EU Tidbits: Lisbon and Immigration Policy

Good news for the Lisbon Treaty. With the passage by the Czech Republic’s Senate, the only non-formality standing in the way of adoption is the do-over of the Irish referendum. Assuming it does ultimately pass, it will be fascinating to see how the first permanent EU president shapes the Union’s global profile. The treaty will provide the institutional structure, but a lot will depend on the personalities that end up incarnating the functions and the precedents they set.

Less good news is this item about Italy returning a boatful of illegal immigrants directly to Libya, pursuant to a bilateral agreement the two countries arrived at earlier this year. The problem here isn’t the return of illegal immigrants, which is a necessary part of policing borders, but the bilateral agreement. Having been a priority of the French EU presidency in the second half of 2008, the EU managed to make some progress in harmonizing its member states’ immigration policies. But the job is far from complete.

It’s hard to imagine a global actor that doesn’t have full control of its borders, especially since immigration — both south-to-north but also, as this EU Observer item about the EU’s Eastern European Partnership summit demonstrates, eastern-to-western — is likely to be an increasing point of tension in both Europe’s domestic and international affairs. The Lisbon Treaty only confirms members’ commitment to the development of a common immigration policy. That’s not even much of a first step.

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