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Research-Policy Dialogues in the European Union

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Part of the IMISCOE Research Series book series (IMIS)


Unlike its individual member states, the EU is not responsible for migrant integration and does not possess or promote a particular migrant integration framework or paradigm. However, it does have a growing relevance to this field because of the development of its common migration and asylum policy, which includes certain provisions on migrant integration. As the EU does not have a strong legal basis for action in this area, its role lies more in the gathering and exchange of knowledge, the sharing of ideas, and the monitoring of practices. This chapter assesses both the structures of knowledge production and the utilisation of knowledge, while it also looks at dialogue structures that mediate the relationship between these two. It analyses a number of examples of such structures, and concludes that the production and utilisation of knowledge often goes beyond a purely instrumental use. The European Commission tends to use the knowledge it generates to develop a greater role for the EU, and to legitimate that role as an actor in this policy area. Unlike what has been observed in practically all national case studies, knowledge use at the EU level can be seen as a form of institutional legitimation. There is little evidence, however, that EU action has spilled over into wider public debate so far.


  • Member State
  • Family Reunification
  • Home Affair
  • Immigrant Integration
  • Dialogue Structure

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

16.1 Introduction

Migrants actively contribute to the economic, social and cultural development of European societies. Their successful integration into society in the host country is the key to maximising the opportunities of legal migration and making the most of the contributions that immigration can make to EU development. Although the EU is not responsible for integration, it is supporting national and local policies with policy coordination, exchange of knowledge and financial support.Footnote 1

This quote, taken from the website of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Home Affairs, provides insight into the conceptual and empirical issues that are encountered when analysing science-society dialogues (SSDs) on migrant integration at EU level. As Scholten (2011: 42) notes ‘the social construction of problems is considered inherently related to the institutional setting within which framing takes place’. Of particular relevance is that the EU is not responsible for migrant integration and does not possess or promote a particular migrant integration framework or paradigm. What it does promote, as this chapter shows, are two things. First, knowledge exchange on migrant integration and, second, the stimulation of applied scientific research on issues associated with integration. It is important to recognise these limits. Organising meetings or funding research does not amount to the propagation of some kind of EU model or framework. There is the possibility that these may reify and/or refine existing national approaches rather than fuel the hunt for some kind of EU alternative. Obviously and necessarily, integration issues are best dealt with at a local and national level. This does not mean that the EU has no role to play, but that it’s role is rightly circumscribed by the practical nature of the issues. The chapter’s main empirical focus is on two types of EU activity that exemplify the kinds of co-ordination, knowledge exchange and knowledge stimulation that the EU can promote. We explore the role of the European Migration Network (EMN) as a predominantly member state driven way of sharing ideas and information about migration, including issues related to integration. We also examine the role of the Migrant Integration Policy Index as a monitoring exercise led by a Brussels-based NGO, the Migration Policy Group.Footnote 2 This means that the chapter has a rather different focus to the national case studies because the accommodation of religious pluriformity, naturalisation of newcomers and reception policies for immigrant children in primary and secondary education are not EU competencies. These are and will very likely remain the responsibility of member states. The EU does, however, claim a role for itself in coordinating policies and, significantly in the context of this analysis of SSDs, exchanging knowledge. That said, the chapter shows that EU dialogue takes the form of a more restricted policy dialogue that involves a network of actors united by their expertise in relation to this area of policy. There is little evidence to suggest that EU action specifically in this area has spilled over into wider public debate in the member states.

The word ‘exchange’ used in the quote at the beginning of this chapter is relatively neutral and says little about institutional processes or framing effects. This chapter takes exchange as a synonym for dialogue and looks at dialogue structures and their content. The EU could merely reflect the policy pre-occupations of member states; alternatively it could re-shape the preferences and identities of actors and make them think differently about migrant integration. It may also have particular effects on some member states compared to others (newer compared to older member states or newer compared to older immigration countries, for example). It can also involve the EU in calling for research on aspects of migrant integration. This chapter shows the active stimulation of research on migrant integration that does include religion, naturalisation and education, and also demonstrates how boundary organisations such as think-tanks play an active role in policy debate at the EU level, occasionally having close relationships with EU institutions. There is, however, little evidence of broader public debate. The EU addresses a ‘specialist public’ of migrant and pro-migrant organisations, think-tanks and other civil society organisations.

In terms of broader comparison and in relation to the production of knowledge, its utilisation and to dialogue structures, there are clear distinctions between the EU and the national cases. The most important aspect of this distinction is that the EU is not a state, does not have a ‘national paradigm of migration research’ and does not fund research centres and institutes in a comparable way to what happens in some of the other case countries within this book. This does not mean that there is a complete absence of EU competencies. Since 1999, the EU has established a range of ‘harder’ (essentially meaning with legal effect) governance mechanisms, including two directives on anti-discrimination, plus directives on family reunification and the rights of long term residents that contain provisions on integration measures. The EU is, thus, relevant to the study of dialogues on immigrant integration in Europe; but the task is to establish why, how and with what effects this relevance has been established, has become evident, who the key players are, and how the dialogues have been structured. The chapter shows how dialogues on migrant integration are embedded within and enabled by an EU context with its own distinct source of legal, social and political power. Any attempt to characterise EU dialogue on migrant integration needs to be attuned to this EU context and its development without exaggerating its effects but aware of its activities and their implications (both actual and potential) for the development and exchange of knowledge about migrant integration in Europe.

