WHEN EU leaders assemble some time before 8pm at a gathering in Greece tonight, their summit agenda will have a depressingly familiar ring: plans for an improved EU visa system, moves to identify vulnerable border crossings and smoother ways to return failed asylum-seekers to their countries of origin.
Strictly off the agenda will be the economic factors that drive migrants half way round the world in search of a better life: the trade barriers that bar access to Third World goods and the billions of euros in subsidies paid to EU farm barons and agribusiness that cause economic ruin in the developing world. The 15 leaders will make no attempt to discuss what connects the flow of asylum-seekers to Europe and the obstacles placed in the way of the goods their countries try to sell us: the arbitrary and punitive duties on Kenyan-cut flowers, for example, or on the surplus EU fruit and vegetables that are dumped on Senegal's fragile market to the detriment of local producers.
Nor is it just the EU that is wreaking havoc across Africa. America, too, specialises in unjust trading practices. It dumps cotton in Mali, food aid in Ethiopia and prevents Vietnamese catfish farmers from selling at a fair price.
Not only goods are at issue: the same economic forces that lead to poverty in the developing world conspire to produce a desperate trade in people, with Mafia-style gangs smuggling an estimated 170,000 people a year into Europe. Many are sold into prostitution.
It is not fair trade but "Fortress Europe" that will dominate the Chalkidiki EU summit. Only pressure from countries such as Germany has forced British ministers to back off proposals to dump asylum- seekers in transit centres just outside the EU's increasingly fortified borders. It is at these camps - in Albania and Croatia - that refugees' claims would be assessed and to which they could be deported as soon as they arrived on British soil.
Outrage at that proposal, nicknamed in Brussels the "concentration camp plan", has led the UK to suggest a second pilot scheme in east Africa, more acceptable to refugee groups, that would stem the flow of refugees - such as those who drowned off southern Italy this week - by providing for "protected zones" nearer home.
While EU farm ministers have been meeting in Luxembourg to debate watered- down changes to the Common Agricultural Policy, which channels about EUR40bn (pounds 27bn) of subsidies to Europe's farmers, it will not be discussed in Greece. …