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The mandate to promote integration at EU level

The EU’s mandate to promote integration derives from the following:

  • Treaties
  • European Council multiannual Programmes
  • Europe 2020 Strategy

The Treaties: from Amsterdam to Lisbon

The Founding Treaties of the EU did not make a reference to the integration of immigrants.

The Treaty of Amsterdam, adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 1999, contains two provisions that relate to integration, albeit without mentioning it as such.

  • Article 13, which enables the Council to take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
  • Article 73k, requests the Council to adopt measures on immigration policy regarding, among others, "conditions of entry and residence, and standards on procedures for the issue by Member States of long term visas and residence permits, including those for the purpose of family reunion". The Council is also requested to adopt "measures defining the rights and conditions under which nationals of third countries who are legally resident in a Member State may reside in other Member States."

The Treaty of Lisbon was adopted in 2007 and entered into force in 2009. For the first time, the Treaty provides a legal basis for the promotion of integration at EU level:

  • Article 79.4 states: "The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, may establish measures to provide incentives and support for the action of Member States with a view to promoting the integration of third-country nationals residing legally in their territories, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States."

Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights was solemnly proclaimed in 2000 and became legally binding in 2009 with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Charter is addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union. It is also addressed to Member States, but only when they are implementing EU law. For example, the Charter applies when Member States adopt or apply a national law implementing an EU directive or when their authorities apply directly an EU regulation. In those cases in which the Charter does not apply, fundamental rights are guaranteed under the constitutions of Member States.

The Charter contains provisions that apply to all persons, including third-country nationals (for instance, the right to property and the right to freedom of association); as well as provisions that apply to EU citizens only (for example, the right to vote in European and municipal elections). The latter therefore applies to immigrants who have acquired the nationality of an EU Member State.

European Council multiannual Programmes: from Tampere to Stockholm

Tampere European Council – October 1999

At the European Council meeting in Tampere (Finland), EU leaders called for a common immigration policy which would include more dynamic policies to ensure the integration of third-country nationals residing in the EU. They agreed that the aim of this integration policy should be to grant third-country nationals rights and obligations comparable to those of citizens of the EU.

The Hague European Council – November 2004

The Hague Programme adopted by the European Council in The Hague underlined the need for greater co-ordination of national integration policies and EU initiatives in this field. It further stated that a framework, based on common basic principles, should form the foundation for future initiatives in the EU.

Stockholm European Council – December 2009

The European Council in Stockholm adopted an ambitious programme in relation to integration. It states that “Member States' integration policies should be supported through the further development of structures and tools for knowledge exchange and coordination with other relevant policy areas, such as employment, education and social inclusion.” In particular, it invites the Commission to support Member States' efforts "through the development of a coordination mechanism using a common reference framework, which should improve structures and tools for European knowledge exchange". It also invites the Commission to identify European modules to support the integration process and to develop core indicators for monitoring of the results of integration policies.


Europe 2020, a strategy for growth


Europe 2020 is the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade. It was adopted by the European Council in March 2010.

Europe 2020 is articulated around a set of EU-wide targets. These constitute shared objectives guiding the action of both Member States and the EU. Out of the five EU-wide targets, three are relevant to immigrant integration:

  • Aiming to bring to 75% the employment rate for women and men aged 20-64, including through the greater participation of youth, older workers and low skilled workers and the better integration of legal migrants;
  • Improving education levels, in particular by aiming to reduce school drop-out rates to less than 10% and by increasing the share of 30-34 years old having completed tertiary or equivalent education to at least 40%;
  • Promoting social inclusion, in particular through the reduction of poverty, by aiming to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and exclusion.

The Europe 2020 Integrated Guidelines set out the framework for the Europe 2020 strategy and reforms at Member State level. Part II of these guidelines, which concern the employment policies of Member States, are directly relevant to the integration of immigrants.

  • Guideline 7 states that “Member States should increase labour force participation through policies to promote active ageing, gender equality and equal pay and labour market integration of young people, disabled, legal migrants and other vulnerable groups”.
  • Guideline 7 further states that “Member States should also remove barriers to labour market entry for newcomers”.
  • Guideline 8 mentions “targeted migration and integration policies”, as well as the need to “remove barriers to occupational and geographical mobility of workers”.
  • Guideline 9 states that “higher education should become more open to non-traditional learners”.
  • Guideline 10 presses for efforts to also concentrate on ensuring equal opportunities, including through access to affordable, sustainable and high quality services and public services and in particular health care. Legal migrants are specifically mentioned with regard to the need for benefit systems to focus on ensuring income security during transitions and reducing poverty.


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Country Info
Making integration work

The successful integration of third-country nationals legally residing in the Member States of the European Union is vital to strengthening freedom, security and justice in Europe.

The European Web Site on Integration provides you with a collection of good practices and a wide variety of tools and useful information to make integration work.


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