Select Committee on European Scrutiny Third Report


A COMMUNITY IMMIGRATION POLICY


(21845)
11529/00
COM(00) 757

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on a Community immigration policy.


Legal base:
Document originated: 22 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 24 November 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 4 December 2000
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 18 December 2000
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Recommended for debate in Standing Committee C

Background

  3.1  This Communication is a response to the call for a common EU immigration policy, as proposed both in Article 63 EC, and at the special European Council at Tampere. A separate Communication, presented at the same time but only recently deposited in Parliament, addresses a common asylum procedure.

The document

  3.2  The aim of the Communication is to stimulate a debate on the admission and integration of third country nationals in order to reach a consensus on the objectives of a common EU immigration policy. It takes a broad view of the subject, including the effects of emigration on countries of origin and the importance of integrating third country nationals into Member States.

  3.3  The early sections of the document set out the Tampere framework for a common EU asylum and immigration policy and record progress to date on partnership with countries of origin, a common European asylum system, fair treatment of third country nationals and management of migration flows.

  3.4  The document then addresses immigration, which it divides into three broad categories: humanitarian, family reunion, and economic migration. It states:

    "Any EU immigration policy needs to take into account migration of all types — humanitarian, family reunion and economic — and to deal with the impact on the sending and receiving countries as a whole. It will need to respond to the difficult political debates taking place in some countries and will require strong political leadership to help shape public opinion. In dealing with all types of migration, it should present an integrated approach, taking account of the benefits of diversity in society, the need for a balanced framework of rights and obligations for third country nationals resident in the Union, the importance of developing support for integration and the effects on the labour market. The policy should be developed under a new framework for co-operation at Community level, which would be based on co-operation, exchange of information, and reporting and would be co-ordinated by the Commission."

  3.5  The Communication focuses on economic migration (which it says has been close to zero since the 1970s). It proposes a more flexible approach "based on the recognition that migratory pressures will continue and that there are benefits that orderly immigration can bring to the EU, to the migrants themselves and to their countries of origin". It argues that, besides meeting the needs of the market place, legal admission policies for labour migration could help to reduce illegal immigration (particularly in its worst forms of smuggling and trafficking) and provide an opportunity to ensure compliance with existing labour legislation by employers of third country nationals.

  3.6  The document emphasises that the responsibility for determining the needs for different categories of migrant labour must remain with the Member States. However, it proposes a new process based on co-operation, information exchange and reporting, which would require Member States to prepare two-part periodic reports. The first part would review the development and impact of the previous period's immigration policy; the second would set out future intentions, including a projection of labour migrants to be admitted with an indication of the skills levels needed. Indicative targets are suggested, rather than any quota system. The Commission would present a synthesis of reports to the Council which would then lay down the principles of the common approach for the next period, taking into account the progress made in implementing the European Employment Strategy. The Commission would take on a monitoring and evaluation role.

  3.7  The Communication then addresses the issue of a legal framework for admission, which it summarises thus:

    "The Commission proposes that a common legal framework for admission of third country nationals should be developed, in consultation with the Member States, which would be based on the principles of transparency, rationality and flexibility. The legal status granted to third country nationals would be based on the principle of providing sets of rights and responsibilities on a basis of equality with those of nationals but differentiated according to the length of stay while providing for progression to permanent status. In the longer term this could extend to offering a form of civic citizenship, based on the EC Treaty and inspired by the Charter of Fundamental Rights, consisting of a set of rights and duties offered to third country nationals."

  3.8  The Commission proposes that the Communication be widely distributed for debate, the results of which will be discussed at a conference in the second half of 2001. The conclusions of the conference will then be presented to the Brussels Council at the end of 2001, which will also be considering the mid-term review of the Tampere implementation programme.

The Government's view

  3.9  In her Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) welcomes the Communication as a "thoughtful basis" for a debate in which the Government intends to be an active participant. She continues:

    "The UK Government has itself launched a debate on the need for migration policy to match demographic and social change, ensuring a satisfactory supply of qualified workers to ensure the development of successful economies. The Government also recognises that there is a link between legal migration opportunities and illegal migration pressures, although this is only part of a wider and complex range of migration issues."

  3.10  The Minister sets out the UK position as follows:

    "The Government's approach to the development of such a common policy will be influenced by its intention to maintain the United Kingdom's existing frontier controls, in accordance with its Protocol secured at Amsterdam, and to participate in measures brought forward under Title IV of the TEC only where this would not conflict [with] the Government's stated policy on its participation in Title IV matters. At the same time, the Government aims to ensure, where appropriate, that the United Kingdom's immigration policies are broadly in line with those of other Member States.

    "Some areas where we shall seek clarification, and follow the debate with particular interest, are set out below:

    "—  the Government supports the proposal that a constructive dialogue with countries of origin and transit should be an important component of immigration policy. The United Kingdom plays an active part in the work of the High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration which is based on just such a concept;

    "—  the Government notes with interest the suggestion that, en route to the acquisition of the host State's nationality, there should be some form of 'civic citizenship' which carries with it a package of core rights for long-resident third country nationals. Although nationality itself is a matter of Member State, not Community, competence, the UK supports measures to ensure that the rights of long-term, legally resident third country nationals are broadly comparable to those of the Member States' own nationals, in order to encourage integration into the host community;

    "—  the Government endorses wholeheartedly the principle of fair treatment for third country nationals. But the Government's participation in this aspect of the debate will be predicated on the European Council's conclusions, at Tampere, that rights comparable to those of EU citizens should relate to rights applicable within their country of residence. The Government would therefore have difficulty with proposals which granted rights of residence for such persons in other Member States; and

    "—  the Government fully supports the proposal that policies on admission should be counterbalanced by a firm approach to illegal migration [sic], especially in relation to smuggling and trafficking in human beings."

Conclusion

  3.11  We agree with the Minister that this is a thoughtful document which takes a broad view of migration issues and puts forward some new and significant proposals. We consider that, although it is simply a discussion document, it merits consideration by Parliament, and we therefore recommend it for debate in European Standing Committee C.

  3.12  The Standing Committee may wish to ask the Minister:

  • whether she agrees that orderly immigration can bring benefits to the EU, to the migrants themselves and to their countries of origin;

  • whether she favours the process proposed by the Commission for indicative immigration targets;

  • what her view is of the suggested "civic citizenship" for long-resident third country nationals; in particular:

        (i) whether she considers it necessary, given the duty of Contracting States to the European Convention on Human Rights to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms set forth within that Convention; and

        (ii) what she considers is meant by the reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights in this context; and

  • which aspects of the Communication she considers may conflict with the UK's intention to maintain its existing frontier controls.



 
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