Patrick Simon

presents a brief assessment of integration policies in Europe.

The European Council began the process of harmonizing member-state integration policies in Tampere in 1999; in 2004 it defined “common principles” for immigrant integration. This was followed by a number of programmes aimed to construct a shared approach to a subject viewed very differently by longstanding immigrant-receiving countries in Western and Northern Europe and countries in Southern Europe that only recently began receiving immigrants, and viewed above all very differently by assimilationist countries like France and multiculturalist countries like Sweden and Britain or formerly multiculturalist ones like the Netherlands.

What is an integration policy?

The main components of integration policies are language training to ensure immigrant proficiency in the language of the settlement country and the setting up of special social programmes to assist immigrants in the areas of housing, employment, education and access to legal rights during their first years of residence. Usually the goal is to help immigrants become independent while inducing them to adopt settlement society norms and values. That second, highly subjective objective now looms large in European societies, which are insecure about their own cohesiveness and troubled about possible changes due to long-term immigrant settlement. Integration policies have become much more coercive; in many countries, immigrants are now tested on language acquisition and adoption of cultural norms before they can qualify for certain welfare benefits and entitlements. Permanent residence applicants must now show “proof of integration” and naturalization procedures have become more stringent.

What is the situation in Europe and France today?

In the last decade there have been decisive changes that have completely redrawn the integration policy landscape. The Netherlands has virtually abandoned its multiculturalist approach, adopting programmes aimed instead at immigrant assimilation of Dutch cultural and social norms and values. Britain’s position is still multicultural but the current Conservative government stresses the central role of British identity and has scrapped many of the country’s anti-discrimination policies, which were exemplary within the European Union. Germany has combined a relatively assimilationist integration policy in matters of citizenship for long-settled immigrants and their German-born children with a new and not yet entirely effective anti-discrimination policy.

Fundamental changes have also been made to French policy recently. At the start of his presidency in 2012, François Hollande began a full-scale reorganization of French integration policy the result of which has been to separate policies for new immigrants covering first five years in France from policies for long-settled immigrants and their descendants. The first set concern integration while the second are now part of anti-discrimination policy in the sectors of education, employment, family policy, etc. But when policy that used to target immigrants and their descendants was redefined as a matter of enforcing ordinary law, no specific funding was provided and the institutions in charge of sectorial policy did not identify target populations. In sum, France no longer has integration policy programmes that target the situation of long-term immigrants and their descendants. Moreover, no coordination structure was assigned to supervise programme decentralization, meaning that the new programmes cannot be monitored or assessed. These are the conclusions reached by the INED component of the EU “Upstream” project on “mainstreaming immigrant integration policy” in the Netherlands, France, Spain, Great Britain and Poland, a project coordinated by Erasmus University Rotterdam and funded by the European Integration Fund.