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EU Integration Policies

EU-level policies on migration are double-edged. EU citizens are granted full freedom of mobility within the EU, while common and restrictive immigration and asylum policies apply to third-country nationals (TCNs). This duality, established from the very beginning with the 1999–2004 Tampere Programme, had three important consequences for integration. First, integration policies at the EU level were aimed exclusively at TCNs while immigrants from within the EU were viewed as already integrated. Second, integration of TCNs was defined in a rather limited way in the early phase. As noted in the introduction to this book, EU policies started from the assumption that if the legal position of immigrants was equal to that of national citizens and if adequate instruments were in place to combat discrimination, then integration processes could be left to societal forces. The third consequence was that, unlike immigration policies, EU integration policies were defined as non-binding, consensus policies, since national governments wanted to retain sovereignty in key domains associated with immigrant integration.

In 2003, the European Commission formulated its first comprehensive and explicit view on integration policies based on a conceptualization of integration as a two-way process involving both immigrants and the receiving society. The Hague Programme (2004–2009) and the Stockholm Programme (2009–2014) marked a gradual expansion of the definition of immigrants' integration, increasing the actors and stakeholders involved and the issues covered. This definitional expansion occurred along two main lines: an internal line and an external one.

The internal line encompasses two main national elements. First, more levels of integration governance were activated within destination countries. In this context, the networks of European cities that exchanged knowledge and best practices on integration policies (see Scholten et al. 2015), all funded by the European Commission, raised the visibility of local governmental actors. In countries such as Spain, regional-level governments also profiled themselves as important policymakers in the field of immigrant integration. The conceptualization of and interests around immigrants' integration have differed, however, even across different government levels within the same country. Second, more and more stakeholders at all levels became involved in and mobilized for policies, including migrant organizations, human rights organizations, NGOs, and social partners.

The external line of expansion of the definition of immigrants' integration occurred when actors and stakeholders in countries of origin came into the picture. This happened in two ways, stemming from quite different sources and interests. First, after the turn of the century new international initiatives—stemming from the renewed Migration and Development (M&D) perspective—sought to establish a regulatory framework for international migration that would render migration beneficial for countries of origin and destination as well as for migrants themselves (see King and Collyer in this volume). The Global Commission on International Migration, the High-Level UN Dialogues on Migration, and the Global Forum on Migration and Development created frameworks in which both countries of origin and countries of destination were represented and their interests balanced and coordinated. Both the EU and all major immigration countries in Europe were involved in these international developments.

A second way in which countries of origin became involved derived from the increased difficulty experienced by European countries in controlling and regulating immigration without the help of countries of origin (and of countries of transit to Europe). Several European countries, such as Spain, established bilateral agreements with countries of origin in which cooperation on admission and, particularly, on return of irregular migrants was exchanged for development assistance or improved facilitation of regular migration—often temporary—to Europe (GarcésMascareñas 2012, 171–173). The terminology of co-development emerged in this context, combining the renewed M&D perspective with the immigration and integration policy interests of European countries. The EU became increasingly involved in such cooperation programmes, many of which included local governments and NGOs in countries of origin (see Chaps. 8 and 10 in this volume).

The renewed European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals of 2011 proposed to anchor these two external lines of policy development in the integration agenda, thereby adding the countries of origin as a third key actor in the process of immigrants' integration. As stated in the Commission document, 'Countries of origin can have a role to play (...) in three ways: (1) to prepare the integration already before the migrants' departure; (2) to support the migrants while in the EU, e.g. through support via the Embassies; (3) to prepare the migrant's temporary or definitive return with acquired experience and knowledge' (EC 2011, 10). The first element responds to the pre-migration courses and requirements that some European immigration countries have recently developed in order to anticipate integration of those still to be admitted. The second legitimizes and encourages support for migrants from countries of origin during their stay elsewhere, a practice that governments in countries of origin have developed more systematically in order to bond with their compatriots abroad (see Østergaard-Nielsen in this volume). The third seems to include in its euphemistical formulation only voluntary return of legal migrants, as such referring primarily to the re-migration and development theme. Yet, if we look at concrete policies and policy implementation, one might readily assume that involuntary return of irregular migrants constitutes an important part of this policy stream.

This brief analytic description leads us to a few general conclusions on the meaning of integration in policies in Europe. The first is that integration policies—or policies under the flag of integration—have developed at many levels of government: at the national level; at the local level of cities and municipalities; in some cases, at the level of (autonomous) regions or Länder; and at the supra-national level of the EU. This last is a relative newcomer, but nonetheless an increasingly important platform for all. This “multilevelness” is a characteristic that will be present in the future.

The second conclusion is that—partly parallel to governmental multilevelness— a multitude of stakeholders has become involved in integration as policy designers and implementers. This includes not only governmental and quasi-governmental actors but also and increasingly nongovernmental agents from immigrant collectives, civil society in general, social partners, and NGOs.

Both the vertical multilevelness of policies and the horizontal involvement of an increasing number and diversity of stakeholders bring more varied interests to the policy table. Such different interests may not always be aligned, and may even clash. They may also lead to quite different views on what integration is, what integration policies should promote, and who needs what assistance in the integration process. If multilevel governance is normatively defined as the process through which policymaking and policy implementation is coordinated vertically between levels of government and attuned horizontally across governmental and nongovernmental actors (see Scholten et al. 2015), we can then conclude that we have only just started out, and that much more multilevel governance is needed in practice in the field of integration.

Finally, our examination of the development of integration policies and definitions of integration at the EU level enable us to place in context the shift from the original definition of integration as a two-way process to the EU's new definition of integration as a three-way process. That shift finds its legitimation primarily in efforts to bring together the policy activities of different parties (i.e., in countries of origin and destination) in the different but related fields of integration, immigration control, and M&D. Policies in these three fields had previously developed simultaneously but separately. It is the logic of policymaking—and not an evidence-based scientific argument—that has guided this redefinition.

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