Director-General for Justice, Freedom and Security,
European Commission, Brussels
‘Recent and unfolding developments
on EU migration policy’
Ü Eurasylum Ltd: In its Communication on The Global Approach to Migration one year on: Towards a comprehensive European migration policy, the European Commission identified three major areas of focus for the development of an EU migration policy: (i) the strengthening of dialogue and cooperation with the countries of origin, including through the possible establishment of Migration Support Teams and twinning measures; (ii) the further development of a common European policy on labour immigration, including through the facilitation of admission of certain categories of immigrants on a needs-based approach, and the establishment of a common secure legal status for all legal immigrant workers; and (iii) integration and intercultural dialogue, in particular through the implementation of the Common Agenda for Integration. Can you guide us through the main tenets and possible implications of the Global Approach to Migration, and the emerging European migration policy?
Ü Jonathan Faull: Developing a comprehensive policy on migration is essential for the EU and its Member States. The EU is, and will increasingly be, confronted with a rise in the demand for labour. At the same time there is a need to address increasing migration pressure. Ensuring our societies remain peaceful and integrated, tackling illegal migration, managing our external borders: these are issues of great concern to the EU, its member States and all its citizens.
The Global Approach to Migration mainly focuses on the external side of the European comprehensive migration policy and aims to integrate migration, external relations and development policy in partnership with third countries. It strengthens dialogue and cooperation with countries of origin and transit on the whole migration agenda, including legal and illegal migration, combating trafficking in human beings, strengthening protection for refugees, and fostering the links between migration and development. The political impetus for this approach was given by the European Council of December 2005. Under the UK Presidency, Heads of State and Government for the first time had a serious debate on migration and the opportunities and challenges it poses for the EU. Close cooperation is called for between the Commission, the Member States, the EU Agencies, international organisations and third countries. In a first phase, the implementation concentrated on Africa and the Mediterranean. In 2006 a lot of progress was made.
Dialogue is being enhanced with key Sub-Saharan African states on the basis of Article 13 of the Cotonou Agreement. In July 2006 a Euro-African conference on migration and development was held in Rabat, involving the countries along the Western African migration route. Later that year the first ever inter-continental Africa-EU ministerial meeting on migration was held in Tripoli. These meetings constitute a firm political basis for a real engagement with Africa on migration issues. Specific missions were sent from Brussels during 2006 to Senegal, Mauritania and Mali to give this dialogue a kick-start. Further missions are currently being planned for 2007, and will include countries such as Ghana, Cape Verde and Ethiopia. The EU and its Member States played a major role in the UN Conference on Migration and Development and the first Global Forum on migration will be held on 9, 10 and 11 July in Brussels, hosted by the Belgian government.
Cooperation Platforms on migration and development are being considered as a possible tool to help progress these dialogues. These platforms bring together migration and development actors in a country or region – representatives of the country or countries concerned, EU Member States, the European Commission and international organisations to share information in order to help manage migration more effectively, in the interests of all, along specific migratory routes. Migration Profiles are a further tool which bring together and analyse all the relevant information needed to develop policy in the field of migration and development and to monitor the impact of policies implemented.
As noted above, so far the Global Approach has focused on African states and African regional organisations. However, the Commission has just adopted a new Communication that suggests ways to apply this comprehensive strategy to the countries in the Eastern and South-eastern regions neighbouring the EU.
In terms of legal labour immigration, admission procedures differ considerably from one Member State to another. This makes it difficult for Europe to attract the immigrants it needs, whether these are qualified or not. The Commission will propose harmonising the admission procedures for certain categories of workers, notably highly-skilled workers and seasonal labourers. Let’s be clear though: it is not for the Commission to decide for the Member States how many IT specialists they need. This remains a national responsibility. What we want is to create a clear and transparent admission system for the EU plus possibly enhanced intra-EU mobility by means of a “Blue Card” – because this will serve our common (economic) interests. The Commission will also propose a basic European legislative framework to establish a common set of rights for immigrant workers who are in a regular position. This, much like the European legislation that is already in place (i.e. for family reunification, admission of students, etc) will considerably improve the management of migratory flows.
The issues of integration and intercultural dialogue clearly have a high priority for the EU. The Commission is actively promoting the implementation of the Common Agenda for Integration, putting into practice the Common Basic Principles on integration adopted in 2004, which provides a framework for the integration of third-country nationals in the European Union. To facilitate this process we are making available a set of European tools: a network of National Contact Points on Integration, Handbooks on Integration for policy-makers and practitioners, Annual Reports on Migration and Integration, an integration website (under development) and various fora for consultation of stakeholders. Finally, it is important to recall that under the financial perspectives 2007-2013, there will be a specific European Fund for the Integration of third-country nationals which shall further facilitate integration efforts. 2008 will be the ‘European Year of Intercultural Dialogue’ and its focus will be on dialogue in daily life, for example in schools, sporting and cultural activities, and at work.
