By Francesco Guarascio
STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union executive proposed on Tuesday making EU development aid and trade ties with African and other poor countries conditional on their cooperation in curbing migration to Europe.
"Those countries who ... work with us will get certain treatment," an EU official said of the package of measures put forward by the European Commission. "Those who don't want to or are incapable will get different treatment and that will be translated via our development, trade policies."
A deal with Turkey, much criticized by human rights groups, has cut the arrivals in Greece to a trickle after some 1.3 million reached Europe last year. But people smugglers have become more active again in recent weeks on the even more dangerous Mediterranean routes from North Africa to Italy.
Last year, much of the irregular migration to Europe was by Syrians, Iraqis and others fleeing war or conflict in the Middle East. But EU leaders are concerned about a long-term prospect of massive migration from Africa, the world's poorest continent.
"We must find solutions, sustainable solutions. We cannot tolerate the loss of human lives at this scale and we must do everything we can to stop it," the Commission's deputy head, Frans Timmermans, said in a statement.
The plan envisages spending 8 billion euros ($9 billion) in development aid and other assistance over the next five years.
Some of that money has already been pledged but Brussels now wants to add more funds and make disbursements under deals it would seal with each country individually to ensure the recipients keep a lid on migration in exchange for EU money.
First in line to agree the so-called "compacts" on aid-for-migration are Jordan and Lebanon, major hosts like Turkey for Syrian refugees. The Commission also said it wants to work toward similar agreements in Africa, with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia.
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)