Integration high on the agenda

This week integration has been high on Social Platform’s agenda. Firstly, our members met over lunch to discuss integration, social tension and political trade-offs (read my blog). Secondly, the European Commission launched its EU Action Plan for Integration of Third Country Nationals, and thirdly, I participated in my first meeting with the European Migration Forum’s consultative Bureau.

EU Action Plan for Integration of Third Country Nationals – pragmatic but not political

On 7 June the European Commission published its integration action plan. As the EU does not have much competence in the area of integration, the plan is a rather pragmatic document that encourages Member States to do more and make use of the opportunities the EU offers in terms of funding and exchange of good practices. It focuses on five areas: 1) pre-departure/pre-arrival measures, 2) education, 3) labour market integration and access to vocational training, 4) access to basic services, and 5) active participation and social inclusion. The Commission underlined that many elements of the input received from participants at the European Migration Forum were taken on board when drafting the plan, such as issues of targeted funding, mental health and women. Other tools to advance integration are the Europe 2020 Strategy and country-specific recommendations. Laura Corrado from the Commission also promised, during our meeting, to link the plan to the European pillar of social rights.

European Migration Forum – looking backwards and forwards

On 9 June the Bureau met to evaluate the last European Migration Forum (read my blog) and to plan ahead for the next one. A striking discrepancy in the feedback was the different experience of participants representing national and EU level. National NGOs and authorities were overall satisfied with the participatory format that gave them an opportunity to network and exchange practices. On the contrary, European level NGOs were critical of the format used and, called for better links to EU policy-making in order for the Forum to influence decision-makers. This demonstrates the importance of both recognising and accommodating the needs and expectations of different stakeholders. As long as participation is made meaningful, and is well prepared in consultation with civil society, the facilitators and those with knowledge about the content, it was welcomed by all.

European NGO networks were particularly concerned that the European Commission’s communication on legal avenues to the EU was not on the agenda despite being published on the same day as the meeting. I Participants proposed the following topics for the next meeting of the Forum: integration, the asylum system, migration policy, the narrative on migration, exploitation of undocumented migrants, and funding. Laura Corrado welcomed further input – potentially via the Forum – on the implementation of the integration plan and legal channels, including for medium- and highly-skilled workers.

In the Bureau we discussed the idea of inviting other groups to participate in our meeting, such as individuals who are active in alternative grassroots networks and aren’t part of organised civil society.* We also talked about the importance of linking our work with other key events such as the Civil Society Days (that this year focused migration, read my blog), the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights Forum that will discuss refugee protection, related EU high-level meetings on racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, and the Fundamental Rights Colloquium on media pluralism. After the summer the Commission will invite civil society to contribute via an online questionnaire on what they would like the next Forum to discuss, followed by another invitation to a meeting in Brussels to collect additional input.

*Participation in the EMF is based on an open-call where stakeholders are invited to express their interest by providing information about what they would like to get out of the Forum and how they can contribute. About two-thirds of the participating civil society organisations are from national level and the others from European networks. European Economic and Social Committee members are also invited, as well as local and regional authorities, Member States and international bodies such as the International Organisation for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency.