European Commission: Migration is a major strategic priority for EU

As birthrates drop and the populations age in European Union countries, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure a sufficiently large work force and to fund pension plans, but immigration might prove to be the way to reverse this process. These were the principal conclusions of a European Commission report just released, and they highlight the need to formulate a common European policy on migration, as provided for by the Amsterdam convention which has been in force since 1999. The basic guidelines on migration policy are aimed at the effective management of migration, just treatment of migrants, the development of cooperation with countries from which migrants come, the development of a common framework for granting asylum and the formulation of action to assist the economic and social integration of migrants. The European Commission views migration as a major strategic priority for the EU: «If carefully managed, it can be a positive factor for growth and success for both the Union and the countries concerned,» the Commission noted in a statement released December 3. According to the European Commission’s report, the population will stop increasing or start to decrease by 2015 in most parts of the EU. Migration will acquire greater significance as a means of increasing population growth in Europe. In the past five years, it has been responsible for 70 percent of the increase in the population. The aging trend is irreversible. Even if the migration rate and the birthrate both doubled by 2050, it would still not guarantee a sufficiently large work force or enough funds for pension plans. Mobility between EU member states has remained at very low levels in the past few years compared with the 1950s and 60s, despite the lifting of many restrictions on free movement. This is attributed to the considerable improvement in living standards in southern Europe and Ireland, which now receive immigrants, and to a series of obstacles facing prospective migrants, such as language requirements, the decision to leave one’s home environment and the difficulty of finding a home. Educational levels also affect internal mobility. Individuals with a high educational level adapt faster, learn languages more quickly and are more mobile in general. Young people, who are typically more mobile, form a small part of what is an aging population. The 1990s saw a substantial increase in migration to other countries, In 1998, the non-EU population of EU countries rose to 13 million, or 3.5 percent of the total, up 50 percent since 1985. The rate of migration is not steady, depending as it does on external factors, such as the recent crisis in the Balkans. In recent years, the number of specialized jobs in most member states has increased markedly. Such jobs now number 500,000 and, despite rising unemployment, the trend is expected to intensify. This has led to demands from the business community for more flexible migration regulations that would allow the increasing needs for specialist workers to be met.