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Integration of concerns related to migration within the external policy

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Integration of concerns related to migration within the external policy


The purpose of the document is threefold: firstly, to put the migration issue back in its broader context, taking account of the driving forces of international migration, the specific case of people in need of protection and the effects of international migration on developing countries; secondly, to give an overview of the Community migration policy and how migration issues are being integrated in Community external cooperation programmes and policies; thirdly, to indicate the possible policy developments that could improve the Community contribution to a better management of migratory flows, including the curbing of illegal migration.

2) ACT

Commission Communication of 3.12.2002 to the Council and European Parliament: Integrating migration issues in the European Union's relations with third countries [COM (2002) 703 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


Migration is a major strategic priority for the European Union (EU). Migration is not to be seen only as a problem but as a positive factor for the growth and success of both the Union and the countries concerned.

On the basis of the Amsterdam Treaty and the priorities set out by the Tampere European Council, a Community policy on migration and asylum is gradually being put in place. The communication is an integral part of the overall approach and will be followed (March 2003) by another communication from the Commission on interactions between immigration, and the employment and social policies in the European Union.

Bearing in mind the problem of illegal immigration, the Seville European Council drew attention to the contribution which the EU's various external policies and instruments including the development policy, could make in addressing the underlying causes of migration flows. Thus the Council requested that immigration policy be incorporated into the Union's relations with third countries. The European Council also asked for a report on the effectiveness of financial resources available at Community level for repatriation of immigrants and rejected asylum seekers, for management of external borders, and for asylum and migration projects in third countries.

The communication was divided into the following two sections:

  • Part I: Migration and development
  • Partie II: Report on the effectiveness of financial resources available at Community level.

In integrating migration into the external policy of the Community, action must be based on the following four key principles:

  • The integration of migration aspects in the external action of the Community must respect the overall coherence of its external policies and actions, and must encourage those countries that cooperate rather than penalise those who are not willing to do so.
  • The long-term priority should be to address the root causes of migration flows, by poverty eradication, institution and capacity building and conflict prevention.
  • Migration aspects should be taken care of in the "Country and regional strategic document" which forms the basis of the EU programmes of assistance to third countries.
  • Extra funding will be needed. These resources should be used to finance specific, targeted actions in the field of migration; these actions should be complementary to those financed under the more generic budget development lines.

Migration and development

The EU and international migration flows

  • The net annual official inward migration rate of the EU is currently about 2.2‰. An important legal distinction is to be made between economic migrants and persons in need of protection. The number of illegal migrants in the EU can only be estimated.
  • The majority of "economic migrants" originate from middle income countries and economies in transition. Nationals from low income developing countries usually move to regional centres of economic growth. The facilitation of South-South migration could be a relevant aspect of Community development cooperation with certain countries.

The causes of migration

  • The conditions producing migration include factors such as: low economic growth , unequal income distribution, overpopulation closely linked to high population growth, high unemployment rates, armed conflict and ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses, persecution and natural disasters (ecological degradation in general) as well as poor governance.
  • Safety and socio-economic improvement in host countries are the major pull factors. Because of labour shortages in the highly skilled and low-skilled sectors, Europe-based companies increasingly turn to the labour market of developing countries to recruit these workers, who need practical advice and support.
  • Successful development processes may - in the short term - lead to an increase of international migration because a number of persons acquire the means to travel while satisfying opportunities at home may still be limited. This phenomenon - called the migration hump - should normally disappear at a later stage.

Host countries and refugees

  • Many developing countries have to deal with refugee populations exceeding by far EU averages. In 2002 there were 13 million refugees and asylum seekers world-wide, of which only 1.9 million (15 %) were in the EU. The number of asylum seekers arriving in the EU has halved over the last decade (currently less than 400 000 people per year).
  • The burden on host developing countries is exacerbated by the intrinsic limited financial and institutional capacities of these countries. The Community funds projects to provide humanitarian assistance for refugees needs and at the same time help the host country in managing the limited infrastructure and institutional capacity. Projects are also funded to assist repatriation to the country of origin.

Effects of migration on developing countries

  • International migration can contribute to the economic development of both the host country and the country of origin. For many developing countries remittances provide an important positive contribution to the balance of payments and are a major source of foreign exchange. The Commission considers that public administration in migrant-hosting countries may have a role to play in trying to ensure that these funds can be transmitted to developing countries by cheap, legal and secure means.
  • Increasing globalisation invites migration of specialised workers (brain drain). This phenomenon may have direct negative repercussions on the development process of the country of origin. For that reason the 6th RTD Framework programme, which offers training to scientists from third countries, in particular, developing countries, includes elements that promote the return of trainees. Voluntary return of migrants brings back accumulated amounts of financial, human and social capital into developing countries.

