Home Sociology Integration Processes and Policies in Europe
Obviously, we do not know what directions migration and integration regimes in Europe would have taken if these topics were still the sole domain of national governments. Perhaps they would have converged anyway as a consequence of other macro developments. In any event, a first general observation that can be made is that migration regimes have become similar, and where EU acquis rule, even identical. These developments have secured the position of third-country nationals and provided for uniform rules regarding family reunification. In other cases, however, convergence has not taken place along the lines of equally shared interests or fair compromise, but rather the concerns of the old EU-15 member states, particularly the North-Western ones, have set the tone. This has resulted in restrictive measures instead of burden-sharing in the EU's joint dealings with asylum seekers and refugees, to the dislike of Southern European members. With the exception of highly skilled migration, joint labour migration policies have not materialized. Furthermore, EU accession has forced member states that previously had relaxed (or few) migration policies to take controls seriously.
Convergence is furthermore in evidence when it comes to integration regimes. Countries that initially had multicultural policies have gradually developed policies with an assimilationist slant. There is also evidence of countries going in the opposite direction: from ethnically justified exclusion to more openness towards ethnic diversity. Those member states for which the immigration experience is fairly fresh do not tend to have comprehensive approaches towards settlers from third countries. Integration policies instead tend to be a local matter, often stimulated by EU funding. In effect, where national political agendas are less inclined towards the support of immigrant integration, these can be bypassed by municipal governments. In Central and to some extent Southern Europe, integration is not necessarily on the national political agenda to begin with. Indeed, it finds expression mainly in networks such as Integrating Cities, Intercultural Cities, CLIP (the European Network of Cities for Local Integration Policies for Migrants), and ECCAR (the European Coalition of Cities against Racism), which receive subsidies from a European Commission programme for the integration of third-country nationals. Because these networks bring together a large number of cities to work together and share practices, much of the resulting integration dynamic appears to be local.
This brings us to a third trend (and a final question): not only in new countries of immigration but also in the older member states, local governance appears to be rising in importance. As also noted by others (e.g., Barber 2013; Saunders 2010) migration is predominantly an urban affair, and local governments are keenly aware of the opportunities and challenges resulting from it. At the same time, at the national level political responses to migration can be critical, and at times downright unfriendly. This may prompt local policymakers to look elsewhere for support, for example, to the EU. Whether this actually undermines the importance of the national level in dealing with such sensitive issues as national identity and belonging is still an open question.
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