Behind NGOs Funding

Politics - October 5, 2023

One of the dossiers that has most heated up the European debate is undoubtedly immigration. From 2015 to the present day, the pressure of migratory flows has been increasing, leaving e speciale the countries of first arrival with a difficult and very complex situation to manage.

The gaps in European legislation are certainly not small, and for almost ten years now, this problem still seems to have found no definitive solution.

Progress has been made in recent months, however, as European fora have managed to set down on paper the new requirements and the new approach on the issue of illegal migrants.

In particular, the conclusions of the European Council of 9 and 10 December 2007 showed a convergence of views between the Heads of State and Government on strengthening external action, effective control of external borders and closer cooperation with countries of origin and transit.

Following this meeting, the new asylum and migration pact was also revised with new and more appropriate amendments in June 2023, although it is still being finalised due to opposition from some member states.

Then, in July 2023, the issue of migrants arriving from Tunisia was clearly and decisively addressed. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, travelled to Tunis together with the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, where the EU-Tunisia Memorandum of Understanding was signed, in which the EU promised to provide a European aid package to relieve the pressure on Europe’s coasts and to encourage Tunisia to cooperate with the European authorities.

In the course of 2023, the European Union experienced a new trend in the area of migration, changing its vision and agreeing on the need to focus more on the external dimension rather than the internal one, while also having to cooperate better and more with African and Mediterranean countries in general. The objective has therefore changed from prioritising internal redistribution to preventing illegal migrants from entering EU territory.

Despite this, however, there are some member states that do not seem to be so united in working together to prevent illegal immigration. On the contrary, some of these governments have even passed laws to this effect, raising not a few doubts about a link between the well-known NGOs and the national government bodies themselves, or rather the European Left.

Germany is one of these countries.

Let us try to understand better what this is all about and what is happening today in the European Union with regard to immigration.

To understand the context in which we find ourselves today, we have to go back to the year 2022. In fact, in November 2022, the German Bundestag decided to fund United4Rescue, an NGO founded by the Evangelical Church in November 2019, with 2 million euros per year for three years, from 2023 to 2026, for a total of 8 million euros — an NGO that brings together hundreds of associations that support the actions of volunteers to rescue migrants at sea.

At the time, the German parliament said it wanted to see ‘substantial funding’ for NGO ships. However, behind this decision lurked a rather significant potential conflict of interest, as one of the board members of United4rescue, Thies Gundlach, is the partner of the vice-president of the Bundestag and leader of the Green Party, Katrin Göring-Eckardt.

The situation evolves and we arrive in 2023, in June 2023 these same funds are frozen to avoid tensions in the EU. But there is another change of course, and in September 2023, a spokesperson for the Berlin Foreign Ministry, led by the Green Annalena Baerbock, announces that Olaf Scholz’s government is about to proceed with substantial funding for the Community of Sant’Egidio and the NGOs Sea Eye and Sos Humanity, to support both civil rescue at sea and projects on land for people rescued at sea. Sos Humanity will receive 790,000 euros, a sum that is said to cover only a quarter of its annual needs.

In this way, Germany is funding the NGO sos humanity operating in the Mediterranean in a completely autonomous manner, without taking into account the current scenario that the countries bordering the sea are experiencing.

Italy is the country most affected. The Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has therefore decided to write to the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to ask for clarification in view of the lack of coordination on the German side, which will inevitably have serious direct consequences on Italian territory and indirect consequences on the European territory.

On 28 September, EU interior ministers met in Brussels for the European Home Affairs Council, chaired by Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez, the Spanish interior minister responsible for current affairs. Among the topics discussed is, of course, the state of negotiations on the Pact on Migration and Asylum, which aims to reform the current European rules.

In particular, the discussion on the text of the regulation focused on the aspect of migration crisis management. The Pact lays down the provisions to be triggered when a Member State is faced with an exceptional number of landings, events such as pandemics or artificial crises caused by the politically motivated exploitation of migrants by third countries.

As expected, negotiations on the adoption of the text were blocked by a group of countries, including Germany, which objected to a reduction in the guarantees for the protection of asylum seekers. On the eve of the summit on 28 September, the German government announced that it had found an agreement to break the deadlock and that it would propose amendments to achieve political approval of the text by the end of the meeting. The Spanish Presidency’s draft contained two amendments: the deletion of Article 5, which provided for the possibility for countries of first arrival to derogate from the minimum reception standards in the event of exceptional flows, and an addition to Article 1 stating that “humanitarian operations” can never be considered a factor in the instrumentalisation of migrants, thus legitimising the activities of non-state actors, including NGOs funded by Germany, without however regulating their modus operandi. The Italian government, surprised by the German proposal, asked for more time to analyse possible solutions. Meanwhile, the presence of no less than seven ships belonging to NGOs in the central Mediterranean, four of them flying the German flag and heading to Italian harbors, was reported. This is considered a provocative signal, which Italy has denounced at all levels.

At this point, the Italian delegation proposed a new amendment stating that migrants transported on NGO ships must automatically be taken in by the flag state of the ship. The implication was that it was perfectly fine for Germany to show solidarity with the work of NGOs, as long as it also took back the migrants it transported. The meeting was therefore postponed at Germany’s request.

At this point, the legitimate question arises as to why the government in Berlin, and in particular the Green Party, became the first strong supporters of the NGOs. As already mentioned, apart from personal interests (i.e. that Thies Gundlach, a member of the NGO United4rescue, is the partner of Katrin Göring-Eckardt, Vice-President of the Bundestag and leading member of the Greens), there could be much more important and relevant interests, certainly economic ones, behind these actions.

And indeed, on closer inspection, as an investigation by Politico has shown, the Green Party has seen a significant increase in funding from private donors in recent years. Even for 2021, donations to the party from philanthropists and civil society are close to €3.5 million, which is a decidedly out-of-the-blue figure compared to other parties. To put this in perspective, Scholz’s party, the SPD, which traditionally relies on public funding and membership fees, received only €175,000 in donations.

As analysed above, it is certainly no secret that the allocation of funds to NGOs working in the Mediterranean was a measure strongly desired by the Greens and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

In view of the upcoming electoral dates, starting with the European elections, the particularly condescending policy of the Greens towards the world of NGOs and associations (United4Rescue groups many of them internally), including their insistence on including references in favour of NGOs in the Asylum Pact, could be aimed at preparing the ground for a campaign financing campaign for the next European elections. If this were the case, we would be faced not with a sincere desire to help migrants, but with a provocation against the countries of first reception, which would be heavily penalised for a mere question of votes, allowing illegality and crime to penetrate more and more, not only in their countries, but in the whole of Europe. This is an unacceptable scenario that must be rectified before the progress made so far is wiped out for the sake of money and power, which now seem to be the only prerogatives of the European Left.