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Lawmakers Slam Von Der Leyen Over Quick-Fire North African Migration Deals Ahead of Key Votes

Lawmakers criticized the European Commission for signing controversial agreements that give North African countries vast sums of money in exchange for reducing migration to Europe.

“Throwing money at dictators is not migration policy,” said Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, at a press conference in the European Parliament, where she heavily criticized the deal with Tunisia. “It will just keep the dictators in place for longer, and make the problem bigger,” she said, criticizing the deals for lacking transparency and legal solidity.

Last month European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and five national EU leaders inked a €7.4 billion deal with Egypt as part of a such a deal. It was the latest deal after an agreement with Tunisia, which was also heavily criticized by MEPs. The bloc is now readying a similar deal with Morocco, according to an EU official who was granted anonymity to discuss non-public deliberations.

In ‘t Veld was among a number of lawmakers who criticized the strategy of von der Leyen, who is seeking a second five-year term as president of the EU executive. With Europe-wide elections just two months away, von der Leyen is seen as likely to win another term but a number of recent open challenges to her tactics suggest opposition to her second term might be stronger than expected within Europe’s liberal and social democrat camps.

Migration is on politicians’ minds in the lead-up to the European election in June, and ahead of a set of crunch votes in the European Parliament Wednesday, where lawmakers will decide whether to agree to a comprehensive EU-wide migration and asylum policy that has been years in the making.

The deal will significantly change how the bloc limits migrant entry and moves migrants around EU countries, and will effectively make it easier to deport unsuccessful asylum seeker applicants.

While calling the migration deals with the EU’s neighbors “indispensable,” French centrist lawmaker Fabienne Keller said: “The agreements with Egypt and Tunisia are not the right models for us.”

Social democrat Slovenian MEP Matjaž Nemec agreed. Nemec said, “These kind of agreements are against the European values, to be frank. The question mark would be: Are we helping the people or are we helping the regime?”

At the same press conference, however, far-right Spanish lawmaker Jorge Buxadé welcomed these deals, and urged the Commission to sign similar deals with Morocco and also Algeria to tackle what he called “mafia” human traffickers.

Swedish lawmaker Tomas Tobé, who hails from the same center-right European People’s Party as von der Leyen, said having more agreements like these is important. “There are certain aspects of these countries that are problematic but these are the neighbors that we have,” he said, adding they are made necessary because of a lack of a unified EU migration policy.

“I would say if we would vote down the migration pact now, then you will see even more individual member states taking these kinds of initiatives,” he warned.

Source: Politico