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EU cooperation networks for migrant integration

Mutual learning between relevant actors is an essential mechanism for the promotion of migrant integration across the EU. It allows governments, institutions and the civil society to share information and good practices with each other. To strengthen policy cooperation and facilitate knowledge exchange between EU Member States and other relevant migrant integration stakeholders on European, national, regional and local level, 3 main networks were initiated by the European Commission.

European Integration Network

Established following the adoption of the 2016 Commission's Action Plan on the integration of third-country nationals, the European Integration Network (EIN) brings together representatives of national public authorities from all 28 EU countries and 2 EEA countries: Iceland and Norway. Its primary role is to promote cooperation among EU Member States and to foster dialogue with European, national, local and regional authorities, as well as civil society organisations. It also reaches out to other EU networks relevant to migrant integration in areas such as employment, education or equality. As a key measure of the 2016 EU Integration Action Plan, the European Integration Network replaces the National Contact Points on Integration which were set up in 2003.

With a stronger coordination and knowledge exchange role than its forerunner, targeted study visits, peer reviews, workshops and mutual assistance actions on specific integration aspects are some of the new core learning activities EIN members’ representatives participate in. At the same time, public authorities constituting the network – mostly ministries responsible for migrant integration – continue their long-standing activities in supporting the integration of non-EU nationals and to consult with the European Commission on current developments and the further direction of the policy agenda. Many also have a role in the planning and implementation of dedicated EU funding opportunities, such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, in their respective countries.

The European Integration Network held its first meeting on 11 and 12 October 2016 in Brussels. Participants discussed three main topics: integration through sport and culture; promoting diversity and combating discrimination; and participation in local governments. Early integration of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection was also a focus point. Workshops were based on the presentations of eight successful civil society initiatives promoting integration.

The first mutual learning activity took place on 8 and 9 February 2017 in the region of Vastra Gotaland, Sweden. 30 practitioners from 10 EU Member States had the opportunity to study the local integration system, with a particular focus on the way different actors (national and regional governments and agencies, municipalities, civil society and refugee self-organised organisations) cooperate with each other. Each Member State delegation included its EIN representative, a representative from a municipality and one from a civil society organisation. The next event is to be held in Brussels and will be dedicated to cooperation with the local level.

The European Website on Integration is the first source of information for all EIN activities, documentation and outcomes.

European Migration Forum

The European Migration Forum (EMF) is a platform for dialogue between civil society organisations and European institutions which meet once a year for two days of work. Created in 2015 to replace the European Integration Forum, its extended scope now covers topics related to immigration and asylum, in addition to integration issues. Although the Forum remains an opportunity for civil society organisations to express their views and discuss challenges and priorities, the participants’ selection procedure is now based on an open call which considers the expertise of each applicant (organisation) in the topic of the year.

In line with its broadened mandate, the Forum met for the first time in January 2015 to discuss the migratory flows in the Mediterranean. Discussions stressed the importance of a long-term perspective for the social inclusion of people seeking or benefiting from international protection. Interaction between refugees and members of the receiving society was defined as key in this matter. In April 2016, the second EMF meeting took up this conclusion and focused on the long-term approach to migration and integration. Among other activities, interactive workshops brought NGOs and European public servants to one table to debate issues like changing the European narrative on migration, increasing cooperation among stakeholders, paying attention to migrants' specific vulnerabilities or the currently proposed reforms to the European asylum system.

The third meeting of the EMF took place on 2 and 3 March 2017 in Brussels to discuss the key issue of migrants' access to Europe, to rights and to services. In a nutshell, the meeting included a discussion on safe legal alternatives to the perilous journeys migrants undertake, as well as a reflection on ways migrants can access services upon their arrival and rights they are entitled to. How to ensure continuation of such provisions to facilitate their integration process was also part of the reflection.

The launch of EMF’s forerunner – the European Integration Forum – in 2009 reflected the comprehensive approach to integration pursued by the EU, which recognises that involving stakeholders at all levels is essential for the success of policies. Its initial development resulted from a cooperation between the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee.

The work of European Migration Forum and its predecessor is available on the European Web Site on Integration and more information can be found on the Forum’s webpage.

EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees

Since cities host by far the majority of refugees and immigrants in Europe, taking into account their needs and interests in EU migrant integration policies is crucial. Launched in March 2016, the Partnership under the Urban Agenda for the EU on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees brings together European cities, the European Commission, national governments as well as civil society organisations to discuss and develop concrete actions and recommendations on integration. It is one of the 12 partnerships of the Urban Agenda for the EU, which have as objective to contribute to the design of future and the revision of existing EU policies. The Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees will focus on the topics of reception, housing, employment and education. In the first phase, until mid-2017, the Partnership will identify through studies, working conference and regular meetings will identify a series of actions to be included in Action Plan. The period 2017-2018 will be dedicated to the implementation of the Action Plan.

After a first working conference on housing and reception in November 2016, the second one will took place in Berlin on 16 and 17 February and focused on employment and education.

The partnership is coordinated by the City of Amsterdam and the Directorate for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission. Other members are the cities of Athens, Barcelona, Berlin and Helsinki, Denmark, Italy, Greece and Portugal as well as stakeholders like Eurocities, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, the European Council for Refugees and Exiles or the Migration Policy Group. The European Commission is also represented in the Partnership through the Directorates for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy.

Up-to-date information on events and background material can be found on the Partnerships section of the Urban Agenda website.