16.2 Migrant Integration: Key Issues

Time and timing are always important when studying problem structures in particular policy areas. The debate about migrant integration is linked to the broader debate about EU immigration and asylum policy that was given significant impetus in the 1980s and 1990s by three fundamentally important events in this history of European integration. The first was the creation of the Schengen Area in 1985 by a smaller, vanguard group of member states (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The aim was to move more quickly to the attainment of free movement objectives by creating an area within which people would be able to move freely with ‘compensating’ internal security measures. As of 2011, Ireland the UK remained outside Schengen while non-EU members Iceland and Norway participated as observers. Schengen does not deal with migrant integration, but does play a role in shaping the EU’s institutional setting. Immigration and asylum became issues that were largely populated by officials from interior ministries and internal security agencies. The relevant frame here was the security setting within which a rights-based conceptualisation of the economically mobile citizen existed.

The second key event was the Single European Act (SEA) of 1986, which had as its core objective the creation of an internal market for all member states which would be an area without internal frontiers within which the free movement of people, services, goods and capital would be assured. The SEA marked a progressive extension of earlier market-based liberalisation that had occurred on the basis of the Treaty of Rome and had led to the creation of the Common Market in the 1960s. The important point to bear in mind for the discussion of immigrant integration is that market-based integration created certain understandings of rights. For example, the Treaty of Rome (1957) contained provisions outlawing discrimination on the grounds of nationality and on the grounds of gender. The 1976 directive (76/207/EEC) on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women related to access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions. An understanding of market citizenship developed that linked mobility within the EU to the attainment of economic objectives. In the context of debates about the welfare state (within which, of course, much discussion of immigrant integration resides) the EU’s objective wasn’t so much to ‘decommodify’ people (to reduce their reliance on the market) but to allow new opportunities for commodification in an economically integrated and market-driven EU.

The third key event was the end of the Cold War and its implications for immigration policy, particularly for a re-focused debate about security with a move from ‘national’ to ‘societal’ security with an attendant focus on the construction of new security threats, such as irregular migration. Inter-state cooperation on migration at EU level was greatly impelled by the end of the Cold War, with increased concerns about a range of internal security issues, including immigration and asylum. These concerns were based on largely unfounded fears about large-scale migration; but, as is often the case in immigration, big numbers and dramatic projections can often have a big impact on debate.

By the mid-1990s, ‘Schengenland’ was being developed outside of the formal treaty framework within which key features of the EU immigration paradigm were being developed and operationalised; single market integration was providing an impetus to notions of market-based citizenship; and, the Maastricht Treaty moved immigration and asylum into informal modes of inter-state cooperation with a strong intergovernmental bias. These can all be characterised as macro events that were to have specific implications for the definition of migrant integration as an EU issue and the attendant problem structure. The implications were as follows: notions of security in post-Cold War Europe and market-based citizenship for the economically useful configured the EU’s institutional setting; member states were the key actors with supranational institutions such as the Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice largely excluded; and the Treaty was ‘silent’ on immigrant integration.

The development of a common response to migrant integration is documented more fully in Sandra Pratt’s contribution to this volume. From its formal inception in Title IV of the Treaty of Amsterdam (agreed in 1997 and entered into force in 1999) developments in the area of migration have been characterised by a complex, multi-speed process resulting in different competences and styles of policy- and law-making. The scope of this legal and policy development on immigration can be characterised as partial, limited, asymmetric and flexible. Partial in the sense of applying to some but not all aspects of migration policy – admissions policy is a notable exception. Limited in the sense that, until recently, the involvement of institutions such as the European Parliament and European Court of Justice was severely constrained. Asymmetric in the sense that the effects on member states can differ. And flexible in the sense that the UK, Ireland and Denmark have opt-out arrangements from Title IV provisions and their subsequent development.

The most important EU directives related to migrant integration are those on anti-discrimination (agreed in June and November 2000), the rights of long-term residents (2003) and the right to family reunion (2003). Both the directive on family reunion and the directive on the rights of long-term residents contain ‘integration measures’.

16.2.1 The Racial Equality (2000/43/EC) and Employment Equality Directives (2000/78/EC)

The Racial Equality Directive defines and proscribes direct and indirect discrimination and harassment, and provides for positive action to be taken to ensure full equality in practice. It also requires each member state to set up an organisation to promote equal treatment and assist victims of racial discrimination. Similar in many ways to the Racial Equality Directive, the Employment Equality Directive requires equal treatment in employment and training irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

The Commission reported on the implementation of the directives in 2006 and 2008 (COM (2006) 643 final and COM(2008) 225 final), launched infringement proceedings against around half of all member states for non-compliance; and made a ‘renewed commitment’ to complete the task with the proposal of a new directive.

