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The European Union and Migration. Perspectives and Challenges
Today we are witnessing the dynamic of a phenomenon that has already taken shape – migration – a phenomenon whose target is primarily Europe. Even if modern history shows Europe as one of the main migrant ”suppliers”, for the last few decades it has become the main destination for the continuous and diverse influx of people who, for reasons that we already know, decided to leave their countries and roam, hoping that the “new European El Dorado” would offer them what they could not have in their countries of origin.

1. Foreword

 Today we are witnessing the dynamic of a phenomenon that has already taken shape – migration – a phenomenon whose target is primarily Europe. Even if modern history shows Europe as one of the main migrant ”suppliers”, for the last few decades it has become the main destination for the continuous and diverse influx of people who, for reasons that we already know, decided to leave their countries and roam, hoping that the “new European El Dorado” would offer them what they could not have in their countries of origin. We are referring to ensuring their existence, nourishment, proper social treatment, and respect for fundamental liberties and human rights.


In trying to develop and implement migration policies that are in accordance with European values and identities, as well as with concepts regarding culture diversity, integration and cohabitation, Europe, and more specifically the European Union are facing a double paradox. On one hand there is the desire and interest to control the dynamic of a migration flux that is mostly characterised by a lack of regulation of rapports between the immigrant and the host country. On the other hand, European policies continue to approach the issue of migration from a security and deterrence perspective, by taking legal and administrative actions. The current rising imbalance between the lapses that undermine these policies and the continuous raise of migration makes the perspectives of finding an effective and unanimously accepted solution to the problem almost unreachable and uncertain.

2. International Migration. Trends

Recent statistics highlight the fact that today 175-200 million people live, for various periods of time, in countries other than their own. These figures are surprisingly low, representing only 2.5%-3% of the world population. However, according to the same statistics, the flow of migration in the last 30 years has doubled and developed countries and societies have become preferred targets. Against this background, the management and social integration of migrants are major challenges for these countries. The difficulties are associated with predictable changes – the demographic evolution and structure of the host countries, the economic development and its relationship with the work force and last, but not least, the integration of migrants in the system of social and institutional values of these countries.

Estimates regarding the impact of migration on Europe are unanimous in showing that, over the next ten years, European countries will be able to manage only politically, and partially, the migration related issues. A real challenge will come from the host countries’ civil society, as citizens will be pressured more and more to adjust to cultural diversity and to the mixture of ethnicities and customs. Nevertheless, an uncomfortable unease will make its presence known in all European countries. Its causes lie in the fact that at European level, the EU countries are still far from being able to produce the proper tools to manage, without incidents, the migration movement. This perspective requires - at this very moment, before it is too late - the EU countries and their governments to realize the fact that while “governing” through decrees and resolutions can help manage certain areas, it is not enough for developing, legalising, and implementing a pan European migration policy.

 

3. Making Migration Policies Truly European

One cannot deny the fact that, at the level of the European Union, there is preoccupation and a real commitment to adopt a common policy to deal with the current and foreseeable issues related to migration. At the same time one must acknowledge the fact that a process to making migration policies “European” – through a shift from a government level to a true community level – is still slow and circumstantial. And this is mainly due to the cyclic discrepancies between national policies and the concept of real institutional solidarity, as well as between Schengen states and those outside this area, or between EU member states and states outside the EU or those that are not even candidates to a future and uncertain European integration. We are talking about a dysfunctional relationship between “Europeans” and “non-Europeans”, and all the negative consequences it has on European policies and implicitly on policies regarding migration. We are referring to the limitation of freedom of movement and to the emergence of new judicial and social borders that substitute the national ones. To these we add divergences generated by actions related to the management of the massive flow of illegal migration, and by disagreements within the European community over this phenomenon.

It is not less true that many of the difficulties hindering the efforts to harmonize and unify the European migration policies come from the countries themselves. This is where policies are somewhat dependent on internal factors, on society and public opinion, on demographic problems, on to the structure and evolution of the work force, on the level of public education in relation to the cultural and personal feelings and taboos, on the potential of the economy and infrastructure, on the geography of the area and national borders – land and sea –, on the proximity of/or distance to migration nuclei etc. At the same time, the internal pro-migration policies keep on being opposed.  

For almost two decades we have been witnessing a new kind of debate that cast aside the preoccupation for security concerns related to migration, or the so called “zero migration” theory, while favouring urgent matters that in ten years’ time could lead to crises. We are talking about phenomena that have a critical development perspective: the aging of European population, the rise in inter-European migration fuelled by aspirations for better living standards (financial and professional), the consequent contraction of the work force and, implicitly, a reorientation towards work force from outside EU borders, the migration of intellectuals and experts towards European destinations facilitating innovation/creative development etc.

We are also aware of the fact that, influenced by globalization, information and communication, there is a perception that the world is heading towards polarization – a developed North, and a developing or not so developed South. From a geographical perspective, Europe as seen from the South continues to be perceived as a pole of prosperity, a light house, and a destination for migration.

Given the persistence of discrepancies between the mechanisms that manage migration, an effective and rational “Europeanization” of relevant positions and approaches remains the best tool. On one hand, Europe should agree on the collective necessity to cast aside all confusion and discrepancies, and on the other it should forsake the hypocrisy that comes with the rhetoric regarding the challenge of migration.

It is the responsibility of the “new European Union” – after this year’s parliamentary elections – to include on its agenda a more sustainable mobilization and activism of the EU member states and their over 500 million citizens. An innovative rethinking of the communitarian identity and role Europe should play on the global stage is needed. This can only be accomplished by learning from the lessons the European existence has taught us so far, and is the only way Europe will re-emerge and face tomorrow’s challenges, including migration.