01 Mar 2005

‘Integration’ as a Process of Inclusion for Migrants? The Case of Long-Term Residents in the EU

Sergio Carrera

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At a time when the development of a common EU immigration policy remains far from a reality, the integration of migrants has been placed at the very top of the EU agenda. In this report we critically assess what integration may involve at the EU and national levels. Although the Council has agreed on a set of common basic principles underlying a coherent European framework on integration, the bulk of directives so far adopted on regular migration have not followed the two-way approach, where both the state and the migrant have a role in successful integration. The way in which integration conditions have been included by the Council of Ministers in these legal measures may be considered restrictive. Looking in particular at Directive 2003/109 on the long-term resident status, member states will have overly wide discretion to ask migrants to comply with mandatory integration requirements. Immigrants will first need to pass an integration test and cover the financial costs of it before having secure access to the benefits and rights conferred by the status of long-term resident. These provisions should hence be revised. Otherwise, by using this restrictive conditionality, such provisions may negatively affect social cohesion and inclusion, and undermine the fundamental rights of immigrants. Integration is by nature an elusive concept. Instead of worrying about the need to conceptualise this term, any policy intending to frame this field should instead look at it as a compendium of processes of inclusion tackling social exclusion. These processes should seek to guarantee equal rights and obligations to those not holding the nationality of the receiving society. Facilitating equality of treatment and full access to a set of economic, political, social and cultural rights and duties should be the real goal pursued.