March 5. 2024. 9:38

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EU grants 210 mln to Mauritania to curb irregular migration


The EU will help Mauritania curb the number of migrants passing through the country en route to Spain’s Canary Islands, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced during a visit to the West African country on Thursday (8 February).

The announcement marks the latest EU deal with an African country aimed at financing a wide range of sectors but also helping to curb irregular migration to Europe, following arrangements with Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt in the past year.

During the ceremony, also attended by Mauritanian President Ould El-Ghazouani, some €210 million was announced as an investment to prop up Mauritania’s efforts. While the country does not share a border with the EU, it sees a significant number of asylum seekers passing through its territory.

Sanchez’s attendance can be traced to the fact that according to official records, 83% of migrants arriving at Spain’s Canary Islands via irregular routes pass by Mauritania.

The West African country also hosts more than 100,000 of refugees, mainly from Mali, UN agency for refugees (UNHCR) data shows.

Von der Leyen also announced that the EU will help Mauritania to ‘securitise’ the borders with Mali, which has been engulfed in war since 2012.

She described the EU-Mauritania deal as covering a wide range of projects, from the green transition and green hydrogen to security.

In Brussels, the European Commission told journalists on Tuesday (8 February) that it had informed member states about the deal ahead of the visit. However, the EU executive did not specify which kind of legal procedure was applied.

The EU has several agreements and projects in African countries covering different matters. In some of them, for instance, the EU has been investing for years in training, assistance, and the supply of equipment for border guards at land and sea.

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Over 2024, the EU will provide €87 million and new equipment to Egypt for a migration management project started in 2022, implemented by the UN migration agency and the French Interior Ministry operator Civipol, three sources close to the matter confirmed to Euractiv.

Mauritania’s rising profile

Given its peripheral location and low profile, Mauritania had so far mostly escaped public attention.

However, MEPs have previously lobbied for that to change, with some pointing out that Mauritania’s relative stability made it an exception in the region, swept by military coups and insurgencies in recent years.

“As social democrats, we support partnerships that are based on the principles of rule of law and human rights – Mauritania is a model for this,” Katarina Barley, an S&D MEP and the lead candidate of Germany’s Social Democrats for the European election, told Euractiv.

Previous EU migration deals in Africa had been subject to controversy due to the conditions for asylum applicants and the authoritarian streaks of partner governments.

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Conditions in Mauritania were somewhat better, relatively speaking, Barley argued, adding that the EU should focus on propping up like-minded regimes as “equal partners”, which she hopes will be a “model for cooperation between north-west Africa and the EU.”

The EU deal also stands in the context of the increasing geopolitical importance that Mauritania enjoys due to its natural gas reserves and strategic location by the Atlantic coast.

Those features have made it subject to overtures from the likes of Russia and China, while NATO has also moved to intensify its collaboration with the West African state.

Read more with Euractiv

Pro-Macron majority in crisis as close centrist ally walks

Pro-Macron majority in crisis as close centrist ally walks

The pro-government majority at the French National Assembly was thrown into uncertainty as a key centrist ally to French President Emmanuel Macron slammed the door to future cooperation shut late on Wednesday (7 February).