16.2.2 Family Reunification (Council Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003)

The EU family reunion directive determines the conditions under which legally resident third-country nationals (TCNs) can exercise the right to family reunification. It also ‘aims to highlight’ the need for integration policy to grant TCNs rights and obligations comparable to EU Citizens. The EU directive on family reunification was agreed in June 2003 after a negotiating period of 3 years and after three different Commission proposals. Denmark, Ireland the UK are not covered by its provisions. The long negotiating period indicates that the Commission encountered resistance from member states and was forced to temper some of the more progressive aspects of the original proposals that would have impinged more directly on member states’ admissions policies. Throughout the negotiation it became clear that a core group of states – with Austria, Germany and the Netherlands to the fore – would insist on EU measures that did not place additional constraints on their capacity to regulate admission of family members.

The EU directive determines: the right to family reunification of TCNs who reside lawfully in the territory of an EU member state; the conditions under which family members can enter into and reside in a member state; and the rights of the family members (once the application for family reunification has been accepted) regarding, for example, education and training. The Directive also recognises the rights of member states to impose conditions on family migration and gives them margin to do so in relation to factors such as the definition of the family, waiting periods and integration measures.

16.2.3 Long-Term Residence (Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003)

The legitimation for EU action extending mobility rights to legally resident TCNs after 5 years of residence was represented as a way for the EU to attain its ‘market-making’ objectives linked, for example, to the Lisbon Process that proclaimed the aim of making the EU the world’s leading knowledge-based economy by 2010. The economic impulse to economic and political integration in Europe dating back to the Treaty of Rome provided by the four freedoms (freedom of movement for people, services, goods and capital) is a basic, founding principle. The rights of long-term residents were developed in this context, but here too we see a focus on ‘integration measures’ as member states seek to ensure that if legally resident TCNs were to move from one state to another, then there would be some scope for member states to insist on application of any relevant integration measures in their national laws.

The directive concerned the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents and was generally considered less controversial than the directive on family reunion. It establishes rights and freedoms for long-term TCNs to be granted after 5 years of continual residence. These rights include access to employment and self-employed activity; education and vocational training; social protection and assistance; and access to goods and services. The directive also gives the right to move and reside in another member state. As with the directive on Family Reunion, during the Council negotiations a clause was inserted in Article 5 (conditions for acquisition of secure status) to include ‘compliance with integration conditions provided for by national law’. This has been criticised because it allows member states wide discretion to use mandatory integration requirements (for example passing an integration test and covering its financial costs) before getting access to the benefits and rights conferred by the status of long-term resident. Again it was the Netherlands, Austria and Germany who were the driving forces behind the insertion of this extra clause.

16.2.4 Soft Governance Mechanisms

The key point about soft measures is that they are non-binding. This does not mean that they are without effect, but it does mean that it can be more difficult to detect effects. So, for example, there is a network of National Contacts Points on Integration at member state level; the member states agreed to the Common Basic Principles on integration; there is a network of largely interior minister officials known as the European Migration Network (EMN); there is a think tank-led monitoring exercise, the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX); funds for research have been provided by various funds; and finally there is the ubiquitous website. There have also been attempts to influence the agenda – for example the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM). These various softer governance mechanisms don’t bind the member states, but can provide a forum for knowledge exchange and the development of new knowledge.

The Common Basic Principles on Immigrant Integration (CBPI) are shown in Table 16.1. Fuller discussion of the origins of the CBPI can be found in Sandra Pratt’s contribution to this volume. They emerged as a result of discussion and reflect the changing focus of European integration policies. They were formally agreed during the Dutch Council Presidency in the second half of 2004.

Table 16.1 The ‘common basic principles on immigrant integration’, adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 19 November 2004

We now move on to assess institutional roles arising largely from the extension of competence to supranational institutions as a result of the gradual communitarisation of immigration policy since the Amsterdam Treaty came into force in 1999. This has included a growing role for the European Parliament (EP) through the application of what is known as the Ordinary legislative procedure (OLP) and enhanced powers for the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) since the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009. It then identifies the wider constellation of actors present in this policy field.

Within the EU system, power has tended to reside with the Council comprised of member states. This has given an intergovernmental focus to policy development and decision-making. However, there is a growing role and influence for supranational institutions. Indeed, following the Lisbon Treaty (2009) migration and asylum became fully communitarised policy areas, which means co-decision-making between the Council and European Parliament and full jurisdiction in this policy area for the Court of Justice.

The Commission took on a stronger role after the Amsterdam Treaty came into force in 1999. Following a decision made by the Heads of Government in June 2003, National Contact Points on Integration were established. The Commission was also asked to present annual reports on Migration and Integration. In its 2003 Communication on Integration and Employment the Commission set out its approach to integration. In June 2004, the Common Basic Principles on Integration (CBPI) were agreed and in November 2004 a Handbook on Integration for Policymakers and Practitioners was published (written by the Migration Policy Group, MPG). Funding mechanisms were created through the establishment of Preparatory Actions for the integration of TCNs (INTI). The 2007–2013 budget created a European Fund for the Integration of Third-country Nationals. After 2004, the Commission has concerned itself with how to put the CBPI into effect. In its 2005 Communication on a Common Agenda for Integration (CEC 2005), the Commission broke-down the CBPI to identify more focused areas for development. Many of the proposed areas for development were clearly identified as areas for national action. The EU did, though, specify areas in which EU action could be developed, such as: supporting transnational actions, campaigns or events; supporting pilot projects and studies to explore new forms of Community cooperation in the field of admission and integration; raising public awareness; monitoring impact of national reform programmes on labour market integration of TCNs; encouraging the development of labour market integration policies; monitoring the application of the anti-discrimination and long-term residents directives; stimulating transnational actions such as exchange of good practice, joint development of programmes and common dissemination of results; supporting innovative training programmes; initiating a mapping exercise on the level of TCNs’ rights and obligations; and exploring the value of creating a concept of civic citizenship as a means of promoting the integration of TCNs.

In the areas of education, three potential EU activities were identified. First, incorporating integration objectives into the Commission’s various educational programmes. Second, promoting the education of TCNs through the ‘Education and Training 2010 Work Programme’. Third, developing a transparent system for the recognition of qualifications. On religious pluriformity, the Commission proposed to develop the EU integration agenda so as to facilitate intercultural and inter-religious dialogue at EU level, and further develop the Commission’s dialogue with religious and humanist organisations. On naturalisation, the Commissions’ development of the CBPI was somewhat vague and called for the promotion of research and dialogue on identity and citizenship questions.

The key point about the Commission Communication is that it established priorities and had a framing effect on dialogue structures at the EU level.

One area of interest was the development of indicators (CEC 2005: 11). The CBPI had called for the development of clear goals, indicators and evaluation mechanisms. In 2003, the Justice and Home Affairs Directorate commissioned research on the use of benchmarks in immigrant integration policy (Entzinger and Biezeveld 2003). This report looked at opportunities and problems associated with measuring the impact of integration policies in the socio-economic, cultural, legal and political realms. It also considered attitudes towards immigrants. This report identified various indicators that could be used in each field and assessed their reliability and utility. It was noted that basic impediments were the lack of shared definitions and of comparable data.

Sitting between the EP and the Commission is the European Migration Network (EMN), which was established through Council Decision 2008/381/EC to provide up-to-date, objective, reliable and comparable information on migration and asylum, with a view to supporting policymaking in the EU. In each member state is a National Contact Point who liaises with a wide range of relevant ‘stakeholders’, including academic researchers and think-tanks. Essentially, the EMN brings together national information on a wide range of migration and integration related issues and then, on the basis of national reports, develops a synthesis report. The EMN’s role is assessed in more detail below.

Between 2007 and 2013 the EU established the General Programme ‘Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows’ with a total allocation of €4032 million. Within this was created the European Fund for the Integration of TCNs with an allocation of €825 million for the 6 year period. The general objective of the fund is to ‘support the efforts made by the member states in enabling TCNs of different economic, social, cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds to meet the conditions of residence and to facilitate their integration into European societies’. The particular focus would be on newly arrived TCNs. This would involve:

  • Facilitating the development and implementation of admissions procedures relevant to and supportive of the integration of TCNs;

  • Develop and implement the integration process of newly arrived TCNs

  • Increase the capacity of member states to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate policies and practices for the integration of TCNs;

  • Exchange information, best practices and cooperation in and between member states in developing, implementing and evaluating policies and measures for the integration of TCNs.

Between 2007 and 2009, 78 programmes were funded with a total commitment of €223.1 million. The five main beneficiaries were Spain (€34.7m); UK (€34.3m); Germany (€33.6m) and Italy (€30m). Together with France (€18.2m), they received more than 68 % of the total amounts allocated to national programmes in 2007–2009 (CEC 2011). In addition to grants, funding was also used for several public procurements: a European Integration Forum was set up as a discussion forum and has met twice a year since 2008. A European website on integration was created to provide extensive information about immigrant integration.Footnote 3 Three versions of the European Handbook on Integration for Policymakers and Practitioners have now been produced. The most recent in April 2010 was written for DG JHA by the MPG think-tank.

16.3 Research-Policy Dialogues: A State of the Art

This section identifies key EU-level actors and examines three main components of science-society dialogues. Firstly in relation to ‘knowledge production’, it considers whether there are ‘schools of thought’ about migrant integration at EU level. It then identifies the institutional nexus at EU level that relates knowledge production to more formalised institutional competencies and policymaking. This can be thought of as ‘knowledge utilisation’. This relationship between knowledge production and knowledge utilisation is mediated by ‘boundary organisations’. Such organisations can include think-tanks such as the MPG, Centre for European Policy Studies, Migration Policy Institute and European Policy Centre. There are also a large number of research projects funded by specific DGs that relate to issues of migrant integration, including during the period 2007–2013 within the European Integration Fund. In addition, DG Research funds Europe-wide consortia (previously within its ‘Framework’ Programmes, and now in Horizon 2020) to undertake scientific research applied to particular Europe-wide policy challenges that including aspects of migrant integration and citizenship as ‘problems of Europe’ requiring a concerted European response. Finally, the section makes a distinction familiar to other chapters of this book by looking at the ways in which knowledge can inform evidence-based approaches to policymaking (an instrumental view of the role of knowledge), but can also serve to legitimate institutional roles and/or substantiate existing policy choices (which could be understood as ‘policy-based evidence making’) (Little 2012). To assess these issues the chapter pays particular attention to the role and importance of two instances of knowledge production, utilisation and dialogue. The first of these is the European Migration Network (EMN) that brings together (primarily) state actors to exchange knowledge and share ideas about migrant integration. The second is the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), which is a think-tank- and civil society-led evaluation exercise, with a key role also played by the British Council. The European Commission has also provided funding. MIPEX benchmarks performance in all EU member states, plus some non-EU member states such as Australia and Canada.

