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EU actions to make integration work

While immigrant integration policies remain a competence of the Member States, and are implemented at the regional and local level, the European Commission created a common framework for the integration of third-country nationals in 2005. The Commission was supported in this effort by the Member States and their Common Basic Principles on Integration, reaffirmed by the European Council Conclusions of June 2014.

The Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME), is the main coordinator of the EU initiatives and instruments to promote integration, but the other EU institutions are also working on this issue.

EU initiatives to promote integration

Common Basic Principles (2004)

The Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU were adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in November 2004 and form the foundations of EU initiatives in the field of integration.

  • CBP 1: "Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States"
  • CBP 2: "Integration implies respect for the basic values of the European Union"
  • CBP 3: "Employment is a key part of the integration process and is central to the participation of immigrants, to the contributions immigrants make to the host society, and to making such contributions visible"
  • CBP 4: "Basic knowledge of the host society’s language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integration; enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to successful integration"
  • CBP 5: "Efforts in education are critical to preparing immigrants, and particularly their descendants, to be more successful and more active participants in society"
  • CBP 6: "Access for immigrants to institutions, as well as to public and private goods and services, on a basis equal to national citizens and in a non-discriminatory way is a critical foundation for better integration"
  • CBP 7: "Frequent interaction between immigrants and Member State citizens is a fundamental mechanism for integration.  Shared forums, intercultural dialogue, education about immigrants and immigrant cultures, and stimulating living conditions in urban environments enhance the interactions between immigrants and Member State citizens"
  • CBP 8: "The practice of diverse cultures and religions is guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and must be safeguarded, unless practices conflict with other inviolable European rights or with national law"
  • CBP 9: "The participation of immigrants in the democratic process and in the formulation of integration policies and measures, especially at the local level, supports their integration"
  • CBP 10: "Mainstreaming integration policies and measures in all relevant policy portfolios and levels of government and public services is an important consideration in public policy formation and implementation."
  • CBP 11: "Developing clear goals, indicators and evaluation mechanisms are necessary to adjust policy, evaluate progress on integration and to make the exchange of information more effective."

Common Agenda for Integration (2005-2010)

The Common Agenda for Integration was presented by the Commission in 2005. It provides a framework for the implementation of the Common Basic Principles. In addition, the Common Agenda makes plans for a series of supportive EU mechanisms and instruments to promote integration and facilitate exchange between integration actors, such as the European Web Site on Integration and the European Integration Forum, , which became the European Migration Forum in 2015.

Besides, a report on the completion of the EU framework on integration was prepared by the Commission on the occasion of the fourth Ministerial Conference in Zaragoza in April 2010.

European Agenda for Integration (2011)

In July 2011, the Commission proposed a European Agenda for the Integration of Non-EU Migrants, focusing on action to increase economic, social, cultural and political participation by migrants and putting the emphasis on local action. This agenda also explored the role of countries of origin in the integration process.

The European Agenda was accompanied by a document that details EU initiatives supporting the integration of third-country nationals.

Common Basic Principles – Ten Years On (2014)

The EU Member States reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Common Basic Principles in the Justice and Home Affairs Council Conclusions of 5-6 June 2014

The definition of integration is reaffirmed as a long-term and multi-faceted process, including respect for diversity and the EU’s basic values, such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The importance for policies to adopt a holistic approach that mainstreams integration into all relevant policy sectors and levels of government is highlighted.

The JHA Council Conclusions also note that while integration measures are within the competence of Member States, they need to be implemented in accordance with the EU acquis and can be funded through EU financial instruments.

Finally, Member States agreed that the following aspects, related to the Common Basic Principles, should be further developed:

  • A more balanced approach based on non-discrimination in order to safeguard basic values, counter prejudices, and respect diversity;
  • Voluntary pre-departure cooperation between countries of origin and destination to provide information on legal migration channels, language learning, vocational training and skills matching;
  • More targeted reception policies responding to the specific needs of vulnerable individuals and groups at greater risk of social exclusion, including beneficiaries of international protection;
  • Greater involvement of the private sector, social partners, and civil society to enhance diversity and non-discrimination at the workplace.

Integration Action Plan

Published on 7 June 2016, the Action Plan provides a comprehensive framework to support Member States' efforts in developing and strengthening their integration policies, and describes the concrete measures the Commission will implement in this regard. While it targets all third country nationals in the EU, it contains actions to address the specific challenges faced by refugees.
The Plan includes actions across all the policy areas that are crucial for integration:

  • Pre-departure and pre-arrival measures, including actions to prepare migrants and the local communities for the integration process
  • Education, including actions to promote language training, participation of migrant children to Early Childhood Education and Care, teacher training and civic education
  • Employment and vocational training, including actions to promote early integration into the labour market and migrants entrepreneurship
  • Access to basic services such as housing and healthcare
  • Active participation and social inclusion, including actions to support exchanges with the receiving society, migrants' participation to cultural life and fighting discrimination.

