Select Committee on European Scrutiny Ninth Report


COM(01) 387

Commission Communication on an open method of co-ordination for the Community immigration policy.

Legal base:
Document originated: 11 July 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 16 July 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 12 September 2001
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 10 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


  3.1  This Communication follows on from the Commission Communication on a Community Immigration Policy,[10] which was cleared following a debate in European Standing Committee B in April. That Communication proposed a procedure for a gradual co-ordination of immigration policy at Community level.

The document

  3.2  The document proposes employing the "open method of co-ordination" (already used in relation to the Employment Strategy and the EU Social Policy Agenda) to support the development of the Community immigration policy. This method involves an annual cycle of adoption of guidelines by the Council, the development of National Action Plans by Member States, and the drafting of a synthesis report evaluating the Plans against the guidelines. The Communication explains that the open co-ordination method "will support and complement the Community legislation called for in the Treaty and will provide a framework for reviewing with the Member States the implementation of these legal instruments."

  3.3  The guidelines will initially be established in the following areas: management of migration flows; admission of economic migrants; partnership with third countries and the integration of third-country nationals. The Commission puts forward six guidelines, the first three of which are related to the management of migration flows:

"—  developing a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to migration management at national level;

—  improving information available on legal possibilities for admission to the EU and on the consequences of using illegal channels;

—  reinforcing the fight against illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking...;

—  establishing a coherent and transparent policy and procedures for opening the labour market to third country nationals within the framework of the European employment strategy;

—   integrating migration issues into relations with third countries, and, in particular, with countries of origin; and

—  ensuring the development of integration policies for third-country nationals residing legally on the territories of the Member States."

  3.4  The proposal is for National Action Plans to fall into two parts: an overview of the previous year's performance, and proposals for implementing the guidelines in the following year. Member States would fix their own national objectives, within a framework of overall European targets. The synthesis report would include recommendations for the future development of the Community Development Policy, including revisions to the guidelines. Preparation of the report would be co-ordinated with the similar reports on employment and social inclusion. The Communication proposes that this open co-ordination method should be introduced for an initial period of six years, with the Guidelines being approved "as soon as possible in 2002".

The Government's view

  3.5  In her Explanatory Memorandum, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Angela Eagle) comments fully on the proposal, saying:

"The Government welcomes this communication as the next step in response to the call for a common EU immigration policy, as envisaged both in Article 63 TEC and at the special European Council at Tampere. The Government believes that consultation, co-operation and increased co-ordination of policies in the fields of both legal and illegal immigration are key to the successful management of a migration policy, here and elsewhere in Europe. The proposal for an open method of co-ordination should facilitate this process at a European level.

"Nevertheless, the Government's approach to any further measures for developing an open method of co-ordination will be influenced by its Protocols secured at Amsterdam.

"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 and considers that an open method of co-ordination is an appropriate approach to achieving this. However, the Government would find it difficult to participate in measures that impinged on the right of Member States to determine their own policy where this was in the national interest. It is important that the principle of subsidiarity be maintained and that any emerging Community Immigration Policy is focussed on those areas which are best met by a co-ordinated approach at a European level.

"The guidelines, as proposed within the Communication lay out a policy framework that broadly mirrors much of the Government's current thinking. Indeed, the Government is already active at a local, national, European and international level in taking forward policy to achieve many of these objectives.

"The Government supports the view that migration should be managed through a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach at a national level. It considers it important to improve the provision of information on legal possibilities for admission to Member States, as well as the consequences of using illegal routes, in order that individuals coming to Member States can make informed decisions on the basis of accurate information. The UK is also determined to continue the fight against illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking, both through national and EU-wide measures.

"On the admission of economic migrants, the Government believes that the development of a Community Immigration Policy is complementary to but distinct from the Employment Strategy. It does not consider that any potential conflict between these two strategies requires special mechanisms at an EU level. Measures to ensure that immigration policy is consistent with Member States' labour market policies are best carried out at a domestic level.

"The Government believes that international co-operation is vital to achieve orderly migration flows and that Member States should take into account the impact of their immigration policies on source countries and, in particular, on developing countries. While migration can have negative impacts on source countries, it can also bring benefits and the Government will seek the most appropriate methods to maximise these.

"Finally, the Government is committed to the fair treatment of third country nationals. In order to maximise the benefits of migration to Member States and to the migrants themselves, it is vital that they are able to actively participate, where appropriate, in the social, economic and civic life of the UK. Measures to facilitate the social inclusion of those who are legitimately in the UK are an important means of ensuring this.

"There are some details of the proposals about which the Government will be seeking clarification. These include:

—  the legislative basis and reporting obligations for the proposed open method of co-ordination; and

—  the timing and content of National Action Plans and synthesis reports."

  3.6  The Minister also tells us that the proposed open method of co-ordination would place an additional reporting cost on the UK.


  3.7  The Government has generally welcomed the "open method of co-ordination", but we note a certain caution in its approach to this proposal, owing presumably to the issue of the UK's position in relation to measures that come under Title IV of the EC Treaty.

  3.8  Our sister Committee in the House of Lords has asked the Minister a number of questions in order to clarify the implications of the proposal for the UK's position. We will keep the document under scrutiny until we see her response.

10  (21845) 11529/00; see HC 28-iii (2000-01), paragraph 3 (17 January 2001). Back

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