Knowledge production has occurred within ‘softer’, non-binding and informal networks, which will be analysed more closely when the role of the EMN and MIPEX are assessed. However, a key feature of the EU system is that key institutions, particularly the Commission, have played a key role in knowledge production by, for example, funding research or sponsoring particular initiatives. This emphasises the importance of understanding interactions within the political setting at EU level. There is intense interchange between EU institutions and think-tanks and civil society organisations. One reason for this is that the EU is a relatively small organisation that has traditionally drawn heavily on outside expertise to inform policy development and evaluation. This suggests an instrumental role for knowledge, i.e. the Commission gathering more and better data to support policy. However, it is also the case that the Commission has sought to shape knowledge production to legitimate its own role in this policy area. Through the EMN, we can also see how the active involvement of member states in knowledge production means that the EU becomes a venue within which national policy choices are substantiated with the effect that an EU migrant integration agenda is set by the form taken by such policies at national level. We have seen that this was evident in the cases of the directives on family reunion and the rights of TCNs who are long-term residents.

How, then, is the relationship structured between knowledge production, utilisation and related dialogue structures? There is little evidence of a broader science-society dialogue at EU level because there is little evidence of wider public debate. Instead, there are more specific policy dialogues that involve a restricted and specialist community of actors (including national governments, EU institutions, think-tanks, academic researchers and private sector consultancies). It also needs to be re-stated that the EU does not exercise competence for the naturalisation of newcomers, the reception policies of immigrant children in primary and secondary education, or the accommodation of new religious pluriformity. These are all matters for the member states. The EU does, however, constitute a new political setting within which a European migrant integration frame is established that can have effects on member states. A final contextual point is that the focus of this chapter’s analysis is on EU level developments. The chapter does not assess how and with what effects these EU competencies may feed into national debates, although the variable effects of the EU on particular countries may be evident in the country case study chapters in this book.

Two key EU-level dialogue structures are assessed in order to specify the ways in which knowledge about migrant integration is produced at EU level, the ways in which it is used and how policy dialogues mediate this relationship. The two cases that will be explored in more detail are EMN and MIPEX.

The EMN’s development can be traced to the 1990s. In 1996, the Commission undertook a feasibility study for the creation of a European Migration Observatory, although this was not established. The Laeken summit of 2001 called for a system of information exchange on migration. In 2003 the EMN was launched as a pilot project and then, between 2004 and 2006, as a ‘Preparatory Action’ during which participation was voluntary. At this time, the EMN was run from a research centre in Germany. The first topic that the EMN reported on was the ambitious question of the Impact of Immigration on European Societies. The report was controversial and delayed and led to a re-evaluation of the EMN’s role with a greater emphasis placed on work of a more technical nature (Boswell 2009).

The subsequent development of the EMN had a strong focus on interactions between member states. The Hague Programme for Justice and Home Affairs covering the period 2005–2010 included a plan for a Green Paper on the future of the European Migration Network. On the basis of the Green Paper the Commission in August 2007 proposed to the Council the creation of a legal basis for the EMN, which was agreed by Council Decision 2008/381/EC. The decision to more formally constitute the EMN also gave it a stronger intergovernmental base as most of the national correspondents, or National Contact Points (NCPs) as they are known, are based in interior ministries. According to the Council Decision the purpose of the EMN ‘is to meet the information needs of Union institutions and of member states’ authorities and institutions on migration and asylum by providing up to date, objective, reliable and comparable information on migration and asylum with a view to supporting European policymaking in these areas [by] … collecting, exchanging and updating data; analysing data and providing it in readily accessible forms; contributing to the development of indicators; publishing periodic reports; creating and maintaining an internet based information exchange system to provide access to relevant documents’. The EMN is coordinated by the Commission (DG Home Affairs), which is supported by two private sector contractors that assist with the exchange of information and with the development of the technology to support interchange. The network is centred on NCPs in all EU member states (except Denmark, but including Norway) with at least three experts, one of whom is the national coordinator. These national coordinators are mainly from ministries of the interior and justice but also involve research institutes, NGOs and international organisations (for example, the International Organisation for Migration is the NCP for 3 countries). The intention to promote social learning as well as the EMN’s intergovernmental orientation was emphasised by an interviewee from an international organisation:

There is still a learning and exchange process that comes with that network. There is some kind of network effect to it, it’s hard to put the finger on it, it’s not a network that produces some ground-breaking new evidence that changes the course of policies, but that rather informs the policymakers and these people largely come from the institutions that also set the policy course…. (Representative of international organisation, March 2013)

