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27 October 2006 / EN

Migration and Immigration – Regions and Cities on the Front Line

Madrid Declaration

Sustained legal immigration flows are increasingly required to meet the needs of the European labour market and to ensure the economic competitiveness of European businesses. However, differences in culture, religion and standards of living have an impact on the absorption of the host country. This calls for comprehensive measures to ensure that immigrants are easily integrated in the labour market but also in the social, cultural and political spheres. Europe is currently going through one of the strongest illegal immigration waves in its history. The EU needs a comprehensive approach to fight illegal immigration, human trafficking and criminal networks, coupled with measures to prevent illegal work which is one of the key pull-factors for illegal migration. Although some regions are affected more directly than others, immigrants are to all effects entering EU territory, which in a context of ever more open internal borders means that it is a challenge that is affecting Europe as a whole. A change in the migration policy of one Member State affects migration flows and policy developments in other Member States. The EU therefore needs clear rules and common minimum standards regarding the reception of migrants. It also relies on a common, coherent and effective approach to the management of its external borders based on a common visa, asylum and return policy. Such policies incur additional costs for Member States and their local and regional authorities, and should be co-financed by the EU budget.  The scale of the challenge of immigration and integration in Europe calls for both a multilevel governance and a bottom-up approach involving local, regional, national and European levels of policy-making. Local and regional authorities should be involved in policy framing since they are direct receivers of immigration and principal actors in the application of integration policies. Only through integration, will it be possible to share the values of democratic life and respect for human rights that underpin the political systems of the EU. Concerning illegal immigration, those regions that are principally affected by extraordinary uncontrolled immigration waves are responsible for managing the emergency situations, and hence need solidarity from the European Union.

The EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions therefore:

      Legal immigration and integration

  1. is convinced that EU Member States need a genuinely organised and coordinated European policy on migration and immigration and believes that the sharing of responsibilities and financial burdens must be an integral part of any European approach;
  2. calls for Member States to associate local and regional authorities in the elaboration of migration policies and in the establishment of national plans for integration and employment; Furthermore considers that the local and regional dimensions must be included in the analyses, statistics, and reports which serve to frame European immigration policies;
  3. calls upon the Member States to involve regional and local authorities in any decision concerning the number of foreign workers to be admitted in their territory;
  4. invites the Commission and the Member States to launch public awareness and information campaigns with the cooperation of local and regional authorities on legal immigration policies and their positive impact, notably in order to dispel public anxiety; In parallel, calls on the countries of origin to launch campaigns designed to increase public awareness and knowledge of legal migration possibilities and also to stress the risks of illegal immigration;
  5. appeals for existing EU Directives relating to immigration and integration – such as family reunification, equal treatment, and the statute of long-term residents from third countries – to be fully transposed and applied in the Member States;
  6. urges Member States to frame an active policy for the integration of immigrants who have entered the country legally in close cooperation with local and regional authorities; defends that an active policy includes the integration in the labour market and in the educational, social and cultural fields, among others based on knowledge of the official state language or languages of the host country;
  7. calls on the Commission to secure adequate financial means and to reinforce specific programmes needed to integrate immigrants in the political and social life of the host country in the form of language training, cultural and civic training, and teaching programmes on European values;
  8. welcomes that the European Fund for Integration of Third Country Nationals has been set up for the period 2007-2013 to succeed the INTI programme and to deal with the challenges faced in this domain, however demands that it be reviewed and increased periodically in accordance to real needs and that local and regional authorities participate in the management of the Fund;
  9. emphasises that financial support for a common immigration policy must take account of regional differences; recommends that support must encourage flexible solutions according to the principle of subsidiarity;

    Illegal immigration
  10. calls for a European Strategy to fight against illegal immigration and human trafficking, by securing the EU’s external borders and exploring the establishment of a European surveillance system linking up the existing national surveillance systems, coupled with a robust return policy;
  11. stresses the need for reliable statistics in order to obtain objective, comparable information with a view to implement an effective migration policy in Europe. Calls for this to be done through the European Migration Network and its National Contact Points, including regional and local levels, and with the Committee of the Regions’ participation;
  12. highlights the need for cooperation with third and transit countries in order to prevent illegal migration and stresses the need for the Union and its Member States, in cooperation with local and regional authorities, to move towards a form of immigration which is regulated in collaboration with the third and transit countries involved;
  13. believes that mass regularisation of illegal immigrants, decided on a unilateral basis by a Member State, is not a solution to the problem of illegal immigration in particular in the absence of a common immigration and asylum system; welcomes therefore the Commission’s proposal to issue a study in 2007 on the regularisation practices and
    effects in the Member States;
  14. asks for an effective and durable development policy which has to be reinforced at all levels: European, national and local. Points out that local and regional authorities have an important role in promoting cooperation and twinning programmes with their counterparts, and recalls that local and regional authorities bring know-how and experience to
    decentralised cooperation through their public health and education services, urban services, territorial economic development, together with the provision of institutional support for local management, experience in local and regional democracy and functioning democratic institutions;
  15. highlights that several regions and cities are particularly affected by immigration influx and suffer from a lack of means to deal with the masses of immigrants with due human dignity levels; Therefore requests that based on a principle of solidarity, emergency financial instruments be created for those poles identified as centres of strongest migration influxes to help them manage those emergencies.