QCEA has signed a joint letter alongside 20 civil society organisations asking members of the Council of the European Union to remove the reference to readmission (i.e. the return of migrants from the European Union) as a condition for developing countries to benefit from GSP provisions.

The Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP) is an instrument linking trade, development and sustainability by removing import duties from products coming from developing countries, with the goal of alleviating poverty, creating economic opportunities and reducing inequalities. GSP includes some measures to incentivise the strengthening of human rights standards, climate and environmental protection measures, and for years has been an important mechanism for civil society to bring attention to violations and push for more ambitious measures on human rights, good governance and sustainability.

However, the current draft GSP reform risks losing GSP’s effectiveness in promoting sustainable development by making it the prime positive obligation of GSP beneficiaries to cooperate with the EU’s migration policy objectives, particularly readmission agreements. This is consistent with a strategy of externalisation of migration policy that has become increasingly visible in EU development and trade policy.

A key concern is that withdrawing GSP benefits from non-compliant states would likely exacerbate poverty and repression, which are key factors driving people to migrate to seek a better life. Far from tackling root causes of forced migration, conditionality would advance a punitive approach that risks eroding trust and jeopardising existing partnerships with developing countries, who often rely on remittances as a significant source of income. Additional concerns have been raised in relation to the lawulness of the introduction of conditionality vis-a-vis World Trade Organisation rules, which have been ratified by the EU and all of its Member States.

You can read the full letter with key civil society concerns in Human Rights Watch’s website.