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From a Two-Way to a Three-Way Process Conception of Integration

The European Commission has proposed a new way of looking at the integration process of immigrants in European societies—though by “immigrants” the Commission means third-country nationals (TCNs) only. The Commission's shift in thinking can best be understood within the logic of EU-level policy development on migration and integration and the M&D framework. Furthermore, creation of new institutional structures—bilateral ones between emigration and immigration countries, as well as those at the EU level and globally—has led to new policy initiatives by which different topics, actors, and interests have been brought to the table in relation to each other. Although the outcome of these developments is still uncertain, one could interpret them as a step forward towards better multilevel governance. It is questionable, however, to what extent these new policy developments should go under the flag of integration policies targeting immigrants in European countries.

We established that the political process has been the driving force behind the incorporation of the countries of origin as a third actor in the concept of immigrants' integration. There is no indication in the European Commission documents that research or any form of academic advice played a role in the proposal and in the argumentation used. When asked, researchers working in various subfields of immigration, integration, transnationalism, and the M&D nexus could not determine on an empirical basis the exact role of countries of origin in immigrants' integration and vice versa. What does clearly emerge is the relevance of integration for development in the countries of origin. Furthermore, transnational studies point to the need to look simultaneously at immigrants' integration (or lack thereof) in the place of origin, place of destination, and possibly also within a socially-relevant transnational migrant community. From this perspective more research is needed to assess whether and how these processes of integration relate to each other.

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