Ü Eurasylum Ltd: In January this year, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security outlined the key features of a selective EU immigration policy, which would entail partnership agreements with a range of African countries and which would have as a central tool an “EU Green Card”, based on the US model. The programme would enable highly qualified migrants to work and move freely in the EU, for a limited amount of time, thus reducing the risks of brain drain. In addition, the EU has recently established its first European Employment Agency for legal migrant workers in Mali. This initiative aims to put into effect the idea of circular migration, which forms part of the EU’s effort to tackle irregular migration. The experimental centre in Mali will be the first of a planned network of offices aimed at matching supply of legal migrant labour to demand in low-skill sectors such as agriculture, public works and tourism, with other centres planned in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. Can you discuss the policy relevance of this initiative, including in relation to the EU Policy Plan on Legal Migration, and outline the ways in which the EU plans on circular migration will provide sufficient incentives for foreign labour to enter this type of economic migration scheme, and for securing their return to their countries of origin at the end of the scheme?
Ü Jonathan Faull: First of all, let me point out that the planned centre in Mali has broader objectives. It will also contribute to harnessing the potential of Malians in the diaspora for the benefit of their country of origin and support the successful reintegration of returnees. In addition, as far as the ‘legal migration’ component is concerned, the centre will also deal and perhaps indeed primarily with the management of economic migration within the West African sub-region. As you are aware, Malian emigration is directed above all to other countries in the sub-region, such as Ivory Coast. This is also the reason why the setting up of similar centres in other countries of Western Africa is being considered by the Commission and the Member States most directly involved in this initiative, notably Spain and France.
This being said, you are right to point out that the centre will also be able to help manage labour migration towards EU Member States willing to call upon such migration let me underline this last point, because it is important: the decision to call (or not) upon non-EU migrants remains the exclusive prerogative of Member States. However, the Bamako centre will constitute a useful resource for EU Member States willing to consider labour immigration from Mali as a possible response to labour shortages, as well as for would-be migrants in Mali. As such, the centre ties in well with the EU policy plan on legal migration and can be viewed as a tool upon which interested EU Member States can call in order to facilitate the management of economic migration and improve the distribution of information.
The Commission Communication “on circular migration and on mobility partnerships” was adopted recently. In this document, the Commission suggests novel ways for better managing economic migration in partnership with countries of origin. Circular migration is increasingly being recognised as a key form of migration that, if well managed, can help to match the international supply of and demand for labour, thereby contributing to a more efficient allocation of available resources and to economic growth. Circular migration could create an opportunity for persons residing in a third country to come to the EU temporarily for work, study, training or a combination of these, on the condition that, at the end of the period for which they were granted entry, they must re-establish their main residence and their main activity in their country of origin. The Commission highlights in particular some ideas to ensure effective circularity of migration i.e. ensuring that migrants return to their country of origin at the end of their permit, at least temporarily, thus allowing some form of skill transfers for the benefit of that country. The question of supporting the reintegration of returnees appears crucial in this respect. Circularity could also be enhanced by giving migrants the possibility, once they have returned, to retain some form of privileged mobility to and from the Member States where they were formerly residing, for example in the form of simplified admission/re-entry procedures.
Another tool proposed by the Commission is the conclusion with interested third countries of ‘mobility partnerships’ which could help third countries secure better access to the EU for their nationals and in particular for the purposes of economic migration provided that they commit themselves to fighting illegal migration more actively. As pointed out above, concrete possibilities for legal migration in the framework for mobility partnerships would have to be offered voluntarily by interested Member States but they could be supported by EC initiatives or financial support, and mechanisms such as the centre in Bamako could certainly serve as a useful example in this respect. I would also like to point out that such possibilities are not reserved to countries in Africa.
Ü Eurasylum Ltd: At the informal meeting of EU ministers in Dresden in January 2007, Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior presented a plan to convene a high-level advisory group made up of the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, the six Ministers of the Interior of the current and upcoming trio presidencies (Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, as well as France, the Czech Republic and Sweden) and research experts from individual Member States. The Group, which is to present its report in the third quarter of 2008, is entrusted with the drafting of recommendations for the development of a European justice and home affairs policy after 2010, when the Hague Programme will come to an end, and for options to increase the Council’s efficiency and to improve or simplify existing EU regulations. In addition, the Group is to address issues of cooperation at the EU level, including by identifying those areas in which greater cooperation would be beneficial, and areas in which more discretion should be given to the Member States. Can you discuss, at this early stage of the reflection process, the likely policy aims and possible areas of focus of the successor to the Hague Programme?
Ü Jonathan Faull: It is far too early at this stage. The work of the High-Level Advisory Group has just started. What is important now is to focus on the current initiatives that the Council and the Commission have to undertake under The Hague Programme, which after all does not end until 2009. The Commission is fully committed to bring forward those initiatives which are its responsibility under The Hague Programme in order to secure the full implementation of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.