MIPEX has a different history. It is coordinated by a Brussels-based think-tank, the Migration Policy Group (MPG), which has worked with the British Council, civil society organisations and academic researchers to develop MIPEX while also securing financial support during its existence from the European Commission. MIPEX began life as the European Civic Citizenship and Inclusion Index (reflecting a discursive focus at that time within the EU on so-called civic citizenship) and sought to develop ways of benchmarking migrant integration policies in all EU member states. Policies were benchmarked against a normative framework derived from existing EU legislation and also from other standards such as those of the Council of Europe. MIPEX could be understood as a form of international policy learning. However, MIPEX is one intervention – albeit an important one – in the Brussels migrant integration ‘field’ within which there are also other actors present such as politicians, bureaucrats and other think-tanks. In such a situation where there are a range of possible ‘teachers’ for policy learning then learning is more likely to arise as a result of bargaining and social interaction (Dunlop and Radaelli 2013). Indeed, as will be shown, bargaining and interaction do seem to be two key aspects of knowledge use arising from the MIPEX exercise.

The two most recent MIPEX iterations (2007, 2011) have produced comprehensive assessments and rankings and were linked to extensive EU-wide dissemination. Coverage has also been expanded to cover non-EU countries such as Australia, Canada and the USA. In addition to MIPEX, the MPG has a strong track record of work at EU level in the field of migration and anti-discrimination policy and has, at times, worked closely with the Commission. For example, MPG produced the Integration Handbook and ‘integration modules’ for the Commission. The 2007 iteration of the MIPEX indicators was partly funded by the Commission’s DG for Justice and Home Affairs through what were known as INTI funds (the predecessor of the European Integration Fund).

What the EMN and MIPEX have in common is that they are both modes of ‘softer’ governance that seek to share information and ideas with the potential to feed into national policy systems, reshape policy, and reconfigure the relationship between research and policy. Both also place great emphasis on the exchange of information, the sharing of ideas and the pursuit of ‘best practice’. In both cases, knowing (understood as a process of social learning) can be linked to softer, non-binding governance mechanisms. Likewise, the role and use of information and knowledge are central in MIPEX and EMN. However, the pursuit of information can also become associated with organisational pathologies, as more and more information is demanded with the result that people feel that they don’t have enough time to process the data and to make sense of it. Put another way, there can be an ‘over-interest in and underuse of information’ (Alvesson and Spicer 2012: 1201). An interviewee working in an EU institution provided insight into information overload:

Reading all the reports in their entirety is wishful thinking. We have our priorities set in terms of our agenda …we receive all the information, we file it, we know where it is and we access it when this is needed.

Migrant integration is a policy area in which great emphasis has been placed on the gathering and sharing of information and on the development of social processes designed to support policy learning. Within this EU setting, the meaning and value of ‘expertise’ is very important. An interviewee cautioned that it would be wrong to assume that even this category is straightforward, particularly in an area as contentious as migration policy:

Who is an expert? Even, who is an academic? The problem we are seeing not only in DG Home, but also in the European Parliament is the same. So that you have an academic …issuing a paper … basically serving a certain political interest … and this is something that is developing more and more. (Interviewee from think-tank, March 2013)

EU institutions, particularly the Commission, have been long been seen as reliant on expertise to support the development of policy, but also to legitimate institutional roles and substantiate policy choices (Zito and Schout 2009; Boswell 2009).

Both the EMN and MIPEX can be understood as forms of social learning that, in different ways, seek to break down barriers between the domestic and the international. Both are located within the EU field and address ‘problems of Europe’. They can also be understood as displaying characteristics of what have been called ‘communities of practice’, which are ‘groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly’ (Wenger 2010). Participating in a community of practice is an essential element of learning as it is the ‘social container’ that brings people together by a sense of joint enterprise, mutual engagement and a shared repertoire of communal resources (Wenger 2010: 229). The social definition of learning that is central to the operation of a community of practice has two components (competence and personal experience) combining with three modes of belonging (engagement, imagination and alignment). Competence is historically and socially defined: ‘To be competent is to be able to engage with the community and be trusted as a partner in these interactions’ (Wenger 2010: 229). Competence and experience are not necessarily congruent but when they are in close tension and either starts pulling the other then learning takes place. A practical example of this dynamic in the context of learning about migrant integration policies within the EU would be between older/new member states/countries of immigration with asymmetries in experience that affect the historical and social definition of competence.

The three modes of belonging are typically seen as co-existing. Engagement involves people working together in ways that can shape experience. An imaginative leap can also be required to think of oneself as a member of a community of practice and to see some basis for shared membership. This leap may be large if the community is big (a national community) and members don’t all meet, but is not such a large leap if members do meet on a regular basis (as they do in both the cases that are analysed in this chapter). The third mode of belonging is alignment, understood as a mutual process of coordinating perspectives that may, at first glance, appear quite pluralistic, but will be embedded within social structures that do not evenly distribute resources.

