Click to expand the sections below and learn more about EU's work on migrant integration.
Human mobility, in various degrees and for different reasons, is an inherent feature of the 21st century for Europe and the world. Following the increased arrival of third-country nationals in Europe during the last years, integration has become a crucial issue. The level of experience on integration issues, however, greatly differs across EU countries.
Notwithstanding the efforts made and improvements seen, many challenges remain and much of the potential that third-country nationals bring with them stays unused. Across the EU, third-country nationals continue to fare worse than EU citizens in employment, education and social inclusion outcomes. This means that the EU needs to step up a gear in supporting the development of effective integration strategies.
Ensuring that all those who are rightfully in the EU, regardless of the length of their stay, can participate and contribute is key to the well-being, prosperity and cohesion of European societies. In times when discrimination, prejudice, racism and xenophobia are rising, there are legal, moral and economic imperatives to upholding the EU's fundamental rights, values and freedoms and to working for more cohesive societies.
Today, there are around 22 million third-country nationals legally residing in the EU. They make up over four percent of its total population. Evidence shows that migrants are disproportionatelly affected by unfavourable outcomes in terms of education, employment and access to basic services such as healthcare and decent housing.
Forty percent of employers in the EU report difficulties in finding employees with the required skills. Europe also has an ageing population. Migration and successful integration of third-country nationals can mitigate these effects and help maintain the competitiveness of the EU economy.
While the competence on integration lies primarily with the separate countries, the EU may establish measures to provide incentives and support for EU members to promote the integration of third-country nationals residing legally in their territories. Many EU countries are currently facing similar challenges, and the EU has an important role in supporting, stimulating and coordinating actions and policies on integration.
The EU’s actions are inspired by a ‘multi-stakeholder’ approach involving all relevant partners. The Commission is committed to working not only with national authorities but also with local and regional authorities on integration. Municipalities and regions have an extremely important role in integration, as they implement policies on the ground and provide basic, indispensable services such as housing and education.
The role of the EU is to coordinate actions in order to help Member States respond effectively to the various challenges of integration, bringing together national- and local-level policymakers on healthcare, housing and education to share experiences and foster mutual learning.
on 24 November 2020, the EC revealed its new action plan on integration and inclusion 2021-2027 – find the full text here. Guided by the overarching principle ‘inclusion for all’, the action plan envisions:
- Inclusive education and training from early childhood to higher education, focusing on easier recognition of qualifications and continued language learning, with support from EU funds.
- Improving employment opportunities and skills recognition to fully value the contribution of migrant communities, and women in particular, and ensure that they are supported to reach their full potential. The EC will work with relevant stakeholders to promote labour market integration, support entrepreneurship and make it easier for employers to recognise and assess skills.
- Better access to health services, including mental healthcare, for people with a migrant background. In addition to dedicated EU funding, the Action Plan seeks to ensure people are informed about their rights and recognises the specific challenges faced by women, in particular during and after pregnancy. The Action Plan also supports the exchange of good practices, and calls for addressing the inequalities in access to services as which the COVID-19 pandemic shed additional light on.
- Access to adequate and affordable housing funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund Plus (ESF +), Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) and Invest EU, as well as an exchange of experience at local and regional level on fighting discrimination on the housing market and segregation.
To learn about the gist of the new action plan in less than two minutes, watch a short video capturing all main points:
The current document builds upon the successful 2016 action plan which targeted the same main areas of integration – see EWSI's interactive tool which tracked the progress over the previous working period.
The Commission supports national, regional and local authorities and civil society organisations in their efforts to integrate third-country nationals through mutual learning activities, for example in the framework of the European Integration Network, and through funding at local, regional and national levels.
Integration is a funding priority under the proposals for the next Multiannual Financial Framework, where the Commission proposed simplifying access to funding for local and regional authorities.
Beneficiaries include state or federal authorities, regional and local public bodies, NGOs, Red Cross National Societies, international public organisations, public and private sector entities and education and research organisations.
Which EU funds can support integration?
Several EU funds contribute to integration initiatives:
- Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF): in addition to projects financed under the AMIF national programme, AMIF Union Actions have financed 69 transnational projects since 2014 (Excel file)
- European Social Fund (ESF)
- European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
- EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI)
- European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
- The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)
The EU has periodically set priorities and goals to drive EU policies, legislative proposals and funding opportunities since the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam. The 2004 Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy represent another stepping stone, as they have guided and continue to guide most EU actions in the area of integration. Since the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007, European institutions have been mandated to ‘provide incentives and support for the action of Member States with a view to promoting the integration of third-country nationals.’
From the Treaty of Amsterdam to the 2021-2027 action plan, here is a timeline of how the EU has been shaping the integration of third-country nationals during the past two decades.
1999 to 2004: Genesis of a common policy
With the Treaty of Amsterdam, EU policies could affect, for the first time, the integration of migrants from non-EU countries. Adopted in 1997, the treaty entered into force in 1999. From then on, the EU could take appropriate action to combat discrimination, including that based on racial or ethnic origin and religion or belief. The EU was also mandated to develop a common immigration policy, This policy was guided until 2004 by the so-called Tampere Programme, wherein Member States agreed that the aim of such policy should be to grant third-country nationals rights and obligations comparable to those of EU citizens.
2005 to 2010: Knowledge exchange
The Common Agenda for Integration, presented by the Commission in 2005 and in effect until 2010, was the strategy document providing the framework for the implementation of the EU integration policy. It contained a series of supportive EU mechanisms and instruments to promote integration and facilitate exchange between integration actors.
2011-2015: Funding for integration
Prior to the 2016 action plan, the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, adopted in July 2011, guided migrant integration issues. The Agenda, which covered the period 2011-2015, focused on increasing the economic, social, cultural and political participation of migrants and on fighting discrimination, with an emphasis on local actions. It also explored pre-arrival measures and the role of countries of origin in integration. The multiplicity of funding opportunities made available is another major legacy of this period.
2016 - 2020: The holistic approach
The June 2016 action plan on integration was a goal-setting document published by the European Commission. It provides a comprehensive framework to support Member States’ efforts in developing and strengthening their integration policies and describes concrete measures the Commission will implement in this regard.
2021 - 2021: Inclusion for all - the new EU action plan on integration and inclusion
With the initiatives envisioned by the 2016 action plan successfully completed, the EC revealed its new action plan on integration and inclusion for the 2021-2027 period.
EWSI will soon start tracking the progress on it through an interactive tool.