EU needs to give much more money to the integration of immigrants  

​Peter Bossman

EU's local and regional leaders warn against imbalance in EU's funding plans for border control and migration management.

Regional and local leaders have urged the European Union to increase the size of its Asylum and Migration Fund by nearly €6 billion in 2021-27. In a warning to EU decision-makers against placing "an excessive emphasis on border control", they also called for roughly one-third of the fund to be spent on managing legal migration and on integration, and for some spending on integration to be compulsory.

The call by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), made in recommendations adopted on 9 October, came a month after the European Commission's president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that the Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) should be given €10.4 billion over seven years, a rise of 51%. The CoR's recommendation, adopted in an amendment , is that the fund should have nearly €16.2 billion, a boost that matches the Commission's proposal to increase money for border controls by 240% through a variety of funds.

The CoR's rapporteur-general on the Asylum and Migration Fund , Peter Bossman (SI/PES), mayor of Piran, said: "We all want efficient and coordinated migration management, but these ideas need significant improving before we can say that the EU's money will be wisely and appropriately spent. Management of migration requires a convincing response to all aspects of migration – irregular migration, asylum, legal migration, integration, plus the root causes of migration. The decision to drop 'integration' from the fund's name is telling and disturbing, and it is our fear that the overall approach focuses on building walls rather than on finding a balanced approach to management. Europe needs to think seriously about how to integrate the newcomers already in our communities."

He continued: "In addition, effective coordination requires collaboration with local and regional authorities, who are responsible for, for instance, most short-term integration measures. Unfortunately, the current proposals disregard our repeated calls for cities and regions to be given a role in managing the fund. Local and regional authorities have helped Europe hugely in efforts to receive, house, integrate and employ the refugees and migrants who arrived in 2015. Reforming a complex policy in the middle of a crisis is difficult, but now – with the number of arrivals significantly lower – we hope the EU's decision-makers will be able to settle on a reform that is well balanced and that recognises the value of working with politicians on the ground."

Among other recommendations, the CoR called for regions and cities to have direct access to EU funding during crises, to ensure that money very quickly reaches authorities facing particular challenges. As part of its promotion of a comprehensive European migration policy, the CoR said that member states that deviate from spending guidelines should be required to provide a "detailed explanation" that shows "how they are going to ensure that this choice does not jeopardise the achievement" of the objectives of the AMF.

Money from the AMF is currently spent, for instance, on improving accommodation and reception services for asylum seekers, assistance to the vulnerable, information exchange and cooperation between EU states, and information campaigns in non-EU countries.

The opinion on the Asylum and Migration Fund is one of a set of responses by the European Committee of the Regions to the European Commission's proposals for the EU's budget for 2021-27. On 9 October, the CoR also adopted recommendations on the overall budget proposal and on specific parts of the proposed budget: Horizon Europe, on research ; the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) ; the Rights and Values programme ; and the future of the LIFE programme (for Environment and Climate Action) .

Also on 9 October, the president of the CoR, Karl-Heinz Lambertz , gave a major speech outlining the regional and local perspective on the state of the European Union, in which he supported "a campaign to highlight the integration projects being implemented in our cities and regions".

Examples of the work being done by local and regional authorities were highlighted during a debate on migration at the CoR's plenary on 10 October. In particular, Maria Angeles Elorza Zubiria (ES/ALDE) set out details of a new integration initiative undertaken by the government of the Basque Country, Basilio Horta (PT/PES) presented the city of Sintra's plan for migrant reception and integration, and Luc Van den Brande (BE/EPP) from Flanders promoted the value of forging partnerships between European and African local governments as a contribution to the management of migration.

Contact:

Andrew Gardner

Tel. +32 473 843 981

andrew.gardner@cor.europa.eu