political revue


Year LVIII, 2016, Single Issue, Page 36



Towards a sustainable European immigration policy






Migratory flows, political and social reactions, and the risk of disintegration of the EU.

The flood of migrants into the EU’s Mediterranean countries has called into question the principles of solidarity on which the European Union was founded, and is now endangering all that Europe has achieved. The reality of this situation became apparent first from the suspension of the Schengen Agreement by some central and northern European member states and the erection of barriers at their external borders to close off the Balkan route into the EU, and then from the resistance, especially in central and eastern European countries, to the European Commission’s plan, in 2015, to redistribute 160,000 refugees across Europe. It is also reflected in the strengthening of populist, eurosceptic and xenophobic movements in almost every European country, a trend that is threatening to overturn the political balances, both national and European, that have underpinned the process of European integration since the end of the Second World War.

What is more, the immigration question was certainly a key factor in Britain’s vote to leave the EU; in Austria it threatened to play a part in giving the country a xenophobic president, while in France, polls suggest that the Front National has become the country’s main party. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, populist, anti-establishment and xenophobic political forces are on the rise, fuelled in part by reactions to the various episodes of Islamic terrorism in different European countries.

In the face of these political and social reactions, which are threatening to result in disintegration of the EU, it is clear that the European Union lacks the instruments: 1) to deal with the refugee crisis and the associated problems of hospitality and intercultural relations; 2) to address the persistent international economic downturn, triggered by the US financial crisis of 2007/2008; and 3) to eliminate the hotspots of conflict on Europe’s doorstep and respond adequately to the terrorist attacks of recent times in France, Belgium and Germany, and thus to offer guarantees of security. Meanwhile, the European Commission and European Parliament, which essentially amount to a power vacuum, are settings that have allowed the continued use of intergovernmental mechanisms and encouraged divisive, hierarchical power relations between the member states.

The current massive migratory flows, economic crisis and domestic and international security crisis are, together, undermining Europe’s ability to accommodate migrants and ensure their integration into society, to tackle the root causes of the migration emergency in the countries of origin, and to meet the challenge of overcoming terrorism. Europe’s citizens, feeling all their old certainties disappearing, are fearful and demanding security in different spheres of life: in the economic, domestic and international spheres and in their own sense of identity. Security will, indeed, probably prove to be the issue determining the future direction of the process of European integration.

In an in-depth analysis of immigration in Europe and its sustainability, several aspects must be considered, namely the number of immigrants present in the EU, the effect of external demographic pressure on a Europe whose own population is declining, the practicability of the current migrant reception policies, and the scope for a foreign and security policy designed to contain migration, render the migratory flows towards Europe manageable, and finally ensure peace, security and development in the areas around Europe that feed the phenomenon.


Some statistics.

European Commission statistics indicate that the immigrants currently resident in the (pre-Brexit) 28-member EU number approximately 54-55 million out of the total European population of around 500 million. This estimate includes those who entered Europe in 2015, and thus the approximately 1.3 million Middle Eastern refugees who flocked into Germany and Sweden during that year, as well as those who have arrived in 2016. According to the available official EU statistics, on 1 January 2015, 52.8 million European residents were living in a country other than their country of birth.[1] Of these, 34.3 million had been born in a non-EU country, while the other 18.5 million were citizens of EU countries. These EU migrants — one immediately thinks of Romanians, Poles, Slovakians and so on, but they also include French, Italian, Spanish and German citizens, for example — have European citizenship status. Moreover, many of them are civil servants, business leaders or young people in search of better opportunities who, thanks to Europe’s ongoing process of political unification and economic integration, have been enabled to live stably in another EU member country; nowhere is this more evident than Luxembourg, Brussels and the City (the financial district of London).

However, of the aforementioned foreign-born population, as many as 14.5 million non-EU and 3.2 million EU migrants (17.7 million in total) have, over time, obtained citizenship of their country of residence. As a result — we are still referring to EU data —, as of 1 January 2015 the EU population of immigrants with citizenship of a country other than that of residence amounted to 35.1 million people, of whom 19.8 million were non-EU and 15.3 million EU citizens. These figures obviously do not include the European born offspring of naturalised citizens, known as second or third generation immigrants. These individuals are citizens of the state in which they were born and live, and are therefore European citizens, but they find themselves in the difficult position of being perceived as foreign by the native population; furthermore, lacking their parents’ strong links with their community of origin, they are vulnerable to a dangerous identity crisis that, in many cases, has resulted in their being drawn to Islamic fundamentalism. As regards the sustainability of the migration phenomenon, it should be added that the annual influx of immigrants has varied over time. According to OECD statistics for example (EU data on this aspect were not found), whereas in 2007 the main European countries received 2.33 million immigrants (some of these arriving under family reunification arrangements), in 2013 the figure was down to 1.811 million, before rising again, to 1.909 million, in 2014 as an effect of the increase in the refugee component. More interesting still is the fact that the influx to Germany doubled in this period, rising from 232,900 in 2007 to 574,500 in 2014, whereas marked decreases were recorded in Italy (from 571,900 to 204,100), Spain (from 691,900 to 183,700) and Greece (from 46,300 to 29,500) on account of the economic crisis which has hit some (especially these) European economies much harder than others. For the same reason, there have also been increases in the number of immigrants entering Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.[2] What the OECD data do not show, however, is whether transfers from other EU countries accounted for a proportion of these arrivals. It is, in fact, important to consider another trend: the increasing emigration of young southern Europeans to other European countries (the UK and Germany mainly) and to the United States. According to AIRE (the Registry of Italians Residing Abroad), for example, the number of Italians living in other countries rose from 3.106 million in 2006 to 4.637 million in 2015. In 2014 alone, 101,297 Italians moved abroad[3] and the figure for 2015 is thought to be around 107,000.