A community of practice has three key characteristics. First, a shared domain of interest as membership implies a commitment to the domain. Second, the existence of a community as evidenced by joint activities, discussions and information sharing. Third, a community of practice is also a community of practitioners with a ‘shared repertoire of resources – experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems – in short a shared practice’ (Wenger 2010: 229). Practices can develop through problem solving, requests for information, seeking experience, re-using assets, coordination and synergy, discussing developments, documentation projects, visits, mapping knowledge and identifying gaps (Wenger 2010). All these are evident in the EMN and MIPEX.

Boundary interactions can then be stimulated by individuals acting as brokers across boundaries while ‘boundary objects’ such as the development of data and information can also facilitate boundary interactions as comparable data can also help to generate a sense of shared meaning (Star and Griesemer 1989).

Although they are differently constituted and have a different type of participation both the EMN and MIPEX seek to make migrant integration a more tractable issue by defining it as a ‘problem of Europe’. They both place emphasis on social learning with potential implications for the boundaries between national policy frameworks, the scope and content of policy, and for the relationship between research and policy. For example, referring to the work of the EMN an interviewee from an international organisation put it as follows:

We should not look at it [the EMN] only judging the quality of the reports that come out of there, because it’s not the point. The point is to have government officials to sit together on a regular basis and discuss those issues that are political priority, to have a mechanism in which they can request information from their peers. (Representative of international organisation, March 2013)

The EMN lays great emphasis on networking. This can take various forms:

  • Regular meetings of NCPs (12 in 2009, 7 in 2010 and 7 in 2011);

  • EMN Studies drawing from information from all participants of which there are usually 3 each year;

  • An annual EMN conference;

  • Training sessions on technical or administrative issues;

  • Twinning and collaboration meetings;

  • Studies addressing specific themes;

  • Annual reports from all participants that feed into the Commission’s Annual Report on Migration and Asylum;

  • The development of a glossary and thesaurus as the basis for improved comparability to develop common understanding of terms with the aim of harmonising policy concepts;

  • An information exchange as a repository with a search function;

  • Ad-hoc requests.

Ad-hoc requests are particularly interesting as ways of sharing information about practices. Around 400 or so Ad-hoc queries were made between 2008 and 2012 (of which more than 260 were made public). An interviewee from an international organisation highlighted the role of Ad-hoc requests as follows:

My impression …is that the EMN in particular has become important through its more kind of research gathering, the Ad-hoc queries. There is an enormous amount of queries that are circulated and that are requested on a state basis…that really has become an important mechanism of policy learning…. Member states who have an interest to make or change a policy on a particular issue, sometimes on very specific issues… even if it’s just six or seven member states replying to that, it’s still something that you don’t have, or something that individual member states don’t have the capacity to deliver in the same way. It’s much more difficult for individual member states to use their own contacts …to get that kind of information in that timeframe. (Representative of international organisation, March 2013)

Two representatives of think-tanks both highlighted a strong intergovernmental dynamic, but also the way in which the strategic context for national policymaking has changed:

It serves intergovernmental needs because it allows member states to ask their Ad-hoc queries…they are very politically motivated…you can match almost every query to a national policy debate or national policy process… it allows them to then make the comparative claim themselves … In the UK there was a green paper restricting family reunification, with many proposals …and they were then using comparisons, you know, saying…other countries do this…and then they would give certain examples. Whereas they only chose very few countries in Europe that do this, not noting that all other countries do not do this. (Brussels think-tank March 2013)

Ad-hoc queries are surprisingly useful because they tend to be linked to one particular member states’ deliberations at a given moment….last year when the Dutch were thinking about the integration of EU citizens, they had an Ad-hoc query … and they got a wealth of information back and it really helped them to think through what the key issues were… (Brussels think-tank, March 2013)

Ad-hoc queries are grouped under various headings, one of which is queries made with regards to immigrant integration. Table 16.2 shows the 11 requests that have been made publicly available and provides information on the specific content of the request, the country making the request and the number of other network members that responded.

Table 16.2 Ad-hoc queries to the European Migration Network National Contact Points on the theme ‘immigrant integration’

The EMN is a state-centred network that displays the characteristic features of a community of practice: domain, information sharing, joint practices. The social legitimacy of the EU as ‘teacher’ (or learning facilitator) is also high. The EMN thus corresponds with what Dunlop and Radaelli (2013) characterise as ‘learning in the shadow of hierarchy’, with an institutional environment that is strongly structured both by the formal institutional context at EU level (the acquis), but also by the repertoires and resources that are associated with national ways of doing things. The EMN has not fundamentally rethought the precepts upon which migrant integration policies are based, as it has tended to reflect domestic priorities at the EU level. Since 2006, the EMN has had a stronger focus on technical questions and the mobilisation of ‘official knowledge’ from national ministries. Scientific research has tended more to follow this agenda than to shape it.