It also presents tools to strengthen coordination between the different actors working on integration at national, regional and local level - for example through the creation of a European Integration Network promoting mutual learning between Member States - and a more strategic approach on EU funding for integration.

EU instruments to promote integration

Ministerial Conferences on Integration

Ministerial Conferences are designed to facilitate a continuous political debate on integration at ministerial level.

  • 2004: 1st Conference, organised by the Dutch Presidency in Groningen. Its conclusions were adopted by the JHA Council of November 2004 and include the Common Basic Principles. 
  • 2007: 2nd Conference, organised by the German Presidency in Potsdam. Its conclusions were adopted by the JHA Council of June 2007
  • 2008: 3rd Conference, organised by the French Presidency in Vichy. Its conclusions were adopted by the JHA Council of November 2008.
  • 2010: 4th Conference, organised by the Spanish Presidency in Zaragoza. Its conclusions are available here
  • 2014: 5th Conference, organised by the Italian Presidency. Its conclusions are available here.

In recent years, integration expert conferences have also been organised by the rotating Presidencies of the Council of the European Union: in 2011 in Poland, in 2012 in Denmark and in 2012 in Cyprus.

National Contact Points and Inter-Service Group

The network of National Contact Points on Integration was set up by the Commission as a follow-up to the Justice and Home Affairs Council conclusions of October 2002.

The main objective of the network is to create a forum for the exchange of information and good practice between Member States at EU level, with the purpose of finding successful solutions for integration of immigrants in all Member States and to ensure policy co-ordination and coherence at national level and with EU initiatives.

An Inter-Service Group "Integration of third country nationals" has been operational since November 2015 under the lead of DG Home, as part of the development of the Action Plan.

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund

Between 2007 and 2013, the European Fund for the Integration of third-country nationals (EIF) aimed at assisting Member States in their effort to support third country nationals’ integration and set priorities for this period, with a total budget of EUR 825 million.

The Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) has replaced the EIF and runs from 2014 until 2020.

The National Programmes (88% of the Fund) will run on the basis of multiannual programmes. At least 20% of the National Programmes should be dedicated to integration actions, which can be used for all types of third-country national legal residents, including beneficiaries of international protection.

At EU level, the Commission manages the remaining 12% of the Fund, divided between Union actions and emergency assistance. For Union actions, the Commission adopts an annual work programme and invites bids for calls for proposals and/or tenders.

The Regulation establishing the AMIF calls for the adoption of a more targeted approach to integration, in support of consistent strategies to be developed at the national, local and/or regional level. The Regulation also stresses the need to develop integration measures targeted to beneficiaries of international protection, through a comprehensive approach taking into account the specificities of those target groups. Integration actions under the AMIF must be implemented in accordance with EU law and with the Common Basic Principles for immigrant integration policy in the European Union.

Europe for Citizens Funding Programme

One of the two objectives of this programme is to “foster European citizenship and improve conditions for civic and democratic participation at EU level”. The projects funded under this programme aim to “encourage the democratic and civic participation of citizens at EU level, by developing their understanding of the EU policy making-process, and stimulate interest and involvement in EU policy making.”

European Migration Forum

In 2015, the European Migration Forum replaced the European Integration Forum.

The European Integration Forum had been launched in 2009 by the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee. Since then, the Forum has met twice a year and discussed different subjects focusing on migrant integration.

The European Integration Forum provided an opportunity for civil society organisations to express their views on migrant integration issues and to discuss with the European institutions challenges and priorities. In the Communication 'A Common Agenda for Integration: Framework for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals in the European Union' of September 2005, the European Commission affirmed that a comprehensive approach, involving stakeholders at all levels, was essential for the success of integration policies. The European Integration Forum, as a physical platform for dialogue, and the European Web Site on Integration, as a virtual platform, were created to meet this objective.

The development of the European Integration Forum was undertaken in co-operation with the European Economic and Social Committee, which drew up an exploratory opinion on the role of civil society in promoting integration policies. The Common Basic Principles on Integration, agreed by the Council in 2004, served as reference for the activities of the Forum.

The European Integration Forum was financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-country nationals, under Community Actions.

As of 2015, it was decided to extend the scope of the Forum to cover more topics related to immigration and asylum that would benefit from a discussion with civil society.

The work of both the European Integration Forum and the European Migration Forum is available on the European Web Site on Integration.

European Web Site on Integration

The European Web Site on Integration is a unique one-stop resource point for practitioners working on integration issues, both in non-governmental and governmental organizations. A network of 28 country coordinators and a European integration expert feed in the Web Site on a daily basis to offer:

Handbooks on Integration

The main objective of the Handbook is to act as a driver for the exchange of information and good practice between integration stakeholders in all Member States.

The first edition of the Handbook, published in 2004, covered introduction courses for newly arrived immigrants and recognised refugees, civic participation and integration indicators.

The second edition, released in 2007, focused on integration mainstreaming and governance, housing and economic participation.

The third edition, published in 2010, covers the following topics: the role of mass media in integration, the importance of awareness-raising and migrant empowerment, dialogue platforms, acquisition of nationality and practice of active citizenship, immigrant youth, education and the labour market.

