A common immigration policy for Europe

The common European immigration policy needs to provide a flexible framework that takes into account European Union (EU) countries’ particular situations and is implemented in partnership between the EU countries and institutions. This communication provides 10 principles on which the common policy will be built upon and the necessary actions for implementing these principles. They aim at ensuring that legal immigration contributes to EU’s socio-economic development, EU countries’ acts are coordinated, cooperation with non-EU countries is developed further and illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings are tackled effectively.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 17 June 2008 – A Common Immigration Policy for Europe: Principles, actions and tools [COM(2008) 359 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


This communication puts forward 10 common principles with concrete actions for their implementation, on the basis of which the common European immigration policy will be formulated. In order to attain a coordinated and integrated approach to immigration, these principles are mainstreamed under the three main strands of European Union (EU) policy, i.e. prosperity, solidarity and security.

The common immigration policy will be delivered in partnership between the EU countries and institutions. It will be followed up regularly through a new monitoring and evaluation mechanism, including an annual assessment. Recommendations will be put forward by the European Council on the basis of a Commission report on the immigration situation at the European and national levels.

PROSPERITY: the contribution of legal immigration to the socio-economic development of the EU

Clear rules and a level playing field

The common immigration policy should be characterised by clarity, transparency and fairness and be targeted towards promoting legal immigration. Thus, the transmission to non-EU nationals of the necessary information pertaining to legal entry and stay in the EU should be ensured. In addition, the fair treatment of the non-EU nationals residing legally in the EU should be guaranteed. To implement these principles in practice, the EU and its countries should:

Matching skills and needs

In light of the Lisbon Strategy, the promotion of economic immigration should be founded on a needs-based assessment of EU labour markets. Progress within all skill levels and sectors should be considered in relation to the knowledge-based economy and economic growth. At the same time, the principle of EU preference, the EU countries’ right to determine the volumes of admission and the immigrants’ rights should be kept in mind. In practical terms, this entails the following from the EU and its countries:

Integration is the key to successful immigration

Integration as a “two-way process” should be promoted, conforming to the Common Basic Principles on Integration. The participation of immigrants should be enhanced, while social cohesion and approaches to diversity in the host societies should be developed. To this end, the EU and its countries should:

SOLIDARITY: coordination between EU countries and cooperation with non-EU countries

Transparency, trust and cooperation

At the basis of the common immigration policy should be the principles of solidarity, mutual trust, transparency, responsibility and shared effort between the EU and its countries. Therefore, they should strive to:

Efficient and coherent use of available means

In the name of solidarity, the particular challenges that the external borders of certain EU countries are confronting should be considered in the financial framework. In this respect, the EU and its countries should:

Partnership with non-EU countries

Immigration should be an integral part of the EU’s external policies. Collaboration on all aspects of migration issues should be promoted in partnerships with non-EU countries. To this end, the EU and its countries should:

SECURITY: effective fight against illegal immigration

A visa policy that serves the interests of Europe and its partners

With a common visa policy, the entry of legal visitors into EU territory should be facilitated and internal security strengthened. This visa policy should be based on the use of new technologies and widespread information sharing between EU countries. To enable this, the EU and its countries should:

Integrated border management

The protection of the Schengen area’s integrity is essential. Hence, the management of external borders should be improved and the development of border control-related policies should be aligned with that of customs controls and threat prevention. In practice, the EU and its countries should:

Stepping up the fight against illegal immigration and zero tolerance for trafficking in human beings

A consistent policy for fighting illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings should be developed. Measures against undeclared work and illegal employment and for protecting victims of trafficking should be established. To work toward these goals, the EU and its countries should:

Effective and sustainable return policies

Return policies are integral to policies on immigration. Giving legal status to illegal immigrants en masse should not be encouraged; yet, the possibility of giving legal status to individuals should not be impaired. Hence, the EU and its countries should:


In today’s Europe without internal borders, managing immigration in a coordinated manner is of utmost importance. Since 1999, the EU has been seeking to do this under the auspices of the Treaty establishing the European Community (now under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). However, the Commission deems that achievements to date have not been sufficient. A Europe-wide common policy is needed to provide a framework for coherent action. A vision for this policy was presented within the Commission communication “Towards a Common Immigration Policy” on 5 December 2007. Subsequently, the European Council confirmed the importance of developing a common policy and requested that the Commission submit proposals in 2008.

Last updated: 16.05.2011