There is no doubt that the immigrant population as a whole is unevenly distributed across the EU, with newcomers tending to concentrate in the countries of central and northern Europe, attracted by the better social support available there (a phenomenon that has been dubbed welfare shopping).[4] Obviously, only those who have obtained citizenship of an EU member state (and therefore European citizenship) can move around the EU legally, whereas the rest do so illegally and in clandestine fashion, seriously undermining the Schengen system.


A new phenomenon: the refugee component.

For many years, migration towards the EU was almost entirely economic migration. In other words, those entering European countries were individuals looking for employment opportunities in Europe’s expanding economies, and they included both intra-European migrants and people from non-EU countries. The latter, in the main, came from Ukraine and other former Soviet states, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Egypt, Morocco, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Since 2014, however, there has been an increase in the proportion made up of people fleeing from the Middle East and Africa, areas blighted by the presence of failed states, and gripped by war, terrorism, coups and military dictatorships, as well as famine and economic hardship. Data from the OECD (once again) show that the majority (77%) of those who requested asylum in its member states in 2015 came from Syria (23%), Afghanistan (16%), Iraq (11%), other Asian and Middle Eastern countries (13%) and Africa (14%). It can be assumed that almost all of these poured into Europe, as it is the region geographically closest to these parts of the world.[5]

Given their background, all these are migrants who should really be considered refugees. However, because refugee status is granted on an individual basis in accordance with the terms of the Geneva Convention[6] and the Additional Protocol of 1967,[7] this does not automatically happen. But there is another factor that explains why they are not automatically recognised as refugees: whereas non-EU citizens coming to Europe as economic migrants may, if they have no prospects of work and assuming they can be identified, be deported back to their own countries[8] (providing these are countries with which there exist agreements that guarantee their safe return),[9] refugees, on the other hand, are protected by international law, and must be detained and assisted. Given that the principle of free movement in the EU does not apply to them either, the responsibility for assisting them obviously falls to the first country to receive them (Dublin III regulation[10]), as do the related costs. This is a situation that has led the Mediterranean countries that are the migrants’ first European destination (Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain) to complain repeatedly about a lack of support and solidarity from their European partners, and it is also the reason why the European Commission presented its controversial plan, mentioned earlier, to redistribute 160,000 refugees.

These considerations apart, there is no doubt that the massive influx of refugees highlights a general destabilisation of the areas close to the EU that desperately needs adequate political and economic responses, primarily for humanitarian reasons and to combat international crime. Indeed, the “great exodus” from the Middle East and Africa has resulted in an increase in human trafficking, as well as countless tragic losses of life in the Mediterranean. Finally, a substantial proportion of the migrants are unaccompanied minors, of whom, in many cases, all traces are sadly lost.


The demographic challenge, the migratory flows and the need to safeguard the identity of Europe.

The current migration crisis, as shown above, has a clear structural basis and is set to continue in the future, not least for demographic reasons. Indeed, whereas the European population has an average age of between 40 and 50 years (and, as a whole, is shrinking), the Middle East and North Africa (from Iran to Morocco) are younger societies whose citizens are, on average, aged between 20 and 30 years. The current combined population of these two areas, estimated at 500 million, could grow to 800 million by 2050. Africa, meanwhile, continues to be an area on the brink of an unsustainable population explosion. In the central part of the continent, from the Sahara down to (but excluding) South Africa, the population has an average age of between 10 and 20 years, which clearly means that the African population, today standing at 1.1 billion, could well double in size by 2050. In practice, this could occur within the next thirty years, putting Europe under enormous pressure.

Uncontrolled population growth in these areas, in the absence of development and the necessary domestic social and redistribution policies, can only result in dramatic political and social upheaval. This, in turn, would leave Europe struggling for years with large migratory flows. For this reason, Europe has no choice but to address the problem with adequate domestic strategies on reception and hospitality, and through effective external measures and interventions, designed to reduce the factors that drive people to flee these areas.

Remaining, for the moment, within the ambit of policies on accommodation and social integration, it must be underlined that these demand, first and foremost, a strong political and cultural mobilisation of newcomers, who must be made aware of Europe’s identity, which, as clearly shown by the preamble to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union is based on the pursuit of peace, democratic freedoms and cosmopolitan solidarity. Another important aspect to consider is that European society, as established over the centuries, expresses a vision of life, both urban and rural, whose values are based on the community and on the importance of developing “know how” and expertise, values that need to be transmitted to its new members, and also set alongside their traditional values in an enriching and potentially progressive meeting of cultures.

To ensure effective management of relations between the established European cultures and the cultures expressed by the new residents, due consideration should be given to the possibility of introducing a policy specifically designed to promote Europe’s accumulated values, both political and community oriented; this could be done both through the school system, and through the introduction of a European civil service, which should be made compulsory both for Europeans and for foreign permanent residents; such a policy should also make provision for the extension, to the latter, of full voting rights.[11] A further important aspect, not to be overlooked, is the need for a revival of family values and an increase in the birth rate among Europeans, in order to reduce the decline in the native population and ensure that the traditions and community models that have enriched European culture over time are transmitted to future generations. All of the above will obviously require a resumption of the European integration process through institutional initiatives designed to establish a true and effective European federal government. This latter step is also essential to ensure an appropriate development policy, able to steer the evolution of the mode of production in Europe towards the information and knowledge-based society, and in so doing help to provide both the native and the immigrant population with job openings, housing and opportunities for social integration in an overall setting of radically changing professional and workplace requirements.[12]


EU management of migrant reception and how this has evolved.

