Brussels fears that Putin’s war will cause waves of migration to the EU from North Africa | International

The collateral damage of a war can be almost as painful as that of the battlefield. And in the case of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the impact has already spread to almost all corners of the planet, according to the action plan drawn up by the EU to deal with the social, political and economic consequences of the conflict in third countries. The report, to which EL PAÍS has had access, warns, in particular, of the growing risk of “a catastrophic famine” in the countries of North Africa that triggers “new waves of social protest, internal displacement and migration to the regions neighbors and, possibly, towards the EU”. The diagnosis leaves Spain and Italy at the forefront of a potentially massive exodus across the Mediterranean.

The action plan, which has not been made public, has been prepared jointly by the European Commission and the European External Action Service, headed by the Vice President of the Commission, Josep Borrell. The report has been sent this week to the 27 governments of the Union and marks the way to respond to the serious consequences of a war that is already hitting numerous countries, from those closest to the conflict, such as Moldova, Armenia or Azerbaijan, to others as far away as Bangladesh, Mongolia, Mexico or Argentina.

The report, 27 pages of alarming reading, covers from the Balkans and Turkey to Latin America, passing through Central Asia, the Middle East, the Maghreb and the Sahel. In all these areas, the consequences of “a new geopolitical scenario, marked by high instability and the growing risks of a fragmentation of the international community,” are felt.

The trigger of the serious crisis, according to Brussels, is Putin’s war and, specifically, the Russian blockade of Ukrainian agricultural exports and the escalation of energy prices. The document does not specify the fate of the potential migration crisis. But for the areas identified as most affected by the food and energy crisis (the Maghreb and the Sahel, among others) it seems inevitable that Spain and Italy will be at the forefront of the possible mass exodus.

The Commission, according to the document, intends to concentrate its aid on the countries hardest hit by the crisis, on those aspiring to join the Union, on the most influential players in each region or on those that are essential for importing energy and raw Materials.

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The privileged relationship with alternative suppliers that reduce energy dependence on Russia also points to the south, according to the report. In particular, towards Algeria and the EU’s desire to increase its gas exports through Spain, including through the closed gas pipeline that passes through Morocco.

In the case of the countries closest to Spain, the report indicates that the impact “is already very significant” in the southern neighborhood (Morocco, Tunisia or Libya and Egypt). The perfect storm in that area and in the Middle East adds the impact of the pandemic that has not yet been overcome, the drought in some parts of the territory and the limited budgetary margin of the administrations to help the most vulnerable population.

The outcome for the Maghreb and its surroundings is looming fearsome: “The lack of grains and other essential agricultural products, together with the rise in prices of basic products and food and the reduction of subsidies can lead to serious economic and social crises. ”, states the community report.

The EU has already begun to give its urgent support to these countries, with more than 225 million euros allocated to Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco and Palestine through the so-called Food and Resilience Facility, details the Commission . In the long term, the EU plans to help them develop their own production, wherever possible.

But this aid does not prevent that, according to the report, the risk of economic and social crisis is “particularly high in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia”, seven countries with more than 200 million inhabitants. The threat of famine is growing, according to Brussels, “in the poorest layers of the population.” And the possibility of a flight in search of better food conditions points both within the countries themselves and towards neighboring countries “and possibly towards the EU”. The 27 community partners have agreed this month on a refugee distribution mechanism that could be released in the next migration crisis if it occurs.

russian propaganda

Brussels is also planning a diplomatic offensive to counter the Russian version of events, which attributes the food and energy crisis to European sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. The plan points to a ministerial summit with the Arab League later this year and, perhaps, with the Mediterranean Union.

But the document acknowledges that the Kremlin’s messages “are widespread among the governments and populations of developing countries.” The wide dissemination of Russian propaganda is reinforced because “other powers” ​​bounce it off and give credibility to Russian propaganda, the report’s veiled allusion to China. And the image problem for the EU is aggravated in countries where there are no independent media, the document adds.

The Commission and the Foreign Service suggest responding with a detailed explanation of the real effects of the European sanctions against Russia and Belarus (for their support of Russian aggression). And resort “to concrete examples of Russia’s direct responsibility for high grain prices.” Borrell came this Monday to accuse Moscow of “war crimes” for its efforts to block Ukrainian exports.

The problems are repeated, with greater or lesser severity, in all the geographical areas analyzed by the community diplomatic services. The expansive wave, according to his analysis, spreads in the form of a lack of raw materials and essential cereals for nutrition in those countries, due to the lack or increased cost of fertilizers and a general rise in prices, especially of such an essential supply. like energy. The dangerous spiral is condemning tens of millions of people to a situation of hardship and impoverishment that is difficult to bear if Putin’s aggression against Ukraine continues for a long time.

The latest data collected in the report indicates that there are already some 193 million people, 40 million more than last year, “exposed to acute food insecurity and in need of urgent assistance.” The drama spans 53 countries or territories around the globe, while Russia prevents more than 20 million tons of grain stored in Ukrainian silos and ships from leaving Ukraine.

The prolongation of the war, a scenario considered likely by NATO, could also destabilize the Latin American and Caribbean region, according to the community report. Higher energy and food prices will increase poverty, hunger and social tension in a context of growing inequality, political polarization and mistrust of governments.

The fall in the supply of fertilizers will have a “major impact on several countries, such as Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Argentina,” details the Commission. And he adds that the failures in the grain trade, especially in wheat and soybeans, “will affect the supply in countries such as Nicaragua, Haiti, Peru, Ecuador.”

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