Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs I

Building bridges, not walls: with rising cultural tensions and increasing polarisation across the continent, how can the EU aid Member States in ensuring cultural integration of people with a migratory background?

By: Stella Naudts (NL)

Topic video

Message by Ylva Johansson on the occasion of the launch of the consultation on integration and migrants expert group”, European Commission

The topic at a glance

The number of refugees and migrants coming to Member States is increasing rapidly. Recent reports say many refugees are taking a chance at crossing the Channel and the Atlantic Ocean  into European countries. The Canary Islands alone became the refuge for less than 17,000 refugees in this year alone, a record number since 2006. Whilst there is an issue of finding adequate help for them, there are millions of citizens of the Member States  who have migrated years ago. People with a migratory background often experience extreme difficulty with cultural integration and finding suitable jobs. This is often caused by discrimination and stereotypes, due to huge differences in Western and third country cultures, norms and values.  the economy and its development, immense numbers of them are without jobs. Integration into the labour market, meaning getting those with a migratory background jobs to their full potential, forms the foundation of the cultural and social integration of migrants in Member States.

Topic dictionary

Cultural integration: is the integration of non-EU citizens into the culture of the Member States. It consists of several categories and processes. The most prominent are labour market, cultural activities, social inclusion and active participation, community and politics, health and housing.
Migratory background: someone with a migratory background is officially defined by migrating into their current country of residence, previously having a different nationality than their current country of residence or having at least one parent that migrated into the current country of residence.
A migrant: someone who has either moved to a Member State and is expected to live there for at least 12 months after leaving a different country, or has lived in a Member State and has not lived there for at least 12 months.  
A refugee:  someone with a third country nationality 1, who comes to a Member State due to having a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership with a certain social group and is unable or unwilling to return.

Key actors

The Directorate-General of Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) is a department of the European Commission (EC)2 responsible for taking actions on matters in direct regard to policies on migration, border security and asylum.  However, integration of people with migratory background does not figure among the objectives of the immigration policy listed under Article 79, meaning that integration is not an immediate objective of legislative intervention by the EC.
Member States: are 27 countries which form the EU. These Member States are individually responsible for their legislation regarding the cultural integration of inhabitants with migratory backgrounds. They are following their own refugee policies, subject to the international agreements they have committed to. However,  the EU can certainly aid and encourage Member States, especially in diminishing differences between them.
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) is an agency of the EU dedicated to develop, implement and coordinate training for law enforcement officials. This agency’s aims are to offer law enforcement professionals opportunities to grow personally and professionally through training and contributing by learning to solve issues related to European security. 
The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is an agency created by the EU to increase the cooperation of EU Member States on asylum, improve the implementation of the Common European Asylum System, and support Member States under pressure.
 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) addresses all migrant and refugee issues on an international level, but is not actively involved in policy making. They cover issues ranging from advocacy, inclusion, assistance, shelter, to public health.

Measures in place

The Action Plan on the integration of third-country nationals is an important legislation, which shows the concrete plans and agreements of the EC and EU. It focuses on five main aspects of successful integration, namely the preparation of both migrants and the community for departure and arrival, education, labour market, training, access to basic services, active participation and social inclusion. 
The Common Basic Principles (CBPs) for immigrant integration policy is a report which lists the basic agreements of the EU regarding integration. Some are regarding employment being the key part in the integration process and being central to the participation of immigrants,  as well as enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge being essential to successful integration.
Common Agenda for Integration is a framework for the integration of third-country nationals in the EU. It proposes concrete measures at EU and national level, such as mainstreaming integration in all relevant policies and developing cooperation among responsible institutions and services.  
The Europe 2020 Strategy is the most recent plan of action emphasising smart, sustainable and inclusive growth to better Europe’s competitiveness and productivity. It also focuses on education, employment, poverty and social exclusion.  

Key conflicts

Due to immense groups of migrants coming into the Member States, the problem of insufficient integration of migrants into the EU will only become worse.  At the moment, policies and legislation in the EU regarding the integration is inadequate, resulting in unnecessarily high levels of unemployment and homelessness among migrants. Due to the influx of migrants into the EU will continue to grow, the problem of insufficient integration of migrants will also grow unmanageable.
The cause for the difficulties in the integration of migrants is most often discrimination and stereotypes. Every culture holds different norms and values, especially in Western countries and third world countries these differences are huge. When there are big contrasts between two cultures, it becomes difficult for natives to respect another culture, resulting in discrimation and negative stereotypes. This is the main cause for the difficulties that migrants have when integrating into the culture of the Member States.

What is next?

On the 24th of November 2020 the EC released the new EU Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for the coming years, 2021 – 2027. Four main points are covered in this action plan: the education of migrants, from basic until higher education, improving employment opportunities at an appropriate skill level, improving sufficient health access and available affordable housing. This plan continues to build upon the 2016 Action Plan on Integration, however the new action plan lays the focus on long-term integration and solutions. The EC has also recently made new funds of 32,7 million euros available for projects on migration and integration. There is currently an open call for these funds, which are intended for the improvement of migrants’ access to basic services and integration programmes.

Key questions

  • How will the Member States ensure the successful integration of current inhabitants with migratory backgrounds as new migrants are further coming?
  • How can the EU work closer with third-party countries to ensure responsible sharing?
  • What measures should the Member States take to decrease the inequality between natives and migrants when it comes to employment?
  • How will the EU encourage the Member States enough  to take action when it comes to integrating people with migratory background?

Links for further research:

“EU Actions”, European Commission
What Actually Is the European Union?”, TLDR News EU
Integration in the labour market”, European Commission
Integration”, European Commission
EU work and activities on integration”, European Commission
Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU”, European Commission (for the short version see pages 17-18, for further explanation see pages 19-24)
Statistics on migration to Europe”, European Commission
Agencies”, European Commission

  1. Third country national is a term often used in the context of migration, referring to individuals who are in transit and/or applying for visas in countries that are not their country of origin. In the EU, the term is often used, together with non-EU nationals, to refer to individuals who are neither from the EU country in which they are currently living or staying, nor from other Member States.
  2. European Commission is the executive body of the EU that can propose and enforce legislation.