Immigration issues have been on the European agenda for decades. Ever since the 2009 Tampere European Council meeting, the European Commission has been seeking to build a European asylum, reception and integration system in accordance with Title V of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (TFEU).[13] Recent years have seen various efforts to harmonise the member states’ measures on asylum, favour the effective integration of legal immigrants, and repatriate illegal ones, but the results have been only partial. In 2014, a strategic instrument, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), was introduced, but that, too, has proved inadequate. The AMIF was set up with EUR 3,137.43 billion to cover the seven years from 2014 to 2020. Its purpose, among other things, is to support national initiatives on asylum and immigration. Denmark is the only EU member state that does not participate in its implementation.[14]

It was not until spring 2015, however, that the EU first collectively intervened on immigration issues. This intervention, prompted by a series of tragedies in the Mediterranean in the period spanning the end of 2014 and the start of 2015, took the form of a European Agenda on Migration.[15] The issues dealt with by the document included: search and rescue efforts; steps to combat the trafficking of people; fairer distribution of refugees among the member states; and shared and stronger management of the EU’s external borders.

Unfortunately, other than strengthening European sea search and rescue efforts through the Poseidon and Triton missions (respectively conducted in the Aegean Sea and in central Mediterranean waters), the European Agenda on Migration has not achieved its objectives. As a result of the chaos in Libya and the flood of refugees from Turkey in the summer of 2015, the human trafficking phenomenon has continued undisturbed, while migrants entering Europe still have to be detained and identified by the countries in which they first arrive. Furthermore, the European Agenda on Migration, in its efforts to address the issues of migrant reception and assistance, did nothing to engage with the local and regional authorities, even though these are the ones that bear the greatest burden, as highlighted by the “Opinion”,[16] issued by the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 3 December 2015, and by the subsequent debate organised by the Piedmont Regional Council on 4 March 2016.[17]

What the CoR “Opinion” and the Piedmont debate really underlined was the desirability of a multilevel approach, extending from European (Community) level through national and regional levels, right down to local level — in short a federal approach of the type that Europe currently lacks.[18] Indeed, in all existing federal states, the central government is responsible for external border control, for the granting of refugee status, and for providing refugees with the assistance they are entitled to receive, but it has the faculty to delegate some reception, resettlement and integration tasks to lower-level authorities. Indeed, in the USA, asylum applications are collected and assessed by a federal agency, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), while the management of immigrant reception is regulated by the 1980 Immigration and Nationality Act, which gave rise to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), responsible for the funding and administration of federal programmes of refugee accommodation and assistance. The ORR is required to make resources available for professional training, English language training, and the creation of jobs, so that refugees may become financially self-sufficient. The ORR liaises with the federal states and local governments over the distribution of refugees, subsidises projects, and monitors the use of funds provided by the federal government. To receive federal aid for their settlement programmes, the states must first explain how they intend to achieve the objectives set, after which they must meet assigned standards and finally present a report at the end of each fiscal year.[19] Obviously, we are talking about arrangements and facilities for settling refugees, not illegal immigrants in search of work, the majority of whom are Central Americans who still manage to cross the fortified border between the United States and Mexico.

In short, what the EU needs is centralised control of its external borders and of its refugee reception programmes, as seen in the USA, leaving the resettlement and integration side to be dealt with by the states and by regional or local authorities under European supervision. Another crucial line of intervention should target the external root causes of the massive migratory flows, but we shall return to this aspect later on.

The shortcomings of EU policy in this field have greatly weakened the mutual solidarity between the EU’s member states; in particular, they have undermined the Schengen Agreement, one of the structural achievements of the European integration process relating to the freedom of movement of EU citizens.

That said, the migration emergency has forced the member states and the Commission to consider further and more advanced measures, such as a strengthening of the EU’s border control agency (Frontex), the creation of a European Border and Coast Guard, and the introduction of coordinated European management of identification, redistribution and rejection procedures, under the supervision of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). As the debate currently stands, however, no provision is made for the creation of true, dedicated European agencies, only for the organisation of European offices run by personnel provided by the member states and given the task of coordinating the activities of the competent national authorities. In addition, the Commission pledged to take other steps by the end of 2016, namely to review the Dublin III regulation and present new proposals for combatting human trafficking, as well as new measures on legal immigration, through reform of the Blue Card for highly skilled non-EU workers. Finally, as Europe’s approach in recent months clearly shows, there has been a radical evolution of its relations with third countries in the Middle East and Africa following the commitments made at the November 2015 summit on immigration in La Valletta (Malta) and the agreements reached with Turkey in March 2016.


Germany’s change of strategy and its repercussions.

The new measures recently proposed or under examination by the Commission were also a consequence of Germany’s unilateral decision, in summer 2015, to open its doors to the wave of Syrians at that time fleeing the Middle East via the Balkan route; this was a decision motivated by compelling humanitarian concerns, but also by the need to defuse the politically explosive situation that was developing in the Aegean area and in the Balkans. It necessarily led to a change in the EU’s approach to the management of new arrivals — Germany’s move in fact deligitimised the Dublin III regulation — and brought to the fore the crucial issue of relations with the third countries from which these migrants originate, or through which they are forced to pass. At the same time, however, this massive influx stirred up strong social reactions in Germany, and this has had repercussions throughout Europe.

