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Integration of third-country nationals in Europe

Integration of third-country nationals

Prerequisite for successfully managing migration

Immigration is a permanent feature of European society. If the flow of immigrants into the EU is orderly and well managed, Member States will draw many economic, cultural and other benefits from it, which will also advance the European process and strengthen the Union’s position in the world. Therefore the effective management of migration in the EU is in the interest of all.

Apart from resolutely fighting against illegal immigration, including human trafficking, a critical aspect of managing migration is also the successful integration of lawfully residing immigrants. It is vital for the EU as a whole that Member States maintain and further develop societies in which newcomers feel welcome and which are defined by a spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation as well as clear expectations and rules.

Policy and legal context

Integration is a process which takes place in Member States, involving stakeholders at national, regional and local level. It is clear that, therefore, the development and implementation of integration policy is primarily the responsibility of individual Member States rather than that of the EU as a whole. As Member States have different histories, legal frameworks and economic, social and cultural needs to be taken into account, their current integration policies differ significantly. However, the possible failure of individual Member States in this field can have severe negative implications for other Member States and the European Union as a whole. It is therefore in the common interest of all that, in the EU, effective integration strategies are being pursued.

For this reason the issue of integration has gained increasing importance on the European agenda. Following the request of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in October 2002 to establish National Contact points on Integration, the Thessaloniki European Council of June 2003 invited the Commission to present Annual Reports on Migration and Integration. In its Communication of June 2003 on Immigration, Integration and Employment, the Commission set out a holistic approach to integration, covering economic, social, political and cultural dimensions. It was emphasized that greater efforts are needed and that integration is a continuous, two-way process based on mutual rights and corresponding obligations of the legally residing third-country national and the host society. Finally, in November 2004, the first edition of a Handbook on Integration for policy-makers and practitioners was published.

Common Basic Principles for Integration

The Thessaloniki European Council of June 2003 also asked for the establishment of a coherent European Union framework for the development and mainstreaming of Member States’ individual integration policies. In order to intensify the development of such a framework, the definition of Common Basic Principles was also envisaged. This request was re-affirmed by The Hague European Council of 4/5 November 2004 which also underlined the need for greater coordination of national integration policies and EU initiatives in this field.

On 19 November 2004, the Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted conclusions establishing the following Common Basic Principles for immigrant integration policy in the European Union:

1. Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States.

2. Integration implies respect for the basic values of the European Union.

3. Employment is a key part of the integration process and is central to the participation of immigrants, to the contributions immigrants make to the host society, and to making such contributions visible.

4. Basic knowledge of the host society’s language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integration; enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to successful integration.

5. Efforts in education are critical to preparing immigrants, and particularly their descendants, to be more successful and more active participants in society.

6. Access for immigrants to institutions, as well as to public and private goods and services, on a basis equal to national citizens and in a non-discriminatory way is a critical foundation for better integration.

7. Frequent interaction between immigrants and Member State citizens is a fundamental mechanism for integration. Shared forums, inter-cultural dialogue, education about immigrants and immigrant cultures, and stimulating living conditions in urban environments enhance the interactions between immigrants and Member State citizens.

8. The practice of diverse cultures and religions is guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and must be safeguarded, unless practices conflict with other inviolable European rights or with national law.

9. The participation of immigrants in the democratic process and in the formulation of integration policies and measures, especially at the local level, supports their integration.

10. Mainstreaming integration policies and measures in all relevant policy portfolios and levels of government and public services is an important consideration in public-policy formation and implementation.

11. Developing clear goals, indicators and evaluation mechanisms are necessary to adjust policy, evaluate progress on integration and to make the exchange of information more effective.

Towards a coherent European framework for integration

With the Communication presented today, the Commission seeks to give a first response to the request, included in The Hague Programme, to establish a coherent European framework for integration. EU Heads of State and Government further stated that a framework, based on common principles, should form the foundation for future initiatives in the EU. Following the adoption of Common Basic Principles on integration (CBPs) by the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the cornerstones of today’s Communication are proposals for concrete measures (“road map”) both at EU and at national level to put each of the eleven CBPs into practice, together with a series of supportive EU mechanisms, including the preparatory actions (INTI) and the proposed European Fund for Integration. In addition, the communication also refers to five ongoing processes and initiatives which should together form the common European framework for integration:

• National Contact Points on Integration;

• Handbook on Integration;

• Widely accessible Integration Website on the Internet
(to be developed at the request of the Hague European Council);

• Proposed European Integration Forum;

• Annual reports on Migration and Integration.

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