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Immigration, integration and employment

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Immigration, integration and employment

Following the European Council in Tampere and as part of the follow-up to the Lisbon strategy, the Commission sets out in this Communication proposals to support the introduction of effective policies concerning the integration * of third-country nationals. This text deals with the current legislative framework for integration, the approaches adopted at European level and the policy orientations and priorities for the future.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on immigration, integration and employment [COM(2003) 336 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


1. This Communication enables the Commission to complete the task assigned to it by the European Council in Tampere, which was to make detailed proposals for the implementation of a common European policy on asylum and migration. So far, concrete proposals have been made in three of the four areas identified in Tampere (partnership with countries of origin, common European asylum policy, management of migration flows).

The final area, concerning aspects relating to integration, is dealt with in this Communication, which also examines, in accordance with the undertaking given in the spring 2003 report, the role that immigration will play in achieving the Lisbon objectives.


Tampere and the legislative framework at EU level

2. Following the European Council in Tampere, which explicitly called for a more vigorous integration policy, the Union adopted an arsenal of instruments for facilitating integration in the following areas:

EU policy instruments underpinning integration, employment and social cohesion

3. On the basis of the Lisbon mandate, the Union has developed open methods of coordination in the fields of employment and social inclusion.

The European Employment Strategy, the national action plans to combat poverty and social exclusion and the reinforcement of exchanges of information and best practice form part of this approach.

4. A number of EU financial instruments and other initiatives directly or indirectly support the integration of immigrants: the Structural Funds, in particular the European Social Fund, and certain innovatory measures (EQUAL and URBAN). Lastly, in the context of preparing a common European policy on asylum, the Council has established a European Refugee Fund aimed at promoting the social and economic integration of refugees.

National approaches to integration

5. Most Member States have made major efforts to develop national integration policies. However, many of them consider that the policies they have conducted so far have not been sufficiently effective and note the persistence of obstacles to integration, such as unemployment and poor education or formal skills.

This has led to a growing recognition of the need to act collectively at EU level.

The economic and demographic challenge: a new dimension

6. In an overall economic and social context characterised by a number of skill and labour shortages, competition for the highly skilled and accelerating demographic ageing, it is important to relate immigration to the employment situation and to the profile of future labour market needs.

Patterns of immigration flows in the EU

7. The Member States have a long tradition of immigration, which, on the whole, has contributed positively to economic growth and labour market adaptability. In 2000, third-country nationals living in Europe represented around 4% of the total population of the EU.

8. Over the last ten years, there has been a broadening and diversification in the typology of migrants, of the patterns of flows and of the mix of the sending and receiving countries.

Moreover, with the accession of the ten new Member States in 2004, part of past immigration will become internal mobility.

The economic role of immigration and its impact on employment

9. Many studies carried out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others, have shown that immigration has had an undeniable positive effect on employment and growth for two reasons: it increases the supply of labour and tends to have a positive influence on the demand for products.

10. In terms of employment opportunities, there is little evidence that immigration has led to higher unemployment. Moreover, in general, migrants are not taking the jobs of national workers.

Lastly, the impact of immigration on the public finances of the host countries seems to have been moderate so far.

The employment outlook and the potential of immigration

11. Faced with the shortage of labour and the increasing unsuitability of training and in order to avoid encouraging illegal immigration, governments are realising that it is necessary to facilitate immigrants' entry to the labour market, especially those who have the skills and are capable of adapting.

However, it is still difficult to devise policies which will make it possible to match supply and demand. Moreover, the recourse to immigrants should not be detrimental to developing countries, particularly by giving rise to a brain drain, and should not lead to segregation of the labour market and lasting dependency on immigration for certain categories of jobs.

Is immigration a solution to demographic change?

12. A sustained flow of immigrants over the next decades can help in filling current and future needs of the EU labour markets, but using immigration to fully compensate the impact of demographic ageing is not a realistic option.

The immigrant population too is ageing and this will lead to a similar situation as witnessed today. Moreover, from a social cohesion perspective, any massive increase in immigration would also increase the challenge of integration to a much larger extent.

It will therefore be important to find ways of managing these migratory pressures through adequate policies of entry and settlement.


13. The Commission stressed, in its Communications of 2000 and 2001 on Community immigration policies, the need for a holistic approach which takes into account not only the economic and social aspects of integration but also issues related to cultural and religious diversity, citizenship, participation and political rights.

Integration into the labour market

14. With a view to reducing by half in each Member State the unemployment gap between non-EU and EU nationals by 2010, it is important to:

  • build upon their previously acquired experience and qualifications already obtained outside the EU;
  • eliminate discrimination at the workplace and racist behaviour;
  • make employers aware of this diversity and its advantages (knowledge of languages, multiplicity of skills, etc.).

Education and language skills

15. There are major problems for immigrants with respect to the recognition of their academic attainments and qualifications. Moreover, the problem of the ability to speak the language of the host country is still in many cases the main obstacle to successful integration.

Housing problems

16. The lack of affordable quality housing in ethnically mixed areas is a problem many migrants encounter.

Comprehensive urban and regional planning strategies taking into account, for example, housing, transport, health services, school facilities and the needs of the labour market can help to overcome ethnic and social segregation in cities and its consequences.

Health and social services

17. Immigrant populations may suffer from particular health problems (poor living conditions, problems arising from the uncertainty and insecurity in which they find themselves), but they often have difficulties accessing high-quality health and social services. An increased participation of persons with different ethnic backgrounds in the planning and delivery of these services should help to prevent discrimination and ensure that the services take account of cultural barriers.

Social and cultural environment

18. The active involvement and participation of immigrants in civil life and particularly in sports and other clubs is an important step in adapting.

