unable to repay or refinance government debts. This led some countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain) to receive bailouts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank. Some countries, such as Greece, are still suffering economic decline and possible default. The causes and effects of the Eurozone crisis are complex and still being debated today.

What’s Next?

Join the Chai Wai discussion on March 12 to explore some of the current issues facing the European Union. Check out the resources below to study up before the event!

Web Resources

Europa – Official Website of the European Union

Eur-Lex Access to European Law

European Press Room – Europa

European Union – News – Guardian

Euro Debt Crisis Explained – Economics Help

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Demosthenes Ioannou, Patrick Leblond & Arne Niemann (2015) European integration and the crisis: practice and theory. Journal of European Public Policy, 22:2, 155-176.

Deutschmann, Christoph. (2014). The future of the European Union: A ‘Hayekian’ regime? European Journal of Social Theory, 17(3), 343–358.

Francis Cheneval, Sandra Lavenex & Frank Schimmelfennig (2015) Demoi-cracy in the European Union: principles, institutions, policies. Journal of European Public Policy, 22:1, 1-18.

Grecu, Silviu Petru; Margarit, Diana. (2014). The instability of the European Union? A quantitative approach. Eastern Journal of European Studies, 5(1), 21-37.

HUIDUMAC-PETRESCU, C., & POPA, A. C. (2014). WHAT WAS NOT RESOLVED BY THE ANTI-CRISIS STRATEGIES IN THE EUROPEAN UNION. Hyperion International Journal Of Econophysics & New Economy, 7(2), 369-377.

Books (Available at UIUC Library)

Toemmel, Ingeborg. (2014). The European Union: what it is and how it works. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan.

Baimbridge, Mark,Whyman, Philip. (2015). Crisis in the eurozone: causes, dilemmas and solutions. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan.

Champeau, Serge. (Eds.) (2015). The future of Europe :democracy, legitimacy and justice after the Euro crisis. London ; New York : Rowman & Littlefield International.

Chang, Michele,, Menz, Georg, Smith, Mitchell P.. (Eds.) (2015). Redefining European economic governanceLondon ; New York : Routledge.

Kelemen, R. Daniel,, Menon, Anand,Slapin, Jonathan B.. (Eds.) (2015). The European Union: integration and enlargement. Abingdon, Oxon, UK ; New York, NY : Routledge.

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