Indeed, there has emerged a clear resistance among native communities to the arrival of social groups whose lifestyle habits, customs and religious practices are alien to local traditions; in addition, there can be no failing to observe the growth of a feeling of diffidence towards, and even mistrust of, Muslims generally as an effect of the establishment of the Islamic State organisation, the resulting persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East, and the series of terrorist attacks on European soil.

In addition to these reactions, it should also be considered that Chancellor Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s doors to the human tide coming from the Balkans created real difficulties both for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) — this initially lacked the necessary software and staff to manage the formal procedures of identification and ascertainment of refugee status —, and for Germany’s local authorities and voluntary associations that suddenly found themselves having to accommodate a multitude for which they were not prepared, in other words to feed and house them and set up social inclusion programmes. All this explains why, once this great exodus had been accommodated, it was decided to close Germany’s borders.

Significantly, this influx of refugees has upset the political balance that has underpinned German politics since the Second World War. Indeed, in the eastern Länder in particular — these are the areas that once comprised the GDR and, from a sociological point of view, they are less open to cultural diversity—,[20] a new eurosceptic, xenophobic and populist political force, Alternative f?r Deutschland, has performed strongly at the polls, and its hardline views on migration are influencing the extreme conservative wing of both the national CDU party and the Bavarian CSU, but also the social-democratic and liberal electorate.

Obviously, this discontent in Germany has had the effect of strengthening, in other European countries, the vast xenophobic front that uses the recent episodes of terrorism as an excuse for stereotyping all Middle Eastern refugees as terrorists.[21] And this, of course, is a particularly difficult new challenge, given the persistence of the root causes that are fuelling the migratory flows towards the countries of Europe.


The social inclusion of refugees and national models of production: a comparison of approaches

With regard to social inclusion policies there are, unfortunately, differences of approach between the European countries. To illustrate this point we may consider three examples: the approach adopted by central and northern European countries, the one preferred by France, the UK and Belgium, and finally that of the Mediterranean countries.

In view of the significant numbers of Middle Eastern refugees entering Germany (over 1 million) and Sweden (around 160 thousand) in 2015, a profound debate between social forces and the governments is now under way in the Nordic countries (Germany and Scandinavia) on the heavy cost to public finances of the extended provision of economic and social support to refugees. Some, however, have argued that immigrant participation in the production process can, in the medium/long term, generate added value that offsets the costs of social inclusion, making the latter more viable. Other points raised in the debate concern the need for law and order, it being argued that inability to enter the workplace leaves refugees deprived of their independence and personal dignity and can foster social exclusion and delinquency, as well as dangerous friction between the native population and the immigrant population. For this latter reason, and thinking back to the riots in the French banlieues, the idea of providing large-scale residential solutions specifically for immigrants has been ruled out, the view being that refugees blend into the community better if they are more widely distributed. Furthermore, considerable importance has been attached to teaching of the national language and local culture. The debate has, of course, also covered the issue of the availability of employee work, given that the vast majority of refugees would find it very difficult to establish themselves on a self-employed basis.

Nevertheless, this approach is rendered complicated and costly by structural factors that became established in the countries of central and northern Europe as a result of strategic choices made, some considerable time ago, precisely in order to restrict economic immigration, which was encouraging low value-added activities and an underground economy.[22]

Since the 1980s, Germany and the Nordic countries have implemented a technologically advanced and highly qualified production system that is strongly export oriented and based on worker loyalty and retention. Workers, being the focus of intensive vocational training programmes, are regarded as corporate assets, and the entire system is supported by significant investments in R&D. Activities requiring considerable use of unskilled labour, which are nevertheless a necessary part of the production system, have largely been outsourced abroad and thus fuel a subcontracting system.[23] While the possibility certainly remains that refugees could be channelled into the less skilled jobs that still exist, it has to be noted that local trade unions would not welcome the start of a competition over wage levels as a means of keeping labour costs down. That said, in Nordic countries, given the advanced organisation of production industry and services there, the cost of labour is not a competitive factor and therefore not even an issue raised by businesses. The public authorities, for their part, do not want to see the spread of an underground economy and the associated tax evasion, phenomena that in the past, when immigrants were offered low-paid employment, were widespread.[24]

Furthermore, Germany’s employment offices, faced with the arrival of over a million refugees, have found that these newcomers do not have qualifications commensurate with the types of work that have become established in Germany in the course of the production revolution that began there a few decades ago. Only 20% of migrants have university level qualifications, and in most cases any previous work experience they can offer fails to match the needs of the local production system. Finally, practically no migrants are able to provide documentation of their qualifications. To enable them to enter the workplace they need to receive German language tuition and training in the technologically advanced tasks that now characterise the country’s labour market; equipping them to enter the workplace is a lengthy process, estimated to take between 3 and 7 years.[25] It should also be added, still with reference to Germany, that the labour reform of 2004, implemented by the Schröder government, eliminated over 6 million workers from the production system, workers who are now mainly employed in part-time or poorly paid jobs; it is clear, however, that the political authorities do not intend to allow an expansion of this secondary market area. Similar problems are, of course, also found in other central and northern European countries. Finally, it should be noted that Germany has approved a 93.6 billion euro refugee-assistance programme for the period 2016-2020.

It is worth remarking that the difficulties now facing the countries of central and northern Europe may be taken as a forewarning of the problems and social and production costs that Europe as a whole would need to deal with were it to decide to initiate a broad technological modernisation plan and embrace immigration as a means of offsetting the decline in the native population.

