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

3.6. Conclusions

As the first step in creating a common EU immigration policy, the European Commission presented in November 2000 a communication to the Council and the European Parliament in order to launch a debate with the other EU institutions and with Member States and civil society. The communication recommended a common approach to migration management which should take into account the following:

  • the economic and demographic development of the Union;
  • the capacity of reception of each Member State along with their historical and cultural links with the countries of origin;
  • the situation in the countries of origin and the impact of migration policy on them (brain drain);
  • the need to develop specific integration policies (based on fair treatment of third-country nationals residing legally in the Union, the prevention of social exclusion, racism and xenophobia and the respect for diversity).

Europe now matches North America in its significance as a region of immigration. Net immigration in Europe in 2001 stood at 3. 0 per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to 3. 1 in the United States (OECD 2004). 1 The region now hosts a population of 56. 1 million migrants, compared to 40. 8 million in North America (IOM 2003). There is every indication that Europe’s importance as a region of destination will increase, as European countries recruit migrants to fill the labour and skills shortages that are predicted to rise in the coming decades.

Yet European governments and their electorates continue to display a profound ambivalence about immigration. While similarities between these countries should not be overstated, in almost all cases issues of labour migration, irregular migration, asylum and integration have become highly politically contested. Populist mobilisation on immigration themes has placed even liberal oriented governments under pressure to pursue restrictive approaches. These forces for closure often run counter to economic considerations, as well as to normative and legal/constitutional commitments to resident migrants and refugees. At the same time, many countries are becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, generating new pressures and incentives to incorporate ethnic minority interests. Again, this tendency can conflict with more populist calls for assimilation. It remains uncertain how governments will resolve these tensions at national and regional level. A number of divergent scenarios are possible, notably an increasing differentiation between the ‘wanted’, economically beneficial migrants who enter through regular programmes, and ‘unwanted’ irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

In the near future, following trends will call for attention:

  • Commuting (Eastern-Europe): migration will remain temporary for the most part, taking the form of a cross-border commute rather than a permanent settlement. “70 percent of the Polish respondents anticipated working in other Member States for between two months and two years or for intermittent periods between returning home. Only 12 percent of them intended to work for longer than two years and 13 percent expressed a desire to settle permanently in another member state.”
  • Educational migration: a persistent trend in the pattern of East – West migration. Education in Eastern Europe is not considered to match in full that in Western Europe in terms of resources. 11

At the regional level, Europe has on the whole dealt very successfully with the special challenges raised by the fall of the iron curtain. Since 1989, the European Union (EU) has played a crucial role in supporting conflict prevention and transition in Central and East European countries (CEECs), former Soviet states, and the Western Balkans. The Stabilisation and Association Process and EU enlargement to the east offer object lessons in refugee and migration prevention. The record of externalising EU and Schengen policies to associated states is more mixed. Moreover, concerns about terrorist attacks have contributed to a marked tendency to ‘securitise’ EU immigration and refugee policy. Taken as a whole, though, the region’s record of cooperation in this area provides a rich and valuable example on which other regions can draw.


11 Boswell Christina, Migration in Europe, a paper prepared for the Policy Analysis and Research Programme of the Global Commission  on International Migration. 2005.

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