Press release: How the EU created a crisis in Africa – and started a migration cartel

The European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) was established in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis. By declaring a "crisis" in all African countries in which the fund operates, the European Union (EU) can allocate funds without a public tender, resulting in money only going to a limited number of organisations. 

Thomas Spijkerboer, professor of migration law, and Elies Steyger, professor of European administrative law, both at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, discovered this crisis clause, which is hidden in the legal texts of the fund. Spijkerboer said: “The only reason to bury a clause like that is if you expect it to cause problems. Problems like angering 26 African governments if they were to find out about it.”

The European commission confirmed that it has declared a crisis in 26 African countries, reasoning that “most countries eligible” for EUTF money were when the fund was established in 2015.

Steyger said: “Public procurement is intended to promote competition, ensuring that public money is spent as effectively as possible. The EU must do everything it can to make the procurement process as open, transparent, non-discriminatory and objective as possible.”

Subsidies can be awarded in the EU without a public tender in the event of “exceptional and duly justified emergencies”, such as natural disasters. “But no such justification exists for the EUTF,” said Spijkerboer. “Absolutely no evidence has been provided to support the claim that all 26 African countries are suffering from a crisis that is expected to last for the duration of the fund.” 

The crisis clause has major consequences. The UN agency the Organization for Migration alone receives almost 25% of the €1.7bn that the fund allocates for “migration management”. Local or international NGOs hardly have a chance of receiving money. Spijkerboer called the result “a cartel”. 

European parliament member Tineke Strik (Green party) said: “It appears that the repackaging of migration policy as ‘dealing with a crisis’ has enabled member states to exercise extraordinary powers. This is contrary to the principles of the rule of law that the EU is supposed to stand for.”

Today, The Correspondent publishes this article in full. Two of its authors, Maite Vermeulen and Giacomo Zandonini, can be reached on +234 8 163576790 or +39 340 7745394, or