In view of the approach adopted by the Nordic countries, which is intended to bring about proper social inclusion, the models pursued by countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Belgium, which are based on the marginalisation of immigrant communities, appear unacceptable. In France in the last century, for example, it was decided to create dormitory districts specifically to accommodate the African (mainly Arab) immigrants who, as a result of decolonisation and the demand for labour in that the period, flowed into the country. This arrangement clearly left them in a state of isolation that is now reflected in the fate of the second and third generations. In the United Kingdom, settlements of immigrant communities enjoy a kind of extraterritoriality that allows them freely to govern their own private and religious relationships, a situation that has led to the coining of the expression Londonistan. A similar situation has arisen in Belgium, where the marginalisation of immigrants is a result of their having been settled in the deprived neighbourhoods of the major cities, such as the Molenbeek district of Brussels, which has turned out to be a den of terrorists. Finding themselves socially and culturally excluded, many young French, British and Belgian citizens, the offspring of immigrant parents, struggle with an identity crisis that leaves them vulnerable to the deadly siren call of Islamic fundamentalism. Indeed, whereas their parents had been absorbed, albeit in lowly jobs, by a labour market sustained by economic expansion and industrial development, they, being equipped only with mediocre education and training, have little to offer a production sector that, technologically, is undergoing a transformation towards the information and knowledge society. As a result, and this is true in France in particular, they are prevented from entering the workplace; what is more, even those who do manage meet the necessary professional requirements find that they are discriminated against when seeking work in the private sector on account of their surnames, which indicate their origins. Since they have French, British or Belgian citizenship, they obviously encounter fewer obstacles when seeking public sector employment, especially in the armed forces or police service; indeed, the victims of terror attacks in France by Islamic extremists have included members of immigrant families employed in these services.[26]

For Italy and the other Mediterranean countries, the experiences of the central and northern European countries and the political debate that has unfolded there have purely emblematic value and, for the moment, remain largely ignored. The situation in countries with a less advanced production system, like those of southern Europe, is such that immigrants are more likely to spontaneously enter low-skilled and poorly paid work (as carers, in the construction industry, in agriculture, or door-to-door sales), and it also favours an expansion of the underground economy. These realities leave the development model adopted in these countries, which lie on the fringe of the migration phenomenon, open to severe criticism and also to an extent justify northern European reservations about the Mediterranean countries. They also raise concerns about the stagnant productivity of these countries, whose competitiveness, moreover, is based mainly on employmentmobility, containment of labour costs, the existence of a vast underground economy, and tax evasion. These negative considerations aside, however, it is worth highlighting the efforts made by numerous regional and local authorities in Italy to meet the need for welfare assistance and social inclusion of immigrants, in part through the intervention of cultural mediation organisations. Unfortunately, however, in the absence of adequate public support policies, such efforts are bound to fail, like the attempts to repopulate Alpine and Apennine areas whose populations have been declining as a result of the pull of the lowland towns and cities. Given that these mountain areas have also suffered a gradual shrinking of essential public services (healthcare, schools, transport, telecommunications and postal services), efforts to revive and re-establish communities there will inevitably fail unless these services can be restored and the new residents helped to preserve these areas’ traditional economic activities (farming, forestry, crafts). In this instance, too, the Italian authorities could draw inspiration from successful initiatives adopted elsewhere, namely Switzerland and Austria, and the autonomous Italian provinces of Trento and Bolzano, all of which actively strive to safeguard the economic activities of mountain areas. Finally, it should also be remembered that as a result of the economic and employment crisis that has hit Italy and other Mediterranean countries, many young Italian, Greek and Spanish citizens, like the majority of migrants, are keen to move to northern Europe.

What these various national scenarios show is that social inclusion must be politically monitored, and that it comes at a price. To believe that Europe’s demographic decline can be slowed down through permissive policies on immigration is to seriously underestimate the problem, as this idea overlooks the complexity of the EU’s needs; Europe, in fact, needs workers with different levels of qualification, but above all it needs people with high qualifications if it is to maintain its competitive growth rates and support its social welfare system in the future. It is simplistic to think that openness to immigrationis enough, as this idea fails to take into account the fact that the population decline is an effect of real existential distress due to a series of factors — a loss of fundamental values, a shortage of employment opportunities, a lack of job security, inadequate welfare support, and a lack of measures to support working women —, all of which weigh heavily on the decisions made by young couples thinking about settling down and starting a family. From this perspective, it is easy to see why most immigrants are males and why family reunifications are permitted only when the head of the family has job security, and a home is available for the family; it also explains why immigrants themselves end up having fewer children, replicating the small nuclear family that is the prevalent model in Europe.


External intervention.

Another consequence of Germany’s unilateral initiative has been a growing realisation of the need to set up agreements with third countries, specifically the migrants’ countries of origin and the transit countries.

In this regard, it is worth examining, in chronological order, the decisions reached at the EU-Africa summit in La Valletta of 11-12 November 2015,[27] the EU-Turkey agreements, the Migration Compact presented by the Italian government, and the New Partnership Framework with third countries proposed by the Commission.

In La Valletta, the EU reached agreements with African countries aimed at reducing the flow of migrants to Europe’s Mediterranean coastline; the proposed measures concerned the provision of support for local development plans and for the organisation of refugee camps in transit countries. In view of the prominence of Ethiopia as a country of origin (as well as transit and destination) of Europe-bound irregular migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa, the most significant of these agreements was the EU-Ethiopia Joint Declaration for a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility. In addition, the summit resulted in the adoption of a political declaration, as well as an action plan aimed at addressing the root causes of irregular migration and improving cooperation on legal migration and mobility; it also saw the formal launch of the “Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa”, to be fed with EUR 1.8 billion from the EU budget, a sum that complements the existing aid assistance (over EUR 10 billion until 2020) provided by the EU to these and other African regions.[28]

At the summit, the EU also declared its readiness to set up a Regional Development and Protection Programme in the Horn of Africa, aimed at stopping the flow of migrants. Supported by EU, national and local funds, the programme covers refugee assistance, and is also intended to help local authorities develop their capacity of intervention. In this context, the possibility of the EU returning migrants to their countries of origin, providing the crisis factors have first been eliminated, was left open.