Promoting a generally positive attitude in the public towards immigrants requires strong political leadership in order to avoid resentment and the rise of racism. Politicians and the mass media have a major responsibility in their role as educators of public opinion.

Nationality and civic citizenship

19. The Commission stresses the importance of acquiring nationality and civic citizenship as a means of facilitating positive integration.

The Tampere Conclusions endorsed the objective that long-term legally resident third-country nationals be offered the opportunity to obtain the nationality of the Member State in which they reside.

The concept of civic citizenship guarantees immigrants a number of rights and obligations, even if they are not naturalised, including the right to free movement, the right to work and the right to vote in local elections.

The main actors in a holistic integration policy

20. The success of a holistic approach to immigration issues depends primarily on governments, but they must be able to count on the cooperation of the social partners, the research community and public service providers, NGOs and other civil society actors, including immigrants themselves.

Specific needs of certain groups of migrants

21. Certain immigrants have specific requirements and priorities which should be taken into account within overall integration strategies. This is the case with refugees, persons enjoying international protection, women and young second- or third-generation immigrants.

Dealing with illegal migrants

22. Third-country nationals residing illegally in the EU present a major challenge for the integration process. Within the context of the common immigration policy, the only coherent approach to dealing with illegal residents is to ensure that they return to their country of origin.

The way forward: policy orientations and priorities

23. The EU must intensify its efforts to provide a more coherent European framework for integration and to ensure that immigration contributes as effectively as possible to meeting the new demographic and economic challenges which the EU is now facing.

Consolidating the legal framework

24. The Commission urges that the process should be speeded up for those initiatives still pending, mainly as regards:

The Commission stresses that all the Member States must ensure that the directives approved in 2000 (equal treatment in employment and work and equal treatment without distinction as to race or ethnic origin) are transposed into national law as quickly as possible.

Reinforcing policy coordination

25. In its Communication of November 2000 on Community immigration policy, the Commission announced its intention of preparing an annual report on the development of the common immigration policy.

Moreover, in its Communication of July 2001 on an open method of coordination for the Community immigration policy, the Commission identified three priority areas for cooperation:

  • introduction programmes for newly arrived immigrants;
  • language training;
  • participation of immigrants in civic, cultural and political life.

Civic citizenship and nationality

26. Immigrants should be helped to integrate into society through the acquisition of certain basic rights and the concomitant obligations. This civic responsibility could prepare immigrants for naturalisation and offer long-term resident immigrants an opportunity to take part subsequently in political life.

The European Employment Strategy (EES)

27. In the context of the EES, the Commission considers it appropriate to take up the following questions:

  • sustainable integration of third-country nationals into the labour market;
  • combating undeclared work and reducing the informal economy;
  • closer monitoring of the needs of the EU labour market and of the role of immigration in filling labour shortages;
  • contributing to increased job mobility of third-country nationals in the EU, through the further development of the EURES network.

The social inclusion process

28. With regard to proper implementation of the National Action Plans for Social Inclusion, the Commission stresses that:

  • the Member States are requested to report on the policy measures and initiatives that they take;
  • studies, statistical work and a large number of transnational projects on the integration of immigrants will be carried out under the Community Action Programme to combat social exclusion (2001-2006).

Economic and social cohesion

29. The Commission considers it important to build on experiences, in particular from the European Social Fund and the EQUAL initiative, in order to take better account of the challenge of immigration in terms of jobs and social inclusion.

Combating discrimination

30. It is important not only to support the Member States with the implementation of the two main anti-discrimination Directives (equal treatment in employment and work and equal treatment without distinction as to race or ethnic origin), but also to strengthen the fight against discrimination by:

Cooperation in the field of education

31. In order to apply the open method of coordination in the field of education, it is planned to use benchmarks to set concrete goals to meet the challenges of the Lisbon Strategy. Among the five EU benchmarks, three of them are particularly relevant in the context of promoting integration: reading literacy, education attainment levels and early school-leavers.

Closer dialogue with third countries

32. Improved dialogue with third countries facilitates orderly migration flows and is a major element in fighting illegal immigration. In this dialogue, the Commission considers it important that:

  • progress is made towards the mutual recognition of professional qualifications acquired by third-country nationals;
  • the EU should make more use of the opportunities provided under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services as a way to provide secure temporary movement mechanisms for people who are coming to the EU to provide a service.

Reinforcing EU financial support for integration

33. The European Refugee Fund should continue to finance the introduction of integration programmes and policies for refugees and persons granted international protection.

Improving information on the migration phenomenon

34. Immigration and asylum issues have now been fully incorporated into the priorities of the 6th framework programme for research and development and into the Action Plan " Investing in Research ". In addition, the Commission has adopted an Action Plan for the collection and analysis of Community statistics in the field of migration and at the end of 2002 launched a preparatory action for the creation of a European Migration Network (EMN).

Key terms used in the act

  • Integration: a two-way process based on reciprocal rights and concomitant obligations of legally resident third-country nationals and the host society. Integration means that the longer a third-country national is resident in a Member State, the more rights and obligations he should acquire.
  • The different categories of migrants: migrant workers, members of their family admitted for the purpose of family reunification, refugees, persons granted international protection or subsidiary or temporary protection.


Council Conclusions of 12 and 13 June 2007 on strengthening integration policies in the EU [Not published in the Official Journal]. The Council stresses the importance of a coherent and comprehensive approach in national integration policies. It proposes to study ways of setting up common European models and suggests possibly establishing common indicators for assessing the results of national policies. It also states that national contact points on integration should play a more important role.

Last updated: 16.07.2007