EU Commissioner Avramopoulos backs "Cities and Regions for Integration" initiative led by European Committee of the Regions and four leading European associations of cities and regions
The European Committee of the Regions together with AER, CEMR, CPMR and Eurocities threw their support behind the regions and municipalities that are welcoming and integrating new arrivals to their communities. The initiative was supported by Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.
The "Cities and Regions for the Integration of Migrants" initiative – or #Regions4Integration – complements a range of existing networks and projects by local and regional governments associations in Europe. As the EU's political assembly of local and regional governments, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) seeks to build a coalition together with four leading European associations of cities and regions – the Assembly of European Regions (AER), the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), and Eurocities - to contribute to shaping the EU's migration agenda to ensure the local and regional perspective is better taken into account in the future.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the CoR, said: "Many regions and cities have long been successfully welcoming and integrating newcomers into their communities. They know the added value migrants bring and the cost of non-integration. This initiative will promote the efforts taken at the local level to integrate migrants and refugees across Europe. We need a common European approach that invests in creating cohesive, not divisive, communities. It's time to end the scaremongering that has infested the political narrative over the recent years"
The initiative Commissioner Avramopoulos said, complemented two years of efforts by the European Commission to build “a solid two-way dialogue with cities and local authorities on integration". He argued: "If anyone would ask me what I think is one of the priorities for Europe in the decades to come, the successful inclusion of migrants in our societies would be it. Between 2015 and 2017, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund has co-financed 4.800 measures to help the integration of third country nationals all across the EU. We know that access to EU funding can prove challenging for local and regional authorities, in particular small ones. This is why we made funding for integration more accessible for local authorities for 2021-2027 – and why we increased it across the board".
The decision to launch the initiative at this point – ahead of European Parliament elections and the selection of new European Commissioners and a new President of the European Council this year – signals its belief that decision-makers in the EU should consider providing greater political, technical and financial support for integration work in local communities. The initiative will:
1. Provide a political platform for cities and regions to enable them to develop and put forward proposals for EU policies and funding for the integration of migrants;
2. Share good practices of local integration of migrants in areas such as access to the labour market, vocational training, education, support of unaccompanied minors, and working in partnerships with civil society etc.
3. Promote peer learning, especially linking cities with more experience of integration with those towns that have more recently begun to receive migrants. The initiative plays particular attention to small and medium-sized cities and rural administrations, which are willing to integrate migrants but lack the experience and tools.
4. Share information on European funding for integration support (AMIF and future AMF, ESF+ and other funds for regional development including targets for the integration of migrants).
5. Develop a positive narrative by sharing positive examples and solutions for integration policies as a means to counter disinformation.
Representatives from the European associations - all whom will actively contribute to the initiative - that spoke at the launch included: Magnus Berntsson, President of the Assembly of European Regions and Vice-President of the VP of the Regional Council of Västra Götaland; Rui Bettencourt, Regional Secretary of the Presidency for External Relations of the Azores Government, representing the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions; Pietro Puccio, Mayor of Capaci, representing the Council of European Municipalities and Regions; and Mathias De Clercq, mayor of Ghent, representing Eurocities.
Since 2015, the European Committee of the Regions has produced recommendations on a range of legal proposals presented by the European Commission, as part of its European Agenda on Migration. It has emphasised that integration is an area of policy in which regions and municipalities are of critical importance and that well-coordinated policies can ensure integration is a success for the immigrants themselves, the local community, and the local economy.
The initiative is open to all local and regional politicians who can share the stories via #Regions4Integration.
More information is available on the CoR's website or by e-mail.
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