The MPG as the driving force behind MIPEX can be understood as a policy entrepreneur investing resources in the hope of a future return. They advocate migrant integration as a ‘problem of Europe’ requiring stronger and more effective action at EU level. There is a different dynamic underpinning MIPEX compared to the EMN as it arises from a civil society- and think-tank- initiative and draws-in academic researchers (mainly legal scholars) to produce its evidence base. Similarly to the EMN, MIPEX can be understood as a community of practice creating a domain with some sense of shared commitment, information sharing and exchange, and a focus on practice. The MIPEX indicators are based on detailed country-level assessment against a wide range of indicators. A key advantage of MIPEX as a ‘boundary object’ was identified by an interviewee from an international organisation:

MIPEX is a clear tool that helps to initiate a discussion… ‘my country ranks really badly, let’s talk about it’…. Is it an invitation to speak about it or maybe an invitation for complacency? There are different ways to look at it and I think not everyone who looks at those tools has a clear understanding of what this actually means, the data that comes out on the screen and what else you need to do to put it in the right context.

MIPEX focuses very squarely on identifying areas in which countries could improve their performance. The network of civil society organisations that underpin this work then provide the context for national debates that bring together Communities of Practice at national level, but expose them to a wider European debate. The impact of MIPEX is then very carefully monitored with credible evidence that changes in law and policy have arisen as a result of poor performance in the MIPEX rankings.

The MPG is a highly credible actor at EU level, MIPEX is without doubt a much-used tool, and there is evidence of changes in law and policy as a result of MIPEX findings. Where MIPEX has been more effective is in relation to more conditional forms of learning where actors encounter know-how and other ways of doing things. However, MIPEX is also an ‘outsider’ (civil society) intervention in a policy area where national governments are strong and, in particular, where the executive branches of these national governments have been key players.

16.4 Conclusions

This chapter has surveyed the development of dialogue structures on migrant integration at EU level. The EU does have a growing relevance to these discussions because of the development of its common migration and asylum policy, which does include provisions, albeit weak, on migrant integration. To reiterate the point made at the start, the EU does not have a strong legal basis for action in this area and there is neither an EU paradigm nor is one likely to emerge. Quite rightly and logically, these will remain local and national issues. The EU’s role lies more in the areas of the gathering and exchange of knowledge, the sharing of ideas, the monitoring of practices and the development of what were referred to as ‘boundary objects’.

The chapter assessed both the structures of knowledge production and the utilisation of knowledge while also looking at the dialogue structures that mediate the relationship between the two. In particular, close attention was paid to the roles of the EMN and MIPEX. As noted from the outset, these are different kids of activity, but they also exemplify both the possibilities and limits of EU action. The EMN is largely state-led network and seeks to exchange information and ideas between member states while generating frequent interaction between officials from the member states. MIPEX is a civil society network that seeks to intervene in debates about migrant integration and, in particular, to make the case via monitoring for stronger and more effective EU-level action. Both were understood as having the characteristic features of communities of practice within which understandings can be developed and shared with attendant social and communicative processes of policy learning. These occur in quite specialised and EU-centric forums with very little evidence of spillover into public debate about the EU’s role in migrant integration.

In both of these cases, the production and utilisation of knowledge went beyond the instrumental use that is more familiarly referred to as evidence-based policymaking. In the case of MIPEX there has at times been close interaction with EU institutions such as the Commission and the European Parliament. For example, MIPEX has secured funding from the European Commission’s funding INTI programme. In such a situation, we can see how the development of a programme of research with a civil society focus was also consistent with the idea to develop a greater EU role in this area of policy and thus with attempts to legitimate the role of the European Commission as an actor in the area of migrant integration policy. This is not simply a process of co-option because the relationship between civil society and the Commission is more complex. Yet there is a mutual dependence between institutions such as the Commission and think-tanks such as MPG, leading to a close relationship between the production and use of knowledge and the role that this can play in legitimating policy choices and institutional roles, in particular the argument for a stronger role for the EU in the area of migrant integration.

The case of the EMN was somewhat different because of the strong state-led focus on its activities. However, the EMN can also be understood as a community of practice that changes the nature of the relationship between the production and utilisation of knowledge because of the relatively intense EU level interactions that now occur between national level actors. However, it is also the case that the EMN tends to serve as a forum for the representation of member states’ policy concerns rather than for the transmission of EU priorities. While it would be wrong to argue that the flow of ideas is entirely one way because it is necessarily more complex, it is the case that the EMN tends to be used as an arena for the substantiation of existing policy choices.

In the cases of both the EMN and MIPEX we can see the production of knowledge, its utilisation and also the role played by dialogue structures. We can also see that this goes beyond the instrumental use of knowledge to also include knowledge-use as a form of institutional legitimation and as a way of substantiating existing policy choices. Finally, what is also very clear about the EU level dialogue is that it is relatively closed and specialist, with little evidence that EU action has spilled over into wider public debate.


  1. 1.

    Statement on the European Commission Directorate General for Home Affairs webpage dealing with immigrant integration:

  2. 2.

    One of this chapter’s authors (Geddes) was involved in the first two iterations of the MIPEX project, but has had no involvement since 2007.

  3. 3.

    European Website on Integration,


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Geddes, A., Achtnich, M. (2015). Research-Policy Dialogues in the European Union. In: Scholten, P., Entzinger, H., Penninx, R., Verbeek, S. (eds) Integrating Immigrants in Europe. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer, Cham.

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