2. Relevant legislation
A draft directive establishing harmonised EU rules on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of paid employment and self-employment was adopted by the Commission in 2001, but was not favourably received by the Council.
Despite the divisions between member states on immigration, in September 2003, a key EU legal instrument was agreed upon; the Directive on Family Reunification of Third-Country Nationals. The Directive – the first piece of immigration-related legislation adopted by the union – aims to harmonise national legislation on the conditions for admission and residence of third-country nationals. In addition, it sets out the conditions under which third-country nationals who are legal residents in one of the member states have the right to bring husbands, wives and young children into the EU.
A further step in harmonising EU immigration policy was the Directive on the Status of Long-term Residents adopted in November 2003. It grants third-country nationals who have been living legally in the EU for at least five years equal treatment in most social and economic fields. Subject to certain conditions, it also grants them the right to move to another member state to work, to study or for other reasons.
The EU’s First Annual Report on Migration and Integration in Europe, presented in July 2004, made clear that improved access to the labour market, better language skills and education will be essential conditions for the successful integration of migrants. The Third Annual Report on Migration and Integration in Europe , published in 2007, stated that in January 2006 the number of third-country nationals residing in the EU was 18.5 million, i.e. 3.8% of the total EU population of almost 493 million.
This shows that immigration is still the main element in EU demographic growth and positive net migration was recorded in most member states. Net migration, ranging between 0.5 and 1 million per year for most of the 1990s, has increased to levels ranging between 1.5 and 2 million since 2002.
Despite the progress, the old divisions in relation to EU immigration policy have continued to assert themselves, as some member states, notably France, have called for tougher action to curb illegal immigration. There are currently an estimated eight million illegal immigrants in the EU, half of whom came in legally but overstayed.
Spain, Italy and Greece are struggling to manage large flows of illegal immigrants from North Africa and other developing countries, some of whom have grounds for claiming asylum. The influx is a concern for other EU countries, as many illegal immigrants end up seeking work further north, in France and the UK, for example.
In September 2006, the then French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called for EU nations to adopt a common, tough standard in dealing with illegal immigration. "We can't all continue to have our own immigration policies," Sarkozy said, accusing Spain of causing a surge in illegal immigration by offering migrants an amnesty.
When France took over the EU Presidency in July 2008 it began pushing for a European Pact on Immigration and Asylum that acknowledged member states had different approaches to the issue, while reiterating the fact that Europe needs migrants for economic and demographic reasons.
At the heart of the European immigration pact – passed at a European Council Summit in October 2008 – is the idea that European governments should be able to set immigration levels according to their labour needs, based on the assumption that "the European Union […] does not have the resources to decently receive all the migrants who hope to find a better life here".
The pact is meant to strike a balance between the concerns that illegal immigration and asylum-seekers are overwhelming the capacity of some nations to accept them while at the same time keeping open the flow of valuable highly skilled foreign workers to Europe.
In order to achieve these aims, the Pact sets out a number of basic principles for managing migration and calls on the European Commission to come forward with new proposals in five policy areas: legal and illegal migration, border controls, asylum and cooperation with third countries.
- 1. Background
- 2. Relevant legislation
- 3. New approach
- 4. Europe’s labour shortage
- 5. Illegal immigration
- 6. Asylum and refugees
- 7. Key policy makers and contacts