The European Parliament is proposing a blue-print for a common policy on European immigration. The report recognises the importance of legal immigration, in the face of Europe's ageing population and declining workforce, but also urges Member States to jointly tackle the problems caused by illegal immigration. They also propose to reinforce migrant's rights, by allowing them to vote in local elections. MEPs describe immigration as "one of the foremost challenges that Europe is currently facing", and believe that it will remain a significant challenge for the coming decades. Furthermore, a common approach to immigration is vital as shared European borders mean that "action or inaction by one Member State has a direct impact on others and on the EU as a whole." If migration is poorly managed, it will not only have a negative impact on the countries of destination but also to the countries of origin and the migrants themselves.
The European Parliament adopted an own-initiative report drafted by Simon Busuttil (EPP-ED, MT) on Wednesday, by485 votes in favour,110 against and19 abstentions.
Past and future impact of migrants in Europe
Migrants have always played "a vital role in the development of the EU", and the report stresses the importance of recognising their past and continuing contribution. Therefore, Europe should continue to be a welcoming environment for migrants; especially as, according to Eurostat statistics, the European working age population is expected to fall by 50 million workers by 2060. Well managed immigration could help to provide crucial economic stimulus to the EU in the coming years.
However, MEPs are concerned about the effect of the "brain drain" on third countries, and are therefore recommending that a "cycle of exchange of knowledge" should be encouraged, through programmes of temporary migration. They are also proposing a scheme to facilitate training in countries of origin "in order to preserve occupations in key sectors", and are urging Member States to refrain from actively recruiting workers in these sectors, such as health and education, in countries which are already suffering from a lack of workers.
Statistics presented by the Commission suggest that by 2050, the EU will need 60 million migrant workers, which clearly shows that channels for legal migration need to be improved. MEPs regret that so far little has been done to encourage this, and calls on Member States to establish a coordinated approach, "taking into account the demographic and economic situation of the EU."
Integration should be a key part of EU legislation on immigration. The report supports integration efforts by Member States, to help immigrants to learn the language of their host country and to develop an understanding of the values of the EU and its Member States. However, MEPs also recognise that integration is very much a two-way process, and also requires adjustments on behalf of the population of the host state
The report also supports the view that immigrants from third countries should be granted the right to full mobility in the EU, after a period of five years' legal residence in a Member State. A further recommendation from MEPs suggests that democratic participation is crucial to integration they are therefore calling for migrants to be allowed to vote in local elections.
Successful integration also requires cooperation with third party countries, which regrettably, has so far not achieved sufficient results. The one exception to this is Spain's successful cooperation with third countries, such as Senegal and Mauritania which in 2008 helped to reduce arrivals in the Canary Islands by 70%.
Common European border strategy
MEPs are calling for the replacement of national Schengen visas with universal European Schengen visas, and for a joint consular service for visas to be set up on a gradual and voluntary basis. The report also calls on the Council and Member States to adopt arrangements based on solidarity to share the burden of border policing amongst Member States.
The European Parliament is particularly shocked by the "human tragedy caused by illegal migratory sea routes." The rapporteur states that in 2008, more migrants lost their lives at sea that in the war in Gaza. Therefore, the report is calling for urgent action to stop this tragedy, and to reinforce cooperation with countries of origin. MEPs are concerned that illegal immigration organised by criminal networks has so far proved to be more effective than common European actions, and urges Member States to take action in "the fight against organised crime, human trafficking and smuggling."
FRONTEX, the Warsaw based EU agency designed to coordinate border security cooperation between Member States, should be reinforced and have its powers extended. The report suggests that FRONTEX should be provided with adequate funding and resources so that it has the potential to acquire its own equipment. MEPs are calling on the Commission to investigate the possibility of "upgrading FRONTEX operations at sea into an EU coast guard, without undermining Member States control of their borders."
REF. : 20090421IPR54070
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