Instead, the March 2016 agreement with Turkey[29] — this was a controversial move given the internal regression of Turkey even before the night (between 15 and 16 July, 2016) of the failed coup d'état attempt — was reached as a result of the personal diplomacy of Chancellor Merkel. It may be seen as an attempt to ensure the existence, outside Europe, of a safe haven offering proper humanitarian protection, and thus to avoid further tragedies in the Aegean Sea and counter the international criminal activity behind the illegal crossings, as well as an attempt to dissuade Turkey (through the incentive of EUR 6 billion in aid, to be delivered in two installments) from encouraging Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees present in its territory to try and reach EU countries, as instead it had done in the summer of 2015.

However, the fact is that the EU-Turkey agreement is open to criticism for a number of reasons. First of all, it addresses only the migrant flows likely to use the Balkan route. Second, it effectively considers all new migrants arriving in Greek territory irregular, given that it requires the Greek authorities to return them to Turkey without taking account of asylum applications in accordance with the Dublin Regulation. Indeed, to avoid formally infringing the Dublin regulation, and to ensure compliance, by Europe, with the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, under the agreement Turkey was unwisely declared a country of first asylum for Syrian refugees and a safe third country for non-Syrian refugees. But, in fact, both these definitions have been contested by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) due to the dubious level of protection refugees are actually afforded by Turkey, whose internal legislation needs to be modified in order to fully guarantee asylum seekers, in particular non-Syrians, the protections provided by the Geneva Convention. This restrictive provision is only partially attenuated by the EU’s willingness to resettle up to a maximum of 72,000 Syrian refugees in the EU, in a proportion of one for each Syrian returned to Turkey.

In April 2016 the Italian government, concerned about the likely impact of the EU agreement with Turkey on the central Mediterranean route into the EU, presented its Migration Compact,[30] a document suggesting a strategy of intervention in African countries and a reorganisation of Europe’s development aid tools.

On 7 June, 2016, the Commission responded to this initiative with a “Communication on establishing a New Partnership Framework with third countries”.[31] Its plan, geared at “substantially stepping up the impact of [European] actions on the external dimension of the European Agenda on Migration”, envisages coordinated efforts by the EU and member states to conclude compacts with third countries based on a combination of positive and negative incentives designed to improve cooperation with these countries over migration. The document also underlines the need to “complete the compacts with Jordan and Lebanon” on the provision of aid to the refugees hosted by these countries, “take EU-Tunisia cooperation to the next level”, “launch and agree compacts with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia”, and be “ready to support the Libyan Government of National Accord”.

To deliver these compacts, the EU plans to deploy around EUR 8 billion over the period 2016-2020, in addition to the development aid already provided by the member states and the Union. In the longer term, it also plans to step up efforts to tackle the root causes of irregular migration and develop reception capacities at local level, envisaging, for that purpose, the possible mobilisation of a further EUR 62 billion.


What strategy is needed to develop a sustainable immigration policy?

The problems that have emerged in relation to migrant reception and inclusion policies, and the various efforts to develop an external intervention able to bring migratory flows to Europe under control, clearly highlight a single issue, namely how difficult it is for the European institutions (Commission, European Parliament, European Council) to build a comprehensive common strategy. The reason for this difficulty is the European Parliament’s lack of essential powers and full democratic legitimacy, which in turn results in a deficiency in the process of political will formation.[32] Indeed, the European Parliament has no fiscal powers or foreign and security policy powers, yet these are the very powers it needs if it is to be able to take meaningful action on immigration issues, and give executive orders to the Commission. Because of the failure to complete the process of European integration, these powers have remained in the hands of the member states, with the result that immigration, development and foreign policy issues continue to influence political competition at national level. Consequently, a decisive role in the functioning of the EU institutions is played by the Council, whose action is crucially determined by the divisions that exist between the governments of the member states, and especially between those of the main European countries, each of which is intent on pursuing its own interests. And because the different countries’ attitudes to reception and inclusion policies are conditioned by their own production development policies and cultural constraints, they do not all offer the same opportunities for integration. The divisions between the main EU countries are also the main factor influencing attempts at external intervention, with each country, again, determined to pursue its own interests, in this case in the Middle East, Libya the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel. Even the Commission’s proposed New Partnership Framework with third countries is structured in such a way as to ensure the maintenance of bilateral relations between each EU member state and the various African countries. In this respect, Europe has failed to learn from the lessons offered by the United States in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, when it launched the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe, making this intervention conditional upon the Europeans’ undertaking to manage jointly the aid that was provided, and the North Atlantic Treaty, under which, faced with the threat of Soviet expansionism, Washington assumed responsibility for guaranteeing security in Europe. The increased security and development created in Western Europe had the effect, among others, of ending the pressure to emigrate to other continents, while intra-European migration was brought within the framework governed by the European Treaty provisions on the free movement of workers. These lessons of yesterday are crucially important for Europe today, if it is to bring migratory flows under control, revitalise its identity, develop an openness towards intercultural exchanges, and lead the way in promoting peace, security and development in its neighbouring areas[33] — in short, export and establish its own supranational democratic model of government.

