BRUSSELS — The right to free movement for all European Union citizens and the resulting mobility system represent one of the EU’s signal achievements. The integration of such mobile EU citizens has not been widely discussed, however, either at EU or national levels, and EU-level integration policies focus on the integration of legally residing third-country nationals.
The lifting of restrictions on movements of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals at year’s end is sparking concerns in some EU Member States over the costs of free movement on local budgets and national social security programmes. The question of who should be liable for the costs of integrating newcomers has also taken on new prominence; in Germany, the German Association of Cities recently called for additional federal financial support, saying municipalities face significant costs as a result of what it termed ‘poverty migration.’ And the Dutch government, outlining its most recent integration agenda, announced it will invest in policies facilitating the integration of mobile EU citizens.
A new Migration Policy Institute Europe report, The integration needs of mobile EU citizens: Impediments and opportunities, investigates the broad range of integration needs that exist in Europe and the role different actors, including employers, can play in meeting them. The topic is particularly relevant with respect to vulnerable groups such as minorities and the poverty-stricken.
The report, authored by MPI Europe Director Elizabeth Collett, outlines the near-equivalent set of legal and social rights that mobile EU citizens have compared to those of native residents in each EU country. While the strong rights framework enjoyed by these mobile citizens implies that the process of settling in is easier for those holding EU citizenship than for third-country nationals, the reality is typically more complex. Nationality makes little difference to the process of adapting to new languages, institutions, and social norms, and mobile EU citizens have many of the same integration needs as their third-country national counterparts—not least a need for language courses and orientation information concerning life in their new countries.
‘The European Union and national policymakers must take a more hands-on role in facilitating the successful integration of newcomers—mobile EU citizens and third-country nationals alike. The same goes for city authorities, employers, and origin countries themselves,’ said MPI Europe President Demetrios G. Papademetriou. ‘Most importantly, policymakers must adopt a coherent approach to the social situation of EU citizens who live in a country other than their own, so that they don’t find themselves in a more vulnerable position than their third-country immigrant neighbours.’
The report makes the case that EU citizens should more proactively be included in language and orientation courses on a voluntary basis. In addition, there is a critical need to improve the knowledge base, particularly for local actors, so that public services such as education and health can adapt according to need.
The MPI Europe report is the second of two studies examining labour mobility in the European Union; the first provides a detailed assessment of intra-EU mobility trends and drivers, and examines the evidence on the economic and social impact of free movement on origin and destination countries.
For more on MPI Europe’s research and mission, visit www.mpieurope.org.
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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background, and receiving communities throughout Europe. Based in Brussels, MPI Europe builds upon the work that the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has done for years in Europe. Through its Transatlantic Council on Migration and other initiatives, MPI has advised a number of EU presidencies and performed significant research and policy design on European and transatlantic topics. These range from the effects of the global economic crisis on migrant and native-born workforces to current and future demographic trends, citizenship policy, and the current debates over national identity.