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1.3.2009

Integration Policy

At the European level, the search for the most suitable concepts and measures for integrating immigrants into the receiving societies only began at the end of the 1990s.

In any case, where integration policy is concerned, the EU has no power to make regulations. Instead, it can only be active at the level of coordination and the exchange of information. As a result, a network of national contact points on integration has been set up, with regular meetings providing a forum for the exchange of information and best practice for all member states. The outcome of this network cooperation is, among other things, the publication every two to three years of the Handbook on Integration.

In November 2004, on the initiative of the Dutch presidency, the Council of Ministers adopted a series of Common Basic Principles on Integration (CBPs). These include, among other things, the following: that integration is a two-way process between the immigrants and the receiving society; that immigrants must have respect for the basic principles of the EU as well as basic knowledge of the guest country's language, history and institutions; that an occupation and training are central to integration; and that immigrants should be involved as far as possible in the development of integration policies. Additionally, it was agreed to incorporate the integration of migrants in all public policies as a general principle and to introduce clear goals, indicators and evaluation mechanisms in order to facilitate the measuring of progress. To date, these general principles have not been further specified in a legal sense, and no accompanying measures have been adopted for their implementation. An independent instrument of integration policy at the European level is the European Commission's annual report on migration and integration. In a 2005 communication the Commission also put forward non-binding proposals on integration policy under the title "A common agenda for integration – framework for the integration of third-country nationals in the European Union". Some of these proposals were adopted by the Council of Ministers in its likewise non-legally binding 2007 conclusions on the strengthening of integration policies in the European Union by promoting unity in diversity.

Although the effect of such an approach is limited, reduced as it is to an exchange of information and being entirely on a voluntary basis, the member states also omitted in the Lisbon Reform Treaty giving EU bodies and institutions new powers to act within the field of integration. Instead, Article 79(4) of the Treaty of Lisbon states that the envisaged so-called "common immigration policy" should be developed "excluding any harmonisation" in the field of integration.

Sandra Lavenex

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