Fostering integration through better participation

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European societies are becoming more diverse as a result of the mobility rights linked to EU citizenship and of rising international migration flows. Some see this diversity as a potential economic and social strength, if properly managed. Others warn of a threat to social stability through weakening intracommunity bonds and a dilution of shared values and objectives. Still others may instrumentalise migrant communities as scapegoats for social or political problems.

 

The principle of universal human rights and, in the EU, fundamental rights for all has become a defining element of our values and a touchstone of our democracy. But it is still very much a work in progress. In particular, as the EU citizenship report 2010 highlights, “a gap still remains between the applicable legal rules and the reality confronting citizens in their daily lives, particularly in cross-border situations.” As far as non-EU citizens are concerned, knowing and exercising their rights may be even more problematic.

 

Unequal access to rights and opportunities can exacerbate social divisions and adversely affect the ability, and ultimately the willingness of disadvantaged groups to work together for the common good.

 

There is no single blueprint for effective integration of migrants and yet a process of integration is necessary to recognise and accommodate differences. EU Member States’ historical immigration patterns and migration policies differ greatly and this has a number of implications on a country’s fundamental assumptions on the integration of foreigners. Cultural and historical factors impact upon the policies designed in the country and, significantly, the way those policies are actually implemented on a day-to-day basis.

 

However, in all cases integration is a process requiring the engagement of both the migrant and host communities. Projects which directly involve the two communities, and encourage the one to understand and interact with the other are an important catalyst to guide and accelerate the process.


Civil society organisations work in close contact with all the different groups in society creating innovative solutions for strengthening the voice of migrants in society which further realise their fundamental rights. Projects can take many forms including discussions and debating sessions, awareness raising campaigns, and creative, artistic activities which allow people to explore the issues and express how they feel these questions which they may not have explicitly thought about before. Policy makers can benefit from the experiences of grassroots organisations in direct contact with both migrants and the members of the host community.

 

 Integration is a multi-faceted, complex phenomenon, demanding capacity for adaptation from a wide variety of actors including migrants themselves. Everyone is therefore responsible for engaging in a learning process by exploring new avenues for dialogue and cooperation.

 

 During a seminar organised by CEDAG in Brussels next Tuesday, these are the issues which will be animating the discussions. With the partners of the Young Citizens in Action project alongside representatives of NGOs, of national political authorities and with MEPs, we will look for answers to questions such as which are the best practices for an effective integration of migrants? How can civil society organisations bring these experiences to good use at the political level in order to have an impact on policies? We look forward to a lively and stimulating debate.