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Workers’ remittances

The European Union has a longstanding commitment on remittances.  First because the EU recognizes the many studies that have demonstrated the important role of remittances in terms micro and macro planning in developing countries. Second because the existing data on remittances from migrants living in the EU to their home countries demonstrate the importance of these financial transfers. Annual financial transfers of migrants in EU-27 reach about €30 billion to countries outside EU-27, and almost €8 billion within EU-27. These figures do not take into account transfers made informally, which are difficult to measure.

The Commission is working on three particular challenges:

  • How to improve data on the volume and geography of remittances from the EU?

The EU Member States have strengthened their data collection in the balance of payments including both flows sent through banks and through transfer operators. Since 2010 Eurostat regularly publishes consolidated data on EU remittances over time. As part of its annual accountability report on Financing for Development, the European Commission also produces information on the initiatives implemented in the field of financial transfers of migrants across the EU.

  • How to reduce the high costs of transferring remittances?

The Directive on Payment Services (Payment Services Directive) provides the legal basis of a single European market for payments, with a view to promote competition and strengthen transparency in the market. Although the obligations they create so far only concern intra-EU transfers, some EU Member States have already chosen to go to law and to extend its field among operators, one of whose players are located outside the EU and are in currencies other than the euro or other European currencies. This should facilitate the access of migrants to formal financial services.

The directive on electronic money also has a positive impact on the facilitation of remittances from migrants, as from April 2011 electronic money institutions (such as telecom providers, or companies providing prepaid cards) may conduct other business activities including payment services such as financial transfers; though again the coverage is only intra EU to date.

In recent years as a donor the European Commission has also funded projects implemented by partner organizations that promote the use of new technologies to provide remittance inexpensive, readily available and competitive, opening up economic opportunities in developing countries.

  • How to enhance the development impact of remittances?

The European approach is based on respect for the private nature of remittances, and hence the response to expectations of the migrants who wish to save and invest in local economic development. In this line, The European Commission promotes:

  • initiatives to improve access to banking and financial services in developing countries, focusing on the possible role of microfinance institutions, as well as appropriate accompanying measures (information activities, etc.).
  • programs for facilitating financial transfers of migrants and that includes projects in support of entrepreneurship.

Beyond these initiatives, the EU also promotes work with Diasporas.

In the Stockholm Program on Justice, Immigration and Asylum, adopted in 2009, the European Council asked the European Commission to make proposals before 2012 to make transfers safer and cheaper and to enhance their local development potential.  Among the commitments made in the context of policy coherence for development (migration being one of the five priority themes of the work program in this area), is to study the legislation so that it does not contain provisions that prevent the effective use legal methods of delivery.

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