European Integration Modules

European Integration Modules are designed to become established but flexible reference frameworks that can be adapted to the different contexts of Member States in order to contribute to successful integration policies and practices across Europe.

Different modules focus on different aspects of the integration process following the Common Basic Principles.

The Final Report on the European Integration Modules has been prepared by the Commission, in dialogue with representatives of Member State governments and civil society organisations in the areas of 1) introductory courses and language classes; 2) a strong commitment by the receiving society; and 3) the active participation of migrants in all aspects of collective life.

In 2014, when the EU Member States reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Common Basic Principles in the Justice and Home Affairs Council Conclusions of 5-6 June 2014, they also stated that “the potential of these principles has not been fully exhausted and they can be used to assist Member States to develop further their integration policies and practices in response to the prevailing challenges which migrants and the receiving societies frequently have to face.”

Indicators of Immigrant Integration

As a follow-up to the conclusions of the fourth Ministerial Conference on Integration, the Commission started developing a pilot project with Eurostat and the Member States for monitoring results integration policies, including development of a set of common core indicators aimed to enhance comparability and reinforce the European learning process. 

The table below present the indicators currently in use. They have been updated by a joint European Commission – OECD project, with the new results published in June 2015.


Policy area



  • employment rate
  • unemployment rate
  • activity rate


  • highest educational attainment (share of population with tertiary, secondary and primary or less than primary education)
  • share of low-achieving 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science
  • share of 30–34-year-olds with tertiary educational attainment
  • share of early leavers from education and training

Social Inclusion

  • median net income – the median net income of the immigrant population as a proportion of the median net income of the total population
  • at risk of poverty rate – share of population with net disposable income of less than 60 per cent of national median
  • the share of population perceiving their health status as good or poor
  • ratio of property owners to non-property owners among immigrants and the total population

Active Citizenship

  • the share of immigrants that have acquired citizenship
  • the share of immigrants holding permanent or long-term residence permits
  • the share of immigrants among elected representatives

This data is regularly updated on the Eurostat website, which also provides an interactive tool. The indicators serve as a basis for EU level monitoring and contribute to enhanced coordination of integration policies, including within the context of the European Semester.


Integration in other EU institutions

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union is responsible for decision-making and co-ordination. Meetings are attended by Heads of States of each EU member states. The Council passes laws, usually legislating jointly with the European Parliament and on basis of proposals put forward by the European Commission.

The Council is a single body, but for reasons relating to the organisation of its work, it meets in different "configurations" according to the subject being discussed. Meetings are attended by the national Ministers responsible for the subject concerned.

The Justice and Home Affairs Council brings together the justice and home affairs ministers approximately every month to discuss the development and implementation of cooperation and common policies in this sector. The JHA Council is the configuration responsible for adopting policy documents on integration issues. 

The rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union may also decide to organise Ministerial Conferences on integration which are designed to facilitate a continuous political debate on integration at ministerial level, as explaind above.

European Parliament

The European Parliament is the assembly of the directly elected representatives of the 500 million Union citizens. It shares legislative powers with the Council of the European Union.

In order to do the preparatory work for Parliament’s plenary sittings, Members of the European Parliament are divided up among a number of specialised standing committees. The committees draw up, amend and adopt legislative proposals and own-initiative reports. They consider Commission and Council proposals and, where necessary, draw up reports to be presented to the plenary assembly.

The Standing Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (known as the ‘LIBE’ Committee) is the main responsible for matters relating to immigrant integration. The Standing Committee for Employment and Social Affairs is also involved in many discussions on this topic. Recent reports and resolutions addressed migrant and refugee women and the labour market integration of refugees.

Committee of the Regions

The Committee of the Regions is the political assembly that provides the regional and local levels with a voice in EU policy development. It is an EU consultative body. Consultation of the Committee of the Regions by the Commission or the Council is mandatory in certain cases; in others it is optional.

The Committee organises its work through six specialist Commissions, made up of Committee members, who examine the detail of proposals on which the Committee is consulted and draw up a draft opinion. The draft opinion is then sent for approval to one of the five plenary sessions which take place each year.

The Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional Affairs and External Relations (known as the ‘CIVEX’ Commission) is responsible for matters relating to immigrant integration.

Some of the good practices highlighted on the Local and Regional Authorities Map of the European Web Site on Integration were identified via a study carried out by the Committee of the Regions in 2012.

European Economic and Social Committee

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body that gives representatives of Europe's socio-occupational interest groups, and others, a formal platform to express their points of views on EU issues. Its opinions are forwarded to the larger institutions - the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. Similarly to the Committee of the Regions, consultation of the EESC by the Commission or the Council is mandatory in certain cases; in others it is optional. The EESC may, however, also adopt opinions on its own initiative.

The Committee organises its work through six specialists Sections. The Social Affairs section is responsible for matters relating to immigrant integration.

The European Economic and Social Committee co-hosts the European Migration Forum  together with the Commission.