At our Integrating Cities conference in Tampere, we took the opportunity to talk to Stefano Manservisi, director general for home affairs at the European Commission
Why is migrant integration still relevant to the EU?
I think that migrant integration is more than ever relevant for the EU because it is time that the EU shifts from the management of migration as a sort of defensive position, to a much more proactive position, because not only is migration already a huge reality in Europe, but it is likely that this will even increase. If we want to prepare or anticipate and perhaps manage integration policies, we must be prepared to be good managers of integration polices, and without good integration policy, there will be no integration success.
What are the main challenges at EU level to migrant integration?
Well, I think that there are some commonalities but a lot of local different factors. The commonalities are to speak the language, to be part of a community, to participate in the social and civic life, to be in school, to be part of the system which is integrated in normal society, be part of the institutions like school, like training, like city councils etc. But I think that the most important aspect is to identify the diversities in order to accommodate these with the existing commonalities in our society. This obliges us to go local, and to go local in particular in the big cities where in reality the vast majority of migrants are residing and where either the integration policy can produce a result for the interests of everybody or else this would be the most likely place for tension but I’d say another approach is to support firmly the experiences and the exchange of practices between cities.
What is your opinion about the new proposed funds and how can cities use these funds?
In proposing the new funds we are trying first, to simplify the implementation in the sense that they were extremely cumbersome in administrative terms, so in many ways the new funds will be more a process-oriented activity rather than output-oriented activity. The first thing is to identify that the EU is intervening in economic integration and security.
The second is to recognise that working on legal migration, asylum and integration are interdependent elements so therefore not to divide this into autonomous pockets but rather to sustain policy making which are integrated, because legal migration and integration are two sides of the same coin.
Thirdly, we strongly advise member states in programming this fund, to supply this money or part of this money, for integration to regions and cities according to their constitutional organisation because at the end of the day, with the accumulation of economic crisis which is cutting subsidies to revenues in general to cities and social cohesion problems which exist primarily at city and regional levels will create a situation which is unsustainable, so we suggest local financing through these funds. This could be a big change.
How is the Commission working with EUROCITIES? How do you think EUROCITIES could help you improve its role in working with migrants?
EUROCITIES has been a structural partner of the European Commission for years. It is an organisation that we value a lot because it is credible and it is able to convey messages and to force the policy setting at city level. We intend to go on with this partnership as much as possible. We need to have EUROCITIES as part of a structural whole discussion with local authorities. The European Commission cannot afford - for competence reasons, for resource reasons - to have an open discussion with everyone, particularly at local level. We need EUROCITIES to be one of the pillars – the pillar representing cities, and big cities in particular – in this dialogue along with the local authorities. This is done possibly through programming the new funds, and certainly the implementation of our integration policy will be even more intensified, I hope at least, in the future.