On Tuesday 7 June the European Commission adopted the EU Integration Action Plan of Third Country Nationals. The plan is addressed to third country nationals legally residing in EU’s Member States, irrespectively of the reasons why they are migrated and for how long. However, it contains several provisions for specific situations and difficulties faced by refugees. The Action Plan aims at providing a common policy framework in order to help Member States developing and strengthening their national integration policies.
Although the competence for integration policies does not lie with the European Union, but with Member States, the goal of the European Commission is to encourage and promote integration throughout incentives and support for Member States. Indeed, the EU will help them financially and operationally.
The Action Plan is a part of the EU long-term strategy for integration. In 2004, the EU adopted the EU Common Basic Principles for the integration of third country nationals, then reaffirmed ten years later by the Justice and Home Affairs Council. Later in 2011, the European Commission adopted the first European Agenda for the Integration of third country nationals, which set out the basic European approach to integration.
According to the European Commission, the EU have about 20 millions third country nationals legally residing in its Member States, that make up almost 4% of its total population.
Despite the efforts made during these years, third country nationals continue to suffer from various forms of discrimination, especially in terms of employment, social inclusion and education.
Actually, in 2015 migrants’ employment rate was 12% lower than host country nationals, the higher rate being that of women. Similarly, migrants are often under-employed and experience educational underachievement more than students with native-born parents. Moreover, in 2014, 49% of third country nationals underwent poverty and social exclusion, 30% more than host country nationals (22%).
The main point of the Integration Agenda is the fully recognition of Integration as a way of realizing the potential of migration. Over the last decades, Europe has been strongly affected by demographic changes, such as a decline in working age population. For these reasons, the Europe 2020 Strategy, as well as Stockholm Programme, fully recognise the potential of migration for the competitiveness of our economies. According to the European Agenda of 2011, Integration is “a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by migrants and by the societies that receive them”. Furthermore, integration is described as “an ever evolving process, which requires close monitoring, constant efforts, innovative approaches and bold ideas”.
If so, a successfully integration process could contribute to the EU with a rise until 75% in employment rate by 2020.
During the LIBE Committee reunion on June 15, the European Commission presented the new Action Plan on Integration. According to the Commission representative, this plan is ambitious, comprehensive and concrete. In fact, as the Commission declared, “failure to release the potential of third-country nationals in the EU would represent a massive waste of resources, both for the individuals concerned themselves and more generally for our economy and society. There is a clear risk that the cost of non-integration will turn out to be higher than the cost of investment in integration policies”. Some MEPs, like Mrs Lauristin (S&D), argued that the EU should extend legal labour migration and promote better information about legal venues to join Europe with working purposes. Others, like Mrs Spinelli (GUE), claimed that the Commission should improve the link among integration, welfare and labour law. Moreover, the depute fears a so-called “race to the bottom” in the labour market.
However, the Commission’s representative underlined that the EU will increase the capacity of the labour market to absorb more workforce. Moreover, he stressed the need of legal labour migration due to the fact that Europe will face, in the following years, a strong demographic issue leading to skills shortages.
Integration thus has to be an economic integration, an educational integration and a cultural integration. The Commission will then act throughout 50 concrete actions, starting from reinforcing the European Integration Network, made up by national associations.
In concrete, the European Commission identified five key priority policy areas, to be strengthened at both the European and national level:
- Pre-departure and pre-arrival measures:
These measures target both third country nationals and the receiving society. Although they are addressed to all individuals form third countries, they are fundamental for refugees’ resettlement.
Such measures consist of pre-departure language courses and job-related training and, in the case of refugees, with information concerning the country of resettlement.
Doing so, the EU will also engage selected third countries of origin, reinforcing cooperation with them at all levels of the pre-departure phase.
Indeed, the Commission will provide Member States with financial help and will enhance cooperation with relevant international actors, such as the IOM (International Organization for Migration), and the new European Union Agency for Asylum.
This set of measures aims at remove all barriers in the acquisition of basic skills, as a tool to enhance further learning and employment, social inclusion.
This means including language integration programmes at the earlier stage of the arrival, shaping them to each person’s competencies and attitudes. Moreover, this involves children education as well, regardless of their gender or cultural background.
- Labour Market Integration and access to Vocational Training:
In this field, Member States are encouraged to promptly identify and recognise skills and qualifications of third country nationals, ensuring better and clear information about qualification recognition processes. This means establishing cooperation with third countries between National Academic Recognition Center (NARIC).
Special attention is paid to women’s labour integration, which are more affected by labour and employment exclusion.
- Access to basic services:
Concerning basic services, the European Commission will grant access to reception, education, housing, health and social services promoting the use of the EU funds. Also, the EU will strengthen the cooperation with the European Investment Bank and will promote the exchange of best practices over local communities as well.
- Active participation and social inclusion:
In this field, the Commission will support the launch of projects promoting intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity. In this sense, greater priority will be addressed to activities dedicated to the integration of refugees. Member States should as well promote cultural and social exchange, increasing participation of third country nationals and refugees to democratic structures and local life. They should combat racism and xenophobia as well, reinforcing intervention in the anti-discrimination legislations.
The Commission will implement these measures throughout different tools. First of all, it will upgrade the Network of the National Contact Points on Integration in a European Integration Network, with a stronger coordination and mutual learning. Migrants’ employment and social inclusion is also one of the objectives of European 2020 strategy for Growth and Jobs and of the EU Work Plan for Youth 2016-2018.
Concerning founding, Europe supported integration actions through a dedicated fund. As to this day, 765 millions of the current Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2016-2020 have been committed to integration policies.
For further information:
- European Commission press release:http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2041_en.htm
- European Commission questions and answers on integration: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-2071_en.htm
- Action Plan on Integration 2016:http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/proposal-implementation-package/docs/20160607/communication_action_plan_integration_third-country_nationals_en.pdf
- European website on Integration:https://ec.europa.eu/migrant-integration/home