A comprehensive European migration policy
The Commission presents a set of measures aimed at establishing a comprehensive European migration policy, founded on greater solidarity between Member States and enabling the European Union (EU) to respond better to the challenges presented by migration.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 4 May 2011 - Communication on migration [COM(2011) 248 – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Arab spring revolutions in 2011 resulted in a large influx of immigrants from the Southern Mediterranean, who entered the European Union (EU) illegally via the Italian and Maltese coasts. The EU took emergency measures in order to respond to this situation. However, these events have demonstrated the limited resources of the EU in immigration matters and the need for greater solidarity between the Member States in this area.
Therefore, the Commission presents initiatives aimed at establishing a comprehensive European migration policy which is better able to meet the challenges presented by migration. This policy must respect the European tradition of asylum and protection, while preventing illegal border crossings.
Several aspects of migration are addressed:
- Crossing the borders
The EU’s external border controls must be effective and must enable a high level of security to be maintained while also facilitating the passage of persons authorised to enter the EU. The Commission intends to strengthen the existing common rules. In particular, it envisages creating a European system of border guards. It also insists on improving cooperation between national authorities and the exchange of operational information in the case of incidents at external borders, specifically via the EUROSUR system. The operational capacities of the Frontex agency must also be strengthened.
An evaluation of Member States’ application of the Schengen rules must be undertaken at EU level, with the participation of experts from Member States and Frontex, led by the Commission. The latter also intends to establish a mechanism allowing for a decision, at European level, defining which Member States would exceptionally reintroduce border controls at internal borders.
Lastly, to prevent irregular immigration, the Commission stresses the need for a balanced and effective European return policy (returning illegal immigrants who do not need international protection to their countries). It requires that all Member States transpose into their national law the Return Directive on common standards and procedures for returning illegal immigrants, and the Directive on sanctions against the employment of person staying illegally. Lastly, it recognises the effectiveness of readmission agreements with third countries, but also believes that the latter must be considered within the framework of the EU’s overall relations with the countries concerned and accompanied by incentives that help the countries to implement them.
- Moving and living in the Schengen area
The Commission advocates better organised mobility based on cooperation (between the European agencies Frontex and Europol, and between customs authorities and national police authorities), and on new technologies. In particular, a European entry-exit system would enable data on border crossings by third country citizens to be made available to the authorities. In addition, a registered traveller programme would enable automated border control for frequent travellers.
Visa policy is also an important instrument in terms of mobility. In order to avoid abuse of visa liberalisation systems, the Commission proposes the introduction of a safeguard clause which would enable the temporary re-introduction of visa requirements for citizens from a third country benefiting from this system.
At the same time, the Union recognises that migrants constitute an indispensible workforce for the EU, both in terms of responding to labour shortages in certain areas, and in terms of providing a highly qualified workforce. It is therefore important to recognise their qualifications and to facilitate administrative procedures. The Commission hopes to make progress on the draft single permit authorising foreigners to live and work in a Member State and calls on the EU countries to transpose into their national law the Directive on the European Blue Card which facilitates the recruitment of highly qualified persons. It has also put forward proposals on seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees. In order to provide migrants with clear and practical information, the Commission will launch an EU immigration portal this year.
Lastly, the integration of migrants into European society must respect the balance between the rights of the migrants and the law and culture of the receiving country. It requires efforts on the part of both migrants and receiving countries. Successful integration is essential for maximising the economic, social and cultural advantages of immigration, for individuals as well as societies. In July 2011, the Commission presented a European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals.
- Common European Asylum System
The establishment of a Common European Asylum System must be completed by 2012. It aims to reduce the divergences between EU countries in the outcomes of asylum applications, and to ensure a common set of rights and procedures, as well as compliance with the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees. The European Asylum Support Office will strengthen cooperation in this area.
The Commission insists that the resettlement of refugees (permanent resettlement in a Member State of a refugee who has obtained protection in a third country) must become an integral part of European Asylum Policy.
- Relations with third countries
Issues relating to migration must be integrated into the EU’s overall external relations. A better balance must be found between organising legal migration, combating irregular migration and maximising the mutual benefits of migration for development. The human dimension must also be strengthened through a migrant-centred approach.
With regard to the Southern Mediterranean countries, the Union has proposed a structured dialogue on migration with the aim of establishing mobility partnerships to facilitate access by their citizens to EU territory in exchange for their collaboration in managing migration flows. The Commission will also revise its Neighbourhood Policy with these countries.