The EU launches a migrant integration plan to combat extremism | International

A protest in Berlin against the evacuation of migrant camps on the Greek island of Lesbos, last September.
A protest in Berlin against the evacuation of migrant camps on the Greek island of Lesbos, last September.STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The European Union emphasizes the radicalization that is taking place in some migrant groups and launches an offensive “to fill the gaps” that “exploit” the “extremist organizations” whose message reaches the “most vulnerable”. This was stated this Tuesday by the European Lifestyle Commissioner, Margaritis Schinas, during the presentation of the Integration and Inclusion Action Plan, which will guide the community strategy against people of extra-community origin until 2027. The measures will focus on four key areas: education, employment, health and housing. The project will promote public policy at the local and regional level through a myriad of European funds.

The evidence that there is a lack of social cohesion in the EU and excruciating discrimination between those born inside and outside the iron walls of Schengen is piling up on the table. The tests are even more embarrassing when it is noted how the effects of covid hit differently depending on the cradle. Brussels is trying to redirect with the integration plan presented this Tuesday the situation of a good portion of its population: 34 million Europeans are of non-EU origin (8% of citizens) and around 10% of young people between 15 and 34 years old have at least one foreign father, according to data provided by the Commission.

However, among those born on the other side of the border, the employment rate is 10 points lower than that of those born in the EU (64.2% compared to 73.9%); the percentage of people with a low educational level is almost double (38.5% versus 19.6%); the risk of exclusion or poverty is 20 points higher (39% compared to 19.5%) and it is more common for them to live in crowded households (27.6% compared to 14.2%)

The new Brussels strategy is based on the concept that “integration is a two-way street”, as Schinas himself has enunciated it, to which both migrants and the host society have to contribute. This idea was already used in the controversial Joint Declaration signed by the 27 Interior Ministers on November 13, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the Bataclan concert hall and other bars and venues in Paris that left 130 dead.

The declaration linked migration and extremism, something that stung in some European capitals, while it knew little in others. But from the final version, at the express request of various governments, the references to “Islam” that appeared in the drafts were removed. “The terrorist threat comes from within and from beyond the borders,” protested an Interior source present in the discussion, annoyed because the EU discourse, which these days also negotiates the migration and asylum package, seems to focus ” in returns and borders ”leaving aside“ integration ”.

Bataclan’s statement was a way to close ranks around French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been hardening the tone on the lack of integration of Muslims. After chaining several attacks on Gallic soil (including the beheading of a teacher who showed his students the cartoons of Muhammad), Macron declared war on “Islamist separatism” and recognized “the shortcomings in the integration policy and in the fight against The discrimination”.

That same debate is now coming to Brussels. The Greek commissioner, Margaritis Schinas, has conceded this Tuesday that the relationship between “migration and extremism” is not “automatic.” Nor has he cited Islam. But he has assured that the “risk of extremist organizations preaching among the vulnerable, and exploiting the gaps left by public services and community structures” persists. And that, he said, is the work of the EU: “Let no one feel vulnerable or excluded and fill these gaps.”

European lifestyle

The Action Plan is perhaps also a way of intoning the MEA culpa and to act in those margins where the forgotten tend to live. It promotes “inclusion in the broad sense” and will seek to forge partnerships with member states, regional and local authorities, economic and social agents, employers and civil society to coordinate a “bottom-up” strategy. For its preparation, the advice of people of extra-community origin has been counted on and the opinion of NGOs and other relevant actors has been obtained.

The plan ensures that initiatives will be promoted to improve language programs and the recognition of foreign qualifications; promote, with entrepreneurs and employers, inclusion in the labor market and entrepreneurship of migrants; facilitate the recognition of skills acquired abroad; access to health services and support for prevention programs, as well as access to “adequate and affordable” housing that avoids ghettos. One of the key roles of the Commission will be as a funder of programs and projects that seek social cohesion, with packages such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, the European Social Fund, or the Regional Development Funds, in addition to the Erasmus programs. +, InvestEU and that of Citizenship, Equality, Rights and Values.

Schinas closed his speech by ensuring that integration is at the “heart of the European way of life”, thus honoring the title of his vice-presidency. But this name already generated controversy when it was created by the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in 2019: at first it was called “Protection of the European way of life”. And only after a fiery protest from those who wondered what to protect against, it was changed to “Promotion of the European way of life”.