Community migration policy: The Commission has formulated the main components of a common policy on migration and asylum in two general communications and in individual proposals, which cover the following areas:

  • Establishing the basic framework for the admission and conditions of stay of legal migrants and their families (family reunification, for example);
  • Facilitating the mobility of third country nationals within the EU (i.e. for long-term residents or for third country nationals who are students);
  • Reinforcing the fight against illegal migration;
  • Improving cooperation on the return of illegal migrants.

Assistance to third countries directly related to migration management

Migration is a new field of action for Community development and cooperation programmes. Most of the Community programmes concerned will be implemented during the period 2002-2004. The main regional orientations can be summarised as follows:

  • Mediterranean region: in MEDA, the Justice and Home Affairs regional programme addresses the general issues of combating organised crime including criminal networks involved in smuggling migrants and trafficking human beings. With regard to migration, in particular, illegal immigration, the programme covers police and judicial training and the establishment of a Euromed network of data collection and research on migratory phenomena.
  • The Western Balkans: the aim of the CARDS programme is to foster regional cooperation inter alia in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. In view of their porous borders and weak infrastructure, cooperation on migration issues is of particular importance.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia: the current TACIS Regional Justice and Home Affairs Programme is focusing on three key areas: first, the development of a comprehensive border management, migration and asylum system; second, combating drug trafficking involving Afghanistan; third the establishment of effective anti-corruption measures in partner states. The new TACIS Programme for Central Asia will include cooperation on migration and related issues (for example, improvement of border management capacities).
  • Asia: a dialogue on immigration has already started within the ASEM framework (Asia-Europe contacts).
  • Latin America: the Commission has started to explore ways to develop a dialogue on migration between the two regions.
  • ACP countries (the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific): the Cotonou agreement contains specific provisions on cooperation on migration and in particular preventing and the combating illegal immigration. An in-depth dialogue on migration is taking place in the context of the ACP-EU partnership and ACP-EC Council of Ministers.

Relief and rehabilitation: the important link between relief, rehabilitation and development merits special attention. Several programmes which provide support for uprooted people are already being implemented or prepared (for example CARDS).

The root causes of migratory flows: So that the Community development policy can contribute to addressing the root causes of migratory flows, the Community development policy must focus on poverty reduction. In this context, the priority areas of the Community development policy are as follows:

  • Trade and Development in order to reduce unemployment and make up for the absence of economic prospects. The Community must continue to promote the improvement of effective market access of developing countries' products into the EU, as well as the integration of the developing countries in the world trading system etc.;
  • Conflict prevention and regional integration and cooperation;
  • Institutional capacity building and good governance (for example institutional reform; supporting dialogue between state and opposition groups; reform of the electoral system etc.);
  • Food security and sustainable rural development: development policies that contribute to food security and access to food and drinking water will limit "survival" migration by poor people. In a wider context, development policy aimed at sustainable rural development will reduce the number of people moving from the rural areas to the cities.

Policy developments

Political dialogue and migration clause: Within the context of Association or Cooperation Agreements, the European Union will systematically put the migration-development nexus on the agenda of its political dialogue. Other issues such as the root causes of migration, the fight against illegal immigration, facilitation of return, better integration of legal migrants, facilitation of brain circulation and how to assist persons who wish to contribute to the development process of their country of origin etc. should also be addressed.

Skilled labour: since the "brain drain" can have negative effects on the development of third countries, an attempt should be made to increase the number of financially attractive local job opportunities (for example, the Community could offer jobs currently taken by expatriate staff to local people).

Readmission agreements: The Community signed a readmission agreement with Hong Kong in November 2002 and the negotiation of other agreements is planned. These agreements should fit into a broader political cooperation and planning dialogue with third countries. This dialogue should use the "leverage" provided by incentives (for example on a country by country basis, preferential tariffs, more development aid, a more generous visa policy, and an increase in the quotas of migrant workers of the countries in question) thereby ensuring the cooperation of third countries in the negotiation and conclusion of readmission agreements with the European Community. Specific Community support for the preparation and implementation of readmission agreements by third countries should aim at increasing institutional capacities and technical assistance.

Mid-term review: The mid-term review of Country and Regional Strategy Papers (which should begin in 2003) will make it possible, on a country by country basis, to examine the extent to which greater priority should be given to specific programmes relating to migration. This could lead to a readjustment of the external actions of the Community to give greater weight to migration policy and related issues. But the issue of migration also touches on other developments in Community policies, in particular in the trade area after Doha, in sustainable development after Johannesburg, or on crime and terrorism.

Part II: Report on the effectiveness of financial resources available at Community level: In the second part of the communication, the Commission evaluates how effective the financial resources available at Community level are in addressing problems relating to migration. The Commission considers that the scope of this examination can be usefully extended to cover not only financial instruments already applied but the instruments currently contemplated under the common policies on asylum and immigration.

Although regular and significant increases have been made in funds since the expenditure was first allocated to the asylum and immigration policies, the forthcoming review of the financial perspective will necessitate a readjustment to take into account requirements flowing from genuine common immigration and asylum policies.

4) implementing measures

5) follow-up work

Last updated: 03.12.2007