Unpacking the Leaked EU Strategic Agenda: Where Did the Union of Equality go? 

Brussels, 16 April 2024 – The leaked EU Strategic Agenda (2024-2029) prioritises defence, militarisation and corporate profits over people, sidelining their social needs and urgent climate action. Under the guise of security, its vision for Europe perpetuates racist migration policies, threatens asylum rights, and exacerbates Islamophobia.

Last week, a leaked internal draft of the EU Strategic Agenda (2024-2029) unveiled the European Council’s strategic blueprint for the next five years. Outlining key strategic priorities, the draft signals an alarming shift in which issues will be high on the European political agenda and which will be sidelined.

Against the very principles of peace and stability that the European Union was built upon, the draft vision for the next half a decade heavily focuses on defence, militarisation, migration and economic growth, while nearly completely disregarding people’s priorities for social protection and climate action.

We strongly believe that this direction, set to be officially adopted in June, is a recipe for disaster. On one hand, it creates the conditions for a self-fulfilling prophecy of war within the continent. Furthermore, the highlighted priorities brazenly ignore people’s needs and concerns. They disregard a resounding demand for a social Europe (EU Barometer) and alarming warnings of the surge in racial discrimination across Europe (Fundamental Rights Agency).  

Below, we dive deeper into each of the priorities spotlighted in the leaked draft:

A Strong and Secure Europe: A Guise to Protect Racist Migration Policies

Through its first focus on ‘A Strong and Secure Europe’, the Council continues the EU’s racist migration agenda that comes with a grave cost to human lives and human rights:

  • The leaked agenda paves the way for the implementation of the recently adopted EU Migration Pact, leading to the death of the right to asylum in Europe. In practice, the intensified efforts to ‘protect borders’ and ‘fight irregular migration’ mean that on European borders, individuals endure de facto detention, pushback and brutal treatment.
  • The leak also signals ‘the fight against radicalisation, terrorism and violent extremism’ as a political priority, ignoring repeated warnings about the discriminatory impacts of counter-terrorism measures on racialised communities. In practice, these measures that rely heavily on racial profiling and data mining, target particularly Muslim minorities and hence exacerbate Islamophobia across Europe.

A prosperous and competitive Europe: Corporations over people and the planet

At its core, the second key focus on ‘prosperous and competitive Europe’ promotes the interest of corporations (competitiveness and innovation) at the expense of people and the planet.

In stark contrast to the previous EU strategic agenda that fully integrated climate policies to address the urgent global threat, the leaked plan significantly diminishes climate efforts. Despite repeated warnings of escalating climate disasters, including a recent plea from the European Environmental Agency for urgent action, the plan fails to deliver, putting Europe at increased risk of climate disruption.

What about people? 

Social rights are glaringly absent from the European Council’s strategic vision for the next five years.

With this pivotal strategic document, the EU Council has an opportunity to prioritise equality – not just in words but in its actions. It has an opportunity to build the pioneering work of the European Anti-Racism Action Plan into tangible justice for millions of racialised and marginalised individuals across Europe. However, political leaders chose to toss non-discrimination and human rights to the sidelines, with only a brief mention in an already short section on free and democratic Europe.

This decision follows the alarming reform of EU fiscal rules, which will likely trigger austerity measures across member states and further exacerbate wealth disparities. As states slash expenditures to meet new fiscal targets, social services – crucial lifelines for those facing the risk of poverty and exclusion – often face the chopping block. Combined, these measures risk plunging vulnerable populations, including racialised communities, deeper into poverty amidst already rising inflation.

By strategically diverting funds towards defence, this troubling scenario jeopardises essential social protection measures outlined in the European Pillar of Social Rights. In doing so, it continues the historical trend of divestment from racialised communities, underpinned by institutional racism, that continues to deprive vulnerable communities of adequate public funding for vital services like healthcare, housing, and education.

Where did the Union of Equality go?

Once again, heads of EU member states have failed to acknowledge the urgent need to confront the escalating racism crisis sweeping across Europe, affecting millions. Despite unacceptable gaps in equality legislation and persistent advocacy efforts by civil society organisations to address these deficiencies, there remains a glaring lack of commitment to tackle racism and uphold social rights when it comes to setting tangible priorities.

Failure of the European Union to prioritise racial justice for the next five years signifies that the EU is abandoning a part of its population. Once again, racialised communities are left behind, their needs sacrificed to accommodate the EU leaders’ appetite for militarisation and profit.

Before the leaked agenda is set to be adopted in June, we will continue to stress that European leaders bear the duty of protecting human rights and uplifting equality for everyone. This is a crucial moment to forge a more robust racial justice agenda to build A Europe for All, where racial justice stands as a paramount priority for a sustainable EU.

By Magda Boulabiza, ENAR Policy Advisor on Climate and Economic Justice


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