Module II. The European Multinational and Multicultural Identity: assets and tensions, immigration and integration policies

3.2. Current challenges and views

In spite of the restrictive immigration policies which have been in place since the 1970s in most Member States, large numbers of legal and illegal migrants have continued to come to the EU together with asylum-seekers. Taking advantage of persons seeking a better life, smuggling and trafficking networks have taken hold across the EU. This situation meant that considerable resources have had to be mobilised to fight illegal migration especially to target traffickers and smugglers. Furthermore, it is recognised that the EU needs migrants in certain sectors and regions in order to deal with its economic and demographic needs.

Realising that a new approach to managing migration was necessary, the leaders of the EU set out at the October 1999 European Council in Tampere (Finland) the elements for a common EU immigration policy. The approach agreed in Tampere in 1999 was confirmed in 2004 with the adoption of The Hague programme, which sets the objectives for strengthening freedom, security and justice in the EU for the period 2005-2010.

Population is decreasing in several EU Member States. This could ad­versely affect EU labour markets and thus the competitiveness of the EU economy. Furthermore, there is a demand for both unskilled and skilled labour to satisfy the labour market needs of EU Member Sta­tes. This demand will increase in parti­cular after 2010 when the baby-boomers start to retire. It is estimated that the EU will lose about 20 million of its workforce by 2030 and 52 million by 2050. At the same time, EU Member States have to compete with other countries, and then to at­tract qualified and highly skilled profes­sionals.

On the other hand, critics state that the pressure to move from developing countries is being perpetuated by Europe's own policies.  The EU's protectionism, agricultural policies and subsidies are all contributing to making life tougher for the developing world, increasing the pressure for people to leave.

Activity 10

  • Describe the make-up of your own community: immigrants, migrants, historical minorities, new minorities….
  • Try to define what relates all of them.
  • Would you define your home-society as diverse or quite homogenous?

In order to meet European labour needs in an enlarged and ever-evolving Internal Mar­ket, the Commission has decided to set out developing a common EU immi­gration policy, which should help to achieve the Lisbon Strategy objectives, while stri­ving to foster the competitiveness of the EU economy. In recent years the EU has taken a num­ber of decisions that can be considered to be the start of an EU immigration policy. These include the Directive on the right of family reunification (2003), the Directive concerning the sta­tus of third-country nationals who are long-term residents (2003) and Direc­tives on the condi­tions for the ad­mission of students (2004) and resear­chers (2005).

These measures, however, are not sufficient to meet the above-men­tioned labour and competitive needs. According to the Commission, more needs to be done. So it presented a policy plan on legal migration, which in effect maps out the various initiatives that the EU should take over the next years. The policy plan covers four main areas of activity:

  • legislative initiatives relating to the ad­mission of economic migrants;
  • initiatives to improve the gathering and dissemina­tion of information and data on the va­rious aspects of migratory phenomena;
  • measures and policies on the integration of third-country nationals;
  • and measures that will be developed in cooperation with countries of origin.

In the coming years, the Commission intends to put forward proposals designed to establish a common EU framework for the admission of paid workers. Separate directives will be presented on the entry and residence of highly skilled workers, seasonal workers, intra-corporate transfe­rees and remunerated trainees. As a prin­ciple, admission should be conditional on the existence of a work contract and on an ‘economic needs test’. The Commis­sion is also proposing to make it possible for former migrants to obtain a residence permit for temporary employment in the former host country, and would also like to encourage the growth of vocational and language courses in countries of origin.

Eurobarometers shows that common immigration policy towards people from outside the European Union is supported by 74% of Europeans and once again by a majority of respondents in each country. There is widespread support for a common immigration policy among respondents in Greece, the Netherlands and Cyprus (83% each), Germany and Belgium (82% each), Slovakia (81%), the Czech Republic and Slovenia (80% in both cases)37. On the other hand, respondents in Romania and Portugal (62% in both cases), Bulgaria (63%) and Finland (64%) are less enthusiastic. A third of the latter (32%) are even against the idea, compared with a European Union average of 15%.

Activity 11

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