Immigration, Integration and Citizenship in European Union Law: The Position of Third Country Nationals

Date01 January 2008
Immigration, integration and citizenship
in European Union Law: the position of
third country nationals
The integration of immigrants into the institutional and social fabric of
receiving societies is an issue which has received increasing attention in
recent times. Integration has been variously described as “a matter of social
cohesion and a prerequisite for economic efficiency”,1and “the process of
economic mobility and the social inc lusion of newco mers”.2In the Ir ish
context, the first Irish Minister for Integration was appointed in 2007,3and
the Immigrant Council of Ireland has observed that:
We are starting to realise that, when immigrants settle in a country, they
have to find opportunities to ‘belong’ and participate in that country. We
realise that this is as true in the practical sense (for example, in relation
to employment) as in the social, political, and cultural sense.4
Even in more straitened financial circumstances, immigration will continue
to be a feature of Irish society f or the foreseeable future, and integration
issues should not be sidelined.5
Law plays a significant role in the process of integration. Law defines the
framework within which integration does or does not happen by regulating
* Cliodhna Murphy is a trainee with McCann Fitzgerald. Special thanks to Dr Rosemary
Byrne for helpful comments on drafts of this article. Any errors or omissions of course
remain my own.
1 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the
European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions:
Immigration, Integration and Employment (Brussels, COM (2003) 336) (hereinafter,
“2003 Communication”) at p 17.
2See Fix, “Immig rant Integration and Comprehe nsive Immigration Reform: An
Overview” in Migration Policy Institute, Securi ng the Future: US Immigrant and
Integration Policy (2007).
3Conor Lenihan TD was appointed Mi nister for State with Responsibility for
Integration in June 2007.
4Immigrant Council of Ireland and Migration an d Citizenship Resea rch Unit UCD,
Getting On From Migration to Int egration: Chinese, Indian, Lithuanian and
Nigerian Migrants’ Experience in Ireland (May 2008), Introduction.
5See for example “Integration now more urgent than ever” Irish Times 13 July 2008.
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the legal and social conditions of migrants’ everyday lives. The rights of
non-citizen groups are increasingly defined in terms of their membership of
legal and administrative categories and law thus defines migrants’ rights and
obligations and grants or restricts access to essential elements of the
integration process. Legal mechanisms thus act as both instruments of and
barriers to integration, as well as shaping perceptions of identity and who
“belongs” in a state.
Against this backdrop, the approach taken in European Union (EU) law
and policy to the integr ation of third country na tionals is important on a
number of levels. On a strictly legal level, EU law constitutes a significant
body of norms impacting on integrati on in all Member Sta tes.6This body
of norms will be considered in detail in this article. On a more abstract level,
the European Union provides a supranational dimension to citizenship and
belonging, potentially leading to a cosmopolitan openness towards the
‘other’.7The transformative potential of EU law in the field of migration has
been witnessed in t he case o f EU citi zens. EU law relating to the free
movement of workers altered the status of EU migr ant workers and their
families in a legal sense with a consequent change in the way in which such
migrants are perceived. Nationals of EU Member States living and working
in other Member States have been gradually transformed from ‘immigrants’
subject to the conditions of entry and residence imposed by the State, to EU
citizens, entitled to equal treatment and respect as the host population. The
concept of European citizenship has been a significant element of this
process. It has thus been seen that EU law can in itself constitute an
instrument of integration.
This article aims to examine the conceptual and legal framework formed
by EU law for the exploration of the question of the integration of non-EU
national mi grants (referred to in this articl e as third country nationals or
‘TCN’s), with the primar y aim of determining whether EU law contains a
coherent p aradigm of integration. EU integration poli cy can be split i nto
two separate bu t interlinked sp heres: specific ‘soft’ integrati on policy and
conceptions of i ntegration contained in general immigration law, and this
article will consider each in turn. This will be followed by a discussion of
the implications of the developing concept of EU c itizenship for the in te -
gration of TCNs. It will be argued that EU law encompasses a multiplicity
of conceptions of integration, due in part to the preoccupation of Member
6As the Irish Mini ster for Integration has ob served: “globa lisation, amon g other
international phenomena, binds us together with other States and st andardises
experiences generated by the moveme nt of peop le. As an EU Member State, this
binding is a powerf ul determinant of integration issues and the role of the EU is
particularly relevant.” Office of the Minister for Integration, Migration Nation:
Statement on Integration Strategy and Diversity Management (May 2008) at p 29.
7Kostakopoulou, “European Uni on Citizenship: Writing the Future” (2 007) 13(5)
European LJ 623 at pp 628–629.
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