EUROPE AND IMMIGRATION
Immigration is Europe’s challenge: THE EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL CHALLENGE ON IMMIGRATION
Author: Elisa Mariani
Translated by: Lorenzo Giusepponi
The immigration issue is a mixed blessing that many people are currently focusing on and it is raising significant questions. In fact, the benefits and problems of migratory flows are still an unanswered question.
According to the Eurostat data of January 2014, resident aliens in the European Union are 20.4 million, mostly concentrated in Germany, Italy, Spain and France. In Italy, during the period 2007-2014, a 3% increase in the number of resident aliens was registered, the equivalent of two million people. In 2013 the migratory flow in Italy was so composed: 9.2% of migrants were expatriate citizens returning in their home country, 25.2% came from EU member states and 65.5% from non-member states. This last percentage is the highest in the EU.
Such data bear witness to the importance for Italy of foreign citizens, who account for 8.1% of the total population. Additionally, in 2014, foreigners in Italy whose age ranged from 15 to 34 accounted for 34.3%, while Italians in this age range were only 21.3%. This demonstrates that the young foreign population represents a potential resource for the country. However, while public debates usually focus on the negative aspects of immigration, there are also some advantages that are cause for reflection.
However, as mentioned before, Italy is not the only country coping with this problem. During recent years immigration has become one of the most debated topics at both the European and the global level. Just yesterday, the Leader’s Summit on Refugees hosted by President Obama, got underway and 150 Heads of State and Government are taking part in it on the occasion of the 71st United Nations General Assembly. In the following days, this will also include the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants. At the opening of the summit, the UN Secretary-General BanKi-Moon said: “Refugees and migrants are not to be seen as a burden. They offer great potential if only we unlock it”.
The stated objective and ultimate aim of international institutions hasn’t changed: solving the crisis of the excessive regular and irregular migratory flows caused by wars and famine and other problems linked to these dramatic situations such as terrorism, mistreatment, the rescue of refugees and the adoption of common measures for border crossing. The strategy aims to achieve the Global Compacts for refugees and migration by 2018.
As the Italian vice minister of foreign affairs – with a mandate on immigration – has confirmed, the EU and its member states will take part in the Summit for Refugees and Migrants in a moment of institutional stalemate that resulted in the European Council and Commission’s loss of power to make decisions and take action. Such fragmentation in the decision-making power was exacerbated after the failure of the Bratislava Summit, where, according to the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the participants deliberately avoided discussing in depth about the immigration problem on the agenda, in order to leave the usual disagreements among the member states ignored and unsolved.
The meeting proved once again the lack of unanimity since Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic proposed a personal plan which would give more decision-making powers to the single states as they refused to participate in a possible proposal of compulsory refugees quotas. Instead, they favor flexible solidarity, that is a voluntary contribution in the member states’ management of migratory flows according to their resources. This plan, positively welcomed by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, represents a progress that risks not to be implemented.
Despite its negative sides, the Bratislava Summit led to the draft of a document that includes a schedule with practical measures to be carried out on immigration: the realization of the declaration between the EU and Turkey for supporting the Western Balkan countries, the official establishment and full operability of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency by the end of the year, agreements with other countries to decrease irregular immigration and increase the return rate and finally, a further effort to achieve full unanimity among member states for a common immigration policy.