28.5.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 120/12


Own-initiative opinion of the Committee of the Regions on Local and regional authorities at the forefront of integration policies

2009/C 120/03

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

believes that migrant integration strategies are bound up with European migration policy, which, in order to be effective, will also have to be accompanied by suitable support for the development of migrants' countries of origin and transit;

stresses that policies for integrating migrants must include full consensual acceptance of the values that underpin European culture, such as respect for human rights and diversity, combating discrimination and promotion of equal opportunities and tolerance;

stresses the need for a holistic approach, to take into account not only the economic and social aspects of integration but also issues relating to historical, cultural and religious diversity, citizenship, political rights and the civic engagement of legal migrants; and believes that to achieve results, a collective approach is required, including local, regional, national and European stakeholders;

recommends the implementation of multi-level governance for successful integration of migrants, compatible with the subsidiarity principle governing cooperation between the EU, Member States and local and regional authorities; and agrees with the position taken by the Third European Ministerial Conference on Integration, held on 3 and 4 November 2008 in Vichy, with regard to the need for regional and local authorities to be involved in planning, implementing and evaluating integration policies and also regarding the essential role they play in helping migrants integrate into local society;

points out that local and regional authorities play a crucial role in implementing integration policy, in keeping with their — sometimes exclusive — competences. This responsibility entails considerable expenditure by these regions and towns, whose budgets bear the costs of integration; and calls for an increase in European Integration Fund appropriations and greater support for integration initiatives at local and regional level;

asks to be fully involved in the European Forum on Integration planned for 2009 and any other event of the same nature held in the framework of European cooperation; and recommends establishing integration awards for third-country nationals.

Rapporteur

:

Dimitrios Kalogeropoulos (EL/PPE), Mayor of Egaleo (Athens)

Reference document

European Commission staff working document on Strengthening actions and tools to meet integration challenges — Report to the 2008 Ministerial Conference on Integration

SEC(2008) 2626

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1.

believes that the European Commission staff working document on ‘Strengthening actions and tools to meet integration challenges’ ties in with the conclusions adopted by the JHA Council in June 2007 on strengthening of integration policies in the European Union;

2.

considers that the increase in migration movements over the last ten years lends urgency to the need to implement effective policies for the social, economic and cultural integration of migrants from third countries;

3.

notes that the increase in the numbers of migrants has gone hand-in-hand with increasing diversity in types of migrant, the structure of migration flows and the relationship between countries of origin and host countries;

4.

points out that integration of migrants is primarily a matter for the Member States, at national or regional level, who can apply policies in the fields of education, health, housing and the labour market. The Lisbon Treaty provides for a beefed-up role for the European Union in policy governing migration and the integration of third-country nationals, but does not seek to harmonise the legislative and regulatory provisions of the Member States;

5.

notes that over recent years, many Member States have made enormous efforts to develop national policies to integrate migrants (this applies both to newcomers and to first and second-generation immigrants). The policies so far implemented have not, however, produced the desired results in many Member States because of continuing obstacles to social integration, such as unemployment, low educational/vocational achievement, the lack of willingness to integrate and the lack of cooperation between stakeholders;

6.

considers that economic and demographic developments require that a common European strategy be forged to ensure balanced handling of migration flows and to promote integration and combat illegal migration and human trafficking;

7.

stresses the need to develop a cohesive European migration policy and therefore welcomes the adoption on 15 October 2008 of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum;

8.

believes that migrant integration strategies are bound up with European migration policy, which, in order to be effective, will also have to be accompanied by suitable support for the development of migrants' countries of origin and transit; such support should mainly focus on basic education, healthcare and economic infrastructure;

Core principles

9.

considers that integration should be seen as the outcome of a process allowing third-country nationals who are legal residents in a Member State to function independently of any external intervention and to have a comparable social status to that of nationals and European citizens;

10.

notes that integration is a two-way process that requires mutual commitment and comprises rights and duties for both the host society and migrants. This entails a willingness on the part of migrants to assume their responsibility to fit into their host society (by learning the language and accepting the legal system and values of the host society), and a willingness on the part of host societies to accept and integrate migrants;

11.

stresses that policies for integrating migrants must include full consensual acceptance of the values that underpin European culture, such as respect for human rights and diversity, combating discrimination and promotion of equal opportunities and tolerance. They must also be consistent with basic EU policies on cohesion, employment, development, external relations and freedom, security and justice;

12.

believes that the way the principle of equal treatment is applied has a decisive influence on the quality of democratic systems. That all people are of equal value and should therefore be treated equally is an integral part of the culture of the European Union;

Ways and means

13.

holds the view that the EU will have to make integration of migrants a basic priority;

14.

stresses the need for a holistic approach, to take into account not only the economic and social aspects of integration but also issues relating to historical, cultural and religious diversity, citizenship, political rights and the civic engagement of legal migrants;

15.

recommends the implementation of multi-level governance for successful integration of migrants. An approach of this kind must be compatible with the subsidiarity principle governing cooperation between the EU, Member States and local and regional authorities;

16.

believes that to achieve results, a collective approach is required, including local, regional, national and European stakeholders. Involvement of the relevant EU authorities, national, regional and local authorities, NGOs, the social partners, representatives of civil society, including migrants themselves, whether newcomers or first and second generation migrants who are already established, together with all reliable actors involved in sport, culture and social cohesion, is essential;

17.

is in favour of encouraging measures to facilitate migrant access to the labour market and to vocational training. For migrants, finding a job is a fundamental step in the process of integrating fully into host communities;

18.

draws attention to the role played by education in integration, especially learning the official state language or languages of the host country;

19.

supports instruction of the mother tongue as this helps migrants with both learning the official state language or languages of the host country and also acquiring knowledge in other areas;

