EU, european union flag, zastava.jpg
Photograph: Photo by bob, used under CC BY

Countries in Africa and the Middle East should be offered a mix of positive and negative incentives to help curb migration flows to Europe, the European Commission proposed Tuesday.

The move comes as hundreds of people continue to undertake treacherous journeys towards Europe in search of protection or a better life.

After being overwhelmed by 1 million asylum seekers and migrants in 2015, the EU managed to disrupt a key migration route from Turkey to Greece by negotiating a contentious deal offering Ankara aid and other benefits in return for stemming migrant flows.

Italy - the main destination of migrants setting sail from Libya - had pushed for the EU to also offer African countries money to tighten border controls, emulating the deal with Turkey.

Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans on Tuesday said such deals could help to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea, return more migrants in Europe to their countries of origin and enable refugees to stay closer to home.

"We propose to use a mix of positive and negative incentives to reward those third countries willing to cooperate effectively with us and to ensure that there are consequences for those who do not," Timmermans told EU lawmakers in the French city of Strasbourg.

"This includes using our development and trade policies to create leverage," he added.

So-called migration compacts - covering areas such as development aid, trade, security and visa policy - should initially be negotiated with Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia, the commission proposed. Engagement with Tunisia and Libya should increase.

Eight billion euros (9.1 billion dollars) would be made available over the next five years, Timmermans said. Most of this would come from previous pledges, with the commission adding 500 million euros to an existing EU fund for Africa and encouraging member states to do the same.

Later this year, the commission plans to launch a 3.1-billion-euro fund to boost investments into developing third countries, with a view to leveraging up to 31 billion euros in public and private funding, modelled on a similar plan set up for Europe.

The fund could reach a firepower of 62 billion euros if member states match EU contributions, the commission noted.

The proposed fund would be a "revolution in our approach to development cooperation," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament.

EU lawmaker Manfred Weber of the European People's Party, the largest in parliament, welcomed the new approach. "If our partners in Africa are not cooperating on migrant returns then there should be consequences in the trade agreements," he said.

But the Oxfam advocacy group accused the commission of attempting to "bribe" poorer countries and of seeking deals with repressive regimes.

"By choosing to outsource to third countries Europe's border control and the responsibility for managing migration, Europe attempts to outsource its obligations to respect human rights," said Natalia Alonso of Oxfam.

The commission also pledged 6.1 million euros in support to Libya on Tuesday, aimed at stabilizing the conflict-torn country following the establishment of a government of national accord.

Latest news

Francis, first pope to visit Anglicans in Rome, weighs S Sudan trip

Pope Francis became the first leader of the Catholic Church to visit the Anglican community in Rome on Sunday, where he said he was considering a trip to famine-struck South Sudan.

Ibrahimovic lifts Man United past Southampton in League Cup final

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an 87th-minute winner as Manchester United beat Southampton 3-2 in an exciting League Cup final on Sunday.

London screens Iranian director's film amid Oscars boycott

Thousands of people watched a free screeening of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's film "The Salesman" in London on Sunday to coincide with the Oscars.

Messi grabs winner as Barcelona go top with victory over Atletico

Lionel Messi scored the winner as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 on Sunday to move top of the Spanish first division.

Dubrovnik Sun Gardens Hotel member of The Leading Hotels of the World

The Dubrovnik Sun Gardens Hotel has joined the Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd., a global hospitality consortium of more than 375 hotels and resorts in over 75 countries.

Biggest Bosnian Serb party ceases all contact with Izetbegovic over ICJ judjment review request

The main committee of the biggest Bosnian Serb party which makes up the ruling majority in Bosnia and Herzegovina decided o Sunday that its officials would cease all contact with member of the Bosnian President Bakir Izetbegovic until the crisis occurred following the submission of a request to the International Court of justice (ICJ) to review its ruling against Serbia is resolved.

Egypt court adjourns Morsi retrial over prison escape

An Egyptian court adjourned a case against former president Mohamed Morsi until March 29 on Sunday, during the first session of his retrial over orchestrating a prison escape during the 2011 uprising.

Hamas rejects Netanyahu's proposal for international forces in Gaza

The Islamic Hamas movement rejected on Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to send international forces to the Gaza Strip, the coastal enclave that Hamas has been ruling since 2007.

Deloitte: Growing optimism among CFOs

Chief financial officers (CFOs) in Croatia are more optimistic about growth and financial prospects in 2017 than they were last year, with most of them expecting increases in their company's revenue, a survey shows.

Russian agents main suspects for attempted coup in Montenegro

Russian citizens Eduard Shumakov and Vladimir Popoc, suspected of organising terrorist activities in Montenegro and forming a criminal organisation, are agents of Russia's Main Intelligence Agency (GRU), British, U.S. and other intelligence agencies confirmed, the Podgorica-based media reported on Sunday.

Six injured, 96 detained in Berlin fan clashes

Six people were treated in hospital and 96 detained in clashes in Berlin between fans of Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt, police said Sunday.

Croatian government condemns extremism

The Croatian government on Sunday condemned all forms of extremism and acts of provocative nature aimed against the Serb minority in Vukovar as well as the rally organised by the Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights (A-HSP) in Zagreb on Friday.