Expert Voice

Taking stock of the Joint Valletta Action Plan

24 March 2017

One of the most significant political summits on migration took place in Valletta, Malta in November 2015, bringing together leaders from a wide range of European and African States and international organisations. Faced with the dramatic increase in irregular migration with all its downsides, the time was ripe to take concrete measures to tackle its root causes. The Rabat- and Khartoum Processes, both implemented by ICMPD, had been assigned the role of monitoring these measures. At the follow-up Senior Officials’ Meeting in February 2017, ICMPD presented the findings of the Rabat and Khartoum Process, providing ground for discussion. The central question now is, if the taken measures have and will continue to have the desired impact. In this article, we’ve summarised the steps taken up until now.

By Luis Gouveia and Ismain Amnaiy  

Looking back: Valletta Summit 2015

The Valletta Summit on Migration marked the beginning of an intensified partnership between Africa and the European Union in regard to migration management. This was the first summit of such a scale to exclusively discuss migration. The outcome documents, a Political Declaration and The Joint Valletta Action Plan (JVAP), provided an ambitious set of measures. As stated in the Political Declaration, the Valletta Summit was an answer "to the sharp increase of refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants". The deep concern of European and African leaders regarding the unacceptable loss of life in the desert or at sea was the driving force of the political response to the so-called migration crisis. This response was twofold, both political and operational. First and foremost, there was a strong political will on both sides to further develop a strong partnership on migration based on an integrated approach. This commitment was expressed in the jointly-adopted Valletta Action Plan (JVAP). The five priority domains of the JVAP are:

  • Development benefits of migration and addressing root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement;
  • Legal migration and mobility;
  • Protection and asylum;
  • Prevention of and fight against irregular migration, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings;
  • Return, readmission and reintegration.

To support the implementation of the JVAP, the European Commission launched the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF). This was a highlight of the 2015 Valletta Summit on Migration and created a lot of interest among the summit participants. The fund is to be used to tackle the root causes of irregular migration and displacement in countries of origin, transit and destination through a range of programmes on the following themes: economy, resilience, migration management, stability and governance. The adoption and launch of the Joint Valletta Action Plan and the European Union Emergency Trust Fund both were encouraging steps in the EU-Africa political dialogue. From an operational perspective however, implementing the suggested measures and defined goals is rather complex.

The African partners are in favour of promoting legal channels of migration, but are reluctant to follow the ‘more for more’ approach of  EU-partners, which entails linking development aid to agreements on readmission, stronger border controls or other similar actions. Given these divergences, it is of utmost importance to be able to rely on trustworthy and neutral sources of information. The Rabat- and Khartoum Process were tasked with providing this information to all sides through monitoring and analysing the progress made in the course of the implementation of the set measures as described in the Joint Valletta Action Plan. 

State of play: SOM 2017

In February 2017, the Valletta Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) was set up in order to discuss the monitoring of the Joint Valletta Action Plan. The Rabat- and Khartoum Process both provided Analysis Reports that set the foundation for the meeting. Based on the outcomes of the Analysis Report and the discussions that took place during the Senior Official’s Meeting, a joint conclusion has been adopted. In addition, they have provided an overview of the use of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) and put forward both specific and general recommendations.
The Khartoum Process analysis report highlighted the importance "to continue to support initiatives designed to tackle root causes in the long term, such as reducing poverty, stability, supporting inclusive economic growth through investment opportunities and the creation of decent jobs, improving the delivery of basic services and in doing so ensure complementarity and coherence".

For its part the Rabat Process analysis report underlines "the positive impact of the Valletta Summit on Migration and the Joint Valletta Action Plan on the visibility and on the scope and reach of the Euro-African dialogue on migration and development. Migration matters have never been so central to national and regional priorities, and so at the heart of the UE-Africa political framework, of which Valletta is now part."

Both reports emphasise the suitability of the dialogue framework as an exchange platform on JVAP priorities. Significant effort and progress have been made on the five priority domains at a multilateral, bilateral and national level, but there is still a need to improve the level of implementation. Given the short period of implementation, feedback and concrete results of actions were limited.

One of the reoccurring topics was the need for further improvement of the modus operandi, as well as the cooperation processes established. African partners have expressed their need for a closer involvement in the operational framework of actions implemented under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. One remarkable aspect that Valletta has seen was prior to the Valletta SOM meeting, the African Union Commission, in collaboration with the Arab Republic of Egypt held a consultative meeting. This consultation shows the desire of the African leaders’ to jointly strengthen their position on questions raised during the 2015 summit that were brought back on the table in the 2017 follow-up meeting.  

Outlook on the future 

The Valletta SOM 2017 was an opportunity for all partners to have an open discussion on these topics.  Considering the EU and African partners’ positions on migration management, taking joint conclusions agreed by both sides was an achievement in itself. Of course, many questions are still pending. These will likely be answered in the course of the coming year. Within just one year it was not possible to reach all the goals defined in the Joint Valletta Action plan. The work completed by now is rather encouraging and can be expected to deliver solid results in the upcoming years when fully implemented.

For the year 2018, the organisation of a follow-up Senior Officials’ Meeting to be held in Addis Ababa is planned. Moreover, the set-up of a Ministerial Meeting is currently under discussion. Regardless of the many challenges, this demonstrates once more both the commitments but also the urgent need for further action and cooperation in the field of migration management. In this process, ICMPD will remain a neutral broker and support both the dialogue processes and monitoring activities.


Luis Gouveia is ICMPD Senior Project Coordinator for the Africa-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue (MMD), Ismain Amnaiy is ICMPD Programme Assistant for the Africa-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue (MMD).

The views expressed here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of ICMPD.