It must be strongly emphasised, in this regard, that migratory flows are not stemmed by building walls or tightening controls at national borders, as the populist movements in some of our European states seem to believe, or by erecting walls at common external borders. This latter solution (by some dubbed “Fortress Europe”) would isolate us from the rest of the world and only increase the instability in the neighbouring areas, a situation that would have dramatic consequences for Europe. The current flows can be reduced and regulated only by ensuring peace and security in the world, and in the Middle East and Africa in particular, so that the local populations might begin moving towards a future of freedom from foreign servitude and domestic feudalism — a future built on democracy, development and egalitarian and supportive social models. What is more, the humanitarian grounds on which, quite rightly, every effort must be made to save migrants in difficulty at sea are the very same ones that demand activation of a policy in support of peace and security, as well as aid to promote the economic, political and social development of the areas that are feeding the migration crisis. Another aspect of the phenomenon that should not be overlooked is the cost to the countries of origin in terms of the loss of human and economic resources, which obviously impacts on their prospects for development. Indeed, those most likely to emigrate are the young and enterprising and those who have managed to save the money needed to pay for their journey (in so doing feeding the coffers of the international criminal groups that organise these “journeys of hope”).

It will, however, be far from easy to normalise the areas lying on Europe’s external borders, primarily the Middle East, given the regional power struggle under way, in Syria and in Yemen, between, on the one hand, the Gulf petro-monarchies and Turkey and, on the other, Iran. This is a situation that is being monitored, from a distance, both by the USA, whose inclination is to disengage from the Middle East, and by Russia, which instead would like to draw all the region’s protagonists within its network of influence, so as to present itself as the only power able to protect and intervene in the balance in the region (but also, potentially, to be the only power able to control the flow of oil to Europe).

Leaving aside the Venice Declaration of 1980,[34] Europe has never really considered implementing a true project for pacification and reconstruction in the Middle East, be it by encouraging a normalisation of relations between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab peoples, or by fostering pressure to overcome the feudal dynasties of the Gulf region and a spread and a strengthening of democracy and the rule of law in the countries of the area, from Afghanistan to the Maghreb countries, Turkey and Yemen. The EU remained passive in the face of the “Arab Spring” and is now faced with the grave consequences of this inertia — war in Syria and Yemen and the destabilisation of Libya. The latter was actually catalysed by the intervention of France and the UK, which undoubtedly wanted to get their hands on its oil resources and were certainly not driven by a desire to encourage a democratic transition in the country. Indeed, the level of interest, among foreign powers, in bringing about a democratic transition of Libya is nowhere near as great as their interest in pursuing the same objective in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and so on.

Similar considerations apply to the confrontation between European and non-European powers wanting access to Africa’s resources. However, the new approach initiated in La Valletta, and strengthened by the documents in favour of bilateral relations with the individual Arab countries (respectively Italy’s Migration Compact and the Commission’s New Partnership Framework with third countries) would have had far greater impact had the EU and its member states decided to make their provision of aid and development assistance conditional upon the creation of regional groupings among the beneficiary states — groupings that should have been required to develop common infrastructure projects in the fields of energy (like the Desertech project[35]), water governance, education and common security, as the first steps in processes designed to lead to economic integration and political unification in the region, along the lines of the European Coal and Steel Community that marked the start of Europe’s own integration process. The risk that the planned aid for Africa may be used to support the area’s largely corrupt governments, which are not only inefficient but also serve the interests of external powers, seems to have escaped European public opinion. In a similar way, the recent agreement with Turkey carries the risk of strengthening a destabilising regional power.

To be able to achieve political normalisation and economic stabilisation of the areas lying on its borders — crucial objectives for reducing the migratory flow towards Europe to sustainable levels —, the EU needs to provide clear signals that it is restarting its own process of political unification, even if this initiative might initially embrace only a core group of states ready and willing to be involved. But to have internal and external influence, this project must be credible, and in this sense it would be valuable at least to launch a plan to complete the Economic and Monetary Union (by giving the European Parliament powers to finance, through “own resources”, a budget for the euro area to fund domestic and foreign investment programmes, by completing the banking union, and by transforming the European Stability Mechanism into a monetary fund able to help absorb any asymmetric shocks to member states’ finances).

Following in the wake of the introduction of European elections and the creation of a single European currency, completion of the economic and monetary union among those countries ready to take this step would, in itself, by helping to bring about concrete affirmation of the concept of European sovereignty, send out an important political signal and have major consequences. Neither should we forget, in this regard, the experience of the past, namely how the decisions, in the 1970s, to introduce direct elections of the European Parliament and launch the European monetary system resulted, in the decade that followed, in Altiero Spinelli’s drive for European constituent power within the European Parliament and the completion of the monetary union, and even more significantly, how the revival of the European process precipitated the crisis of the USSR and the end of its influence over central and eastern Europe and the Balkans. That virtuous cycle went on to produce the reunification of Germany, the Maastricht Treaty, the creation of the euro, and the enlargement of the EU to numerous former communist countries.

It is important to heed this lesson in order to understand the impact that a revival of European integration would have today, both within Europe and externally, specifically on the power situations in the Middle East and Africa, on relations with Russia, and on the Ukraine question. To really appreciate the value, both internally and externally, of relaunching the process along lines designed to lead to the creation of a European federal government, it is essential to recognise what Europe needs in order to bring immigration down to sustainable levels, reduce the pressure of the refugee crisis, and marginalise the populist movements within its member states. The European Union needs federal institutions that can foster an advanced development model capable of generating the resources needed not only to give the European people real future prospects again, but also to enable Europe to offer sustained external development assistance and, in so doing, assume responsibility for promoting the establishment of peace and democratic freedoms in the Middle East and Africa.[36] Only in this way will it be possible to free these peoples of the need that drives them to abandon their homelands, and reduce the migration phenomenon to levels that European society is able to sustain.

