In my recent posting on Malta, I mentioned Libya’s colourful Colonel Gaddafi, who is declining to cooperate with the EU to stem the flow of African migrants that pass through his country en route to Europe.
But Gaddafi has now promised to pull up his metaphorical socks. On 31 August, standing beside a doubtless nonplussed Silvio Berlusconi while on another visit to Italy, he warned hyperbolically:
Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European and even black as there are millions who want to come in. We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasion.
But the Colonel’s motives are not entirely disinterested. In return for his assistance in avoiding this eventuality, he wants the EU to pay Libya an annual stipend of 5 billion Euros. One Italian opposition MP observed accurately that Gaddafi was “demanding Mafia-style protection money.”
It is a jocular suggestion from a notorious japester, and the EU would never give one of Africa’s most prosperous countries such vast amounts. And yet although the amount demanded by Gaddafi is preposterous, the concept cannot be ruled out. Such is the angst surrounding immigration that Brussels may well be willing to bribe proxies to do its political dirty work.
The EU border agency Frontex has already concluded agreements or conducted joint operations with emigrant-exporting countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Turkey, Nigeria, Brazil, Cape Verde, Kosovo, Gambia and Iraq, some of which have involved payments in cash or kind. Libya is a much more important transit-point than some of these, and Europe besides covets Libyan oil. If anti-immigration political pressure continues to build across Europe, Brussels might eventually conclude that it makes sense to make some kind of payment to encourage Tripoli to curb the sub-Saharan tsunami, and so prevent the EU’s teeming legalistic and political pests from getting their expensive claws into all these toothsome new clients.
Yet even if Gaddafi were to enter into some financial arrangement, and even if he were in earnest (both large “Ifs”) Libya’s desert border is utterly unsealable. A much more effective and much cheaper strategy would be to beef up Frontex’s relatively modest annual operating revenue of 83 million Euros, and give the agency the resources it needs to patrol the continent’s straggling coastline and hundreds of air and land entry points.
But the best and cheapest strategy of all would be for national parliaments to retain or reclaim their powers over immigration, the Schengen Agreement to be scrapped, and a lorry-load of ludicrous legislation to be consigned to a large ceremonial bonfire in the Grand Markt in Brussels. We can but dream.