Dr. Ian Micallef
President of the Chamber of Local Authorities of
the Council of Europe; Vice-President of the
EU Committee of the Regions
‘The role of local and regional authorities in the design
and implementation of immigration policies’
Ü Eurasylum: Migration was one of the priorities of the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR) for 2007, and the Committee published a range of Opinions in which it emphasised that regional and local authorities were on the front line of migration policy, both as regards the problems caused by illegal migration (in terms of reception and management of arrivals, illegal employment, criminality and urban security) and the services that local authorities were responsible for providing to legal foreign residents (for example in terms of housing, healthcare, and education). Can you discuss the particular role of regional and local authorities in the reception and integration of third-country nationals, drawing on a few examples from member regions of the CoR?
Ü Dr. Ian Micallef: One must first realise that Regional and Local Authorities cannot be left out from the political debate on migration since, as you stated quite clearly, they are on the front line of migration policy. In this particular instance they are stakeholders and hence must be involved in any dialogue initiatives, particularly through the Committee of the Regions.
Regional and Local Authorities have a key role to play due to the experience they have gained through their relations with the countries of origin and the measures they implement to integrate migrants, particularly in the fields of healthcare (the area in which public spending is the highest), housing, education and employment.
Local and Regional Authorities have an important role to play in promoting cooperation and twinning programmes with their counterparts. They bring the know-how and experience of decentralised cooperation through their public health and education services, urban services, territorial economic development, together with the provision of institutional support for local management, experience in local and regional democracy and in effective democratic institutions.
Ü Eurasylum: During the last couple of months, you have led the Committee of the Regions debate on the EU’s fight against illegal immigration, and have recently issued the CoR’s formal opinion on the European Commission’s initiatives in these policy areas. Can you sum up some of the key conclusions of the CoR’s Opinion ?
Ü Dr. Ian Micallef: This opinion is aimed at tackling both the short-term and long-term issues related to illegal migration.
With regard to the management of the European Union’s external borders, the Member States must base their actions on the principles of solidarity, mutual trust and co-responsibility.
The opinion also calls for the establishment of a pool of experts on migration issues from the Member States administrations and recommends that such a pool of experts be based as close as possible to the needs of local and regional authorities.
Local and Regional Authorities have also been encouraged to make use of the funds made available to them, namely:
– The External Borders Fund;
– The Return Fund;
– The European Refugee Fund; and
– The Integration Fund.
The Opinion stresses the need for further strengthening of the FRONTEX mission and recommends that the sea border patrols led by FRONTEX be performed during the entire periods of calm seas.
Measures should also be adopted to incentivise Libya to participate more actively in the migration debate.
Ü Eurasylum: In a recent Working Document of the Committee of the Regions’s Commission for Constitutional Affairs, European Governance and the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (CONST-IV-012, 3 May 2007), of which you were the Rapporteur, you made a series of recommendations for increased involvement of local and regional administrations in the design and implementation of EU immigration policies, including as regards access to the European Commission’s External Borders Fund, the Return Fund, the European Refugee Fund and the Integration Fund. Elsewhere, you have also advocated a key role for local and regional authorities in the forthcoming platforms on migration and development, which will aim to bring together African countries, EU member states and international organisations in an effort to manage migration more effectively. Can you comment on the particular role and value added of local and regional authorities in such a dialogue with third countries, and more generally on the design and implementation of migration management policies?
Ü Dr. Ian Micallef: The EU should exploit the potential of certain regions such as those forming its maritime borders as a platform for developing mutually beneficial relations with third countries. This would lead to an increase in dialogue and cooperation on migration policy, covering the full range of migration issues, from legal and illegal immigration to strengthening protection for refugees and better harnessing the links between migration policy and development policy.
With regard to the North African countries, further developments at bilateral and regional levels will be sought within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Work should also continue with the Mediterranean partners involving local and regional authorities.
The Committee of the Regions recognises the merits of the proposal for the creation of platforms on migration and development bringing together African countries, EU Member States and International Organisations in an effort to manage migration more effectively. Through the participation of Local and Regional authorities I believe that such cooperation platforms, coupled with dialogue with ACP countries, would be beneficial to all.