20.

supports the promotion of measures and actions that aim to transform the educational process into a cultural bridge between society and third-country nationals;

21.

believes that the education of migrants' children should be a priority and applauds the encouragement of diversity in national education systems;

22.

believes that very particular attention should be paid to migrant women, not just because they play a decisive part in the education of children and in passing on cultural models, but also because they are the most vulnerable to acts of exclusion, violence and discrimination;

23.

considers intercultural dialogue to be of vital importance to integration and that local and regional authorities play an essential role in promoting this dialogue and, thus, in combating racism and xenophobia;

24.

believes that the media play a key role in raising public awareness about immigration and in curbing marginalisation, racism and xenophobia;

25.

would point out that promoting equal opportunities for migrants in the fields of education, training and employment is the right way to prevent their social exclusion. The prospect of claiming an equal place in the host society is the best way to avoid the risk of violence from marginalised groups;

26.

believes that integration policies should be evaluated, which means designing common European indicators and integration models;

27.

deems the setting-up of the European Fund for the integration of third-country nationals to be especially important and believes that the fund will have a decisive impact on integration policy planning;

Contribution of local and regional authorities

28.

points out that local and regional authorities play a crucial role in implementing integration policy, in keeping with their — sometimes exclusive competences. The Committee also notes that local and regional authorities often work as service providers and as partners with other levels of governance, including interest groups. This responsibility entails considerable expenditure by these regions and towns, whose budgets bear the costs of integration;

29.

recalls that some European regions play a vital role in integrating unaccompanied migrant children in their territory. The relevant regional authorities act as the guardians of these children, entailing extra costs for many of them, as they must provide for their effective integration, living costs, education and everything else necessary to their welfare until they reach adult age. It therefore calls upon the regional, national and European authorities to assume their responsibility for the management of this phenomenon and to ensure that the financial burden is shared appropriately;

30.

furthermore stresses that local and regional authorities should be given the opportunity to become actively involved in developing integration strategies at a very early stage and throughout their implementation;

31.

agrees with the position taken by the Third European Ministerial Conference on Integration, held on 3 and 4 November 2008 in Vichy, with regard to the need for regional and local authorities to be involved in planning, implementing and evaluating integration policies and also regarding the essential role they play in helping migrants integrate into host society;

32.

notes the important part played by local and regional authorities in harnessing European experience through exchange of best practice and publicising in particular the results of their part in implementing Community programmes (e.g. CLIP, ERLAIM, ROUTES, City2City, IΝΤΙ-EUROCITIES), and running transnational regional networks;

33.

believes that local and regional authorities play a decisive role in creating the right conditions for third-country nationals to have access to information and services relating to employment, education, healthcare, housing, culture and other public goods, giving them the opportunity to build a strong link with their host society;

34.

notes that local and regional authorities pay special attention to cooperation, communication and exchanging information with the public, migrant organisations and NGOs. In this way, they make a real contribution to developing a climate of trust, to maintaining cohesion in host communities and thus to demonstrating that migration is a factor in development and progress;

Achieving the objectives

35.

supports the initiatives taken by the European Union since 1999 to implement the decisions of the Tampere European Council on making proposals and implementing effective policies aimed at integrating third country migrants;

36.

welcomes the creation by the European Commission of an integration website, which will facilitate access to and exchange of information;

37.

calls also on the Member States and the European Commission to take measures with a view to harnessing the opportunities offered by new technologies (e-Democracy, e-Government, e-services, etc.) so as to make it easier for the general public and migrants to state opinions and make proposals on integration policies and measures;

38.

stresses the need to take joint action and to promote cooperation and dialogue between all those involved in integration at local, regional, national and European level;

39.

recommends encouraging comparative evaluation of the results of integration strategies at local and regional level, and highlighting successful integration experiences and best practices at regional and local level that could provide an example for other regions;

40.

sees a need to promote initiatives and measures designed to establish a stable climate and conditions of trust between migrants and host communities;

41.

considers that it is crucial to take account of education, housing and health when drawing up and implementing effective and appropriate integration policies;

42.

considers that the European Union should develop a relationship of real support for migrants' countries of origin, which should be provided in a differentiated way according to needs;

43.

believes that there is a need to evaluate and possibly redefine existing training programmes and vocational education and training for third-country nationals, particularly for occupations where training is ‘on the job’;

44.

recommends supporting existing structures in the EU Member States in the task of identifying migrants' skills and experience;

45.

sees the need to make arrangements within the Member States for accreditation, certification and validation of migrants' skills and learning acquired in their countries of origin to give immigrants more opportunities to access further education and jobs and thereby enable them to earn their living by working, as well as boosting the human capital of the host country;

46.

urges the European Commission to support the exchange of best practice between local and regional authorities, since they make a decisive contribution to smooth and successful integration;

47.

calls for an increase in European Integration Fund appropriations and greater support for integration initiatives at local and regional level;

48.

calls on the Commission to encourage twinning between European local and regional authorities and their counterparts in migrants' countries of origin;

49.

calls on the Commission and the Member States to look into the possibility of matching national contact points for integration with corresponding points or replacing them at local and regional level;

50.

would like to contribute by presenting the best practice of local and regional authorities in the latest update of the Commission's handbook on integration;

51.

asks to be fully involved in the European Forum on Integration planned for 2009 and any other event of the same nature held in the framework of European cooperation;

52.

recommends establishing ‘integration awards’ for third-country nationals, possibly in the context of the regional awards established by the Committee of the Regions, to be granted to migrants and or actors who get involved in the migrant integration process (local or regional authorities, companies, organisations, associations, institutes, private individuals, civil servants, etc.).

Brussels, 12 February 2009.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE