LONDON: EU member states were left confused when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hurried into a migration pact with Tunisia, The Guardian revealed on Monday.
In a letter dated Sept. 7, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell noted that concerns about the pact were raised in July both verbally and in writing.
In a letter to Oliver Varhelyi, the European commissioner for neighboring countries, Borrell said: “As you know … in July, several member states expressed their incomprehension regarding the commission’s unilateral action on the conclusion of this (memorandum of understanding) and concerns about some of its contents.
“After the foreign affairs council meeting on July 20 some member states referred these concerns by written procedure to you,” he added.
The pact, signed in July with Tunisia by Von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was aimed at stemming migration to Europe from Tunisia.
The North African country had become one of the most popular routes for people smugglers working in Africa after Libya became too dangerous.
The letter also revealed that foreign affairs ministers had observed that the correct steps to adopt the procedure had not been followed by the commission, and therefore the MoU could not be “considered a valid template for future agreements.”
Why Borrell wrote the letter two months after the deal was inked is unknown. However, it appears to have been an attempt to ensure that a similar deal was not repeated with other North African nations without proper consultation with member states.
In the letter, Borrell said: “The participation in the negotiation and the signing ceremony of a limited number of EU heads of government does not make up for the institutional balance between the council and the commission.”
The letter was written shortly before Sunday’s visit by Von der Leyen and Meloni to Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Sicily that the Italian PM said was struggling with migrants from Tunisia.
The deal was aimed at combating criminal gangs running smuggling operations and strengthening border controls and search and rescue operations.