As Europe prepares to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome (on 25 March 2017) and looks towards the next European elections in 2019, this is the great challenge facing its politicians.

[1] Cf. Table 4: Foreign-born population by country of birth, 1 January 2015, in

[2] Cf. Table 1.1 Inflows of permanent immigrants into selected OECD countries 2007-14, in International Migration Outlook 2016,

[3] Cf.
On the history of Italian emigration, see

[4] According to EU statistics, on 1 January 2015, the number of foreign born people living in Germany amounted to 10.220 million (12.6% of the population). The number was 8.411 million (13%) in the UK, 7.908 million (11.9%) in France, 5.891 million (12.7%) in Spain, and 5.805 million (9.5%) in Italy. These countries thus accounted for 38.235 million of the total 52.8 million (72.4%). However, high proportions (over 15%) were also recorded in smaller countries: Austria (17.2%), Belgium (16.1%), Luxembourg (44.2%), Cyprus (20.9%), Sweden (16.4%). In Luxembourg and Cyprus, EU nationals accounted for the majority. Cf. Table 4: Foreign-born population by country of birth, 1 January 2015, see note 1.

[5] Cf. Origin of asylum seekers into OECD countries in 2015 (graph),



[8] Art. 79.4 TFEU gives member states the right to regulate the volumes of migrants entering their territory in search of work.

[9] In reality, most of them actually escape the controls and move about clandestinely in Europe.

[10] Cf. Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013.

[11] On the subject of the recognition of voting rights of immigrants in Europe, see

[12] It should be remembered that during the years of Europe’s post-war economic boom millions of people managed to improve their social condition. In particular, millions of peasants moved from outlying Mediterranean and Balkan areas to become part of the expanding industrial system of the Rhineland axis and northern Italy.

[13] The legal basis for establishing a European asylum, reception and integration policy (albeit shown by experience to be insufficient) is provided by Title V, chapter 2 (Articles 77-80) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union. In addition, the right to asylum is recognised by Art. 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union whose Preamble constitutes a major affirmation of European identity, aimed at Europe’s citizens, the human community and future generations. Unfortunately both texts, lacking the support of a coherent EU institutional framework, capable of producing implementing policies, are ignored by the governments of member states, the political forces, and European public opinion.

[14] Cf.

[15] Cf.

[16] Cf.

[17] The minutes of the meeting can be consulted at the Regional Council of Piedmont website:

[18] Local and regional bodies can play a strategic role by empowering and giving responsibility to immigrants, involving them in the running of host communities and creating opportunities for active citizenship programmes. This is the thinking behind the attribution of voting rights to foreigners who are permanent residents, as occurs in Sweden.


[20] It is significant that similar, closed attitudes are found in the central and eastern European countries that were members of the Warsaw Pact (the Visegrad Group), and did not participate in the founding process of the European Union.

[21] It should be noted that although there have been numerous cases of European citizens or Muslim immigrants living in Europe who have left Europe to join the ranks of the Islamic State organisation, and who may even have returned to Europe from the Middle East, these people have never made the perilous journeys that immigrants and refugees do, crossing the Aegean or the central Mediterranean in precarious boats. The European Commission is in fact considering the possibility of introducing a register to record the movements of people leaving or entering the EU through airports and other border crossing points.

[22] In the early 1980s in Germany, in the wake of three decades of economic growth and in the face of the growing influx of migrants from Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, local governments, in particular, began to call for the introduction of caps on immigration. It should also be recalled that in 1999, in order to politically integrate a large number of immigrants living permanently in the country, until then considered “guest workers” (Gastarbeitern), the red-green coalition government changed the law on citizenship, extending the entitlement, on request, to immigrants who had been resident in Germany for at least eight years and to their children born in Germany.

[23] A large section of industry in northern Italy works for German customers, and this is also true in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The textile sector has been transferred almost entirely to Asia.

[24] Cf. Anne Britt Djuve, Refugee migration – a crisis for the Nordic model?, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, April 2016

[25] Cf. Matthias M. Mayer, Germany’s Response to the Refugee Situation, Newpolitik, Bertelsman Foundation, 2016

[26] We recall the three military victims of Montauban and Toulouse attacks in 2012, and the police officer killed by the attackers fleeing after the shooting at the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

[27] Cf.

[28] Cf.

[29] Cf.


[31] Cf. Communication from the Commission COM (2016)385 final.
. It is also interesting to note the position taken by the Italian Senate on the Migration Compact and on the New Partnership Framework with third countries:

[32] It also explains the lack of true alignments of European political parties and plans for EU government.

[33] See Article 3 of the EU Treaty.

[34] This declaration issued at the end of an EU summit opened the way for the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO and for the birth of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in 1994.

[35] The Desertech project, sponsored by the leading German energy producers, aimed to build a network of solar power plants in North Africa, the Sahara and the Arabian peninsula, in order to produce energy for local needs and for exportation to Europe. The project, which was suspended after the failure of the “Arab Spring”, would have allowed the oil producing countries to limit extractions, distributing them over time and saving resources for future generations, to cut emissions of CO2 and, above all, to introduce a form of regional cooperation that could have evolved politically.

[36] It is worth remembering the strategic importance of the New Deal which set the stage for the involvement of the United States in World War II and allowed the country to assume the leadership of the Western world in the postwar period.



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