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Managing the migration of the Arab democratic wave

15 February 2011
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At present, there is an explosive lack of consensus within the EU about dealing with irregular migration from North Africa and the Middle East. With southern member states like Italy already experiencing increased irregular immigration, there has been a predictable sharpening of tone in many capitals. The imperative of restrictive immigration control has risen swiftly up the European agenda. At the same time, however, there has been a surprising openness toward liberalising EU migration policy.

But the EU's migration policy is a mess. Rather than building up their own capabilities, the EU’s home affairs actors pilfer from the bloc’s foreign policy tools, and the EU’s foreign policy actors pilfer from the bloc’s home-affairs tools. This explains the current approach – the calls for the EU to use its foreign policy clout to push migration control right back into North Africa balanced out by calls for a liberalisation of migration to promote regional stability. The EU should instead concentrate on building up its classic foreign policy tools abroad and working towards a more harmonious European asylum and migration policy at home. It is the only way that a meaningful liberalisation of migration policy can occur.