1.10.2007 | Von:
Christian Joppke


If, in the Netherlands, civic integration was a clear departure from its previous "ethnic minorities' policy", civic integration in France [1] is more of a continuation of its old assimilationist approach. The earliest incarnation of French civic integration were the "introduction platforms" (plates-formes d'accueil), voluntary half-day instruction to certain categories of newcomers (originally only family migrants), which were introduced by the socialist Jospin government in 1998.
Demonstration für die Rechte von Migranten in Paris 2007.Demonstration championing the rights of migrants in Paris. (© picture-alliance / Godong)
In July 2003, the Gaullist Raffarin government launched a more ambitious program called "contracts for reception and integration" (Contrats d'accueil et de l'intégration, CAI). It consists of one day of civics instruction, followed (when deemed necessary) by a maximum of 500 hours of French language instruction. Interestingly, only about one-third of newcomers are targeted for enrollment in a French language course. This is because the majority of French newcomers are Francophone, which is an asset that distinguishes the French from the Dutch or German civic integration challenges, where language acquisition is a much more pressing concern.

Compared to the Dutch case, the move in France from voluntary to compulsory courses and toward more punitive sanctions occurred more gradually. In the first year of CAI's existence, about 90% of eligible newcomers signed an integration contract, but only 65% of those who were prescribed a French language course followed up on this. This provided the impetus for making CAI obligatory. The first step in this direction was the Loi Sarkozy of November 2003 restricted access to legal permanent residence and made the receipt of a ten-year residence card dependent on l'intégration republicaine, defined in the law as "knowledge of French language and of the principles that constitute the French Republic." Most importantly, family migrants (spouses and minor children), who previously had direct access to a ten-year residence card (or at least the same residence status as the sponsor), now received only a renewable temporary card for one year, and only after two years could they apply for the ten-year card, subject to the intégration républicaine proviso.

While the first Loi Sarkozy did not specify how intégration républicaine was to be formally determined, the next logical step was to determine such integration in terms of the integration contract (CAI), and to make CAI itself obligatory for a ten-year residence card. This promptly occurred in the second immigration law passed under Sarkozy's second term as interior minister, in spring 2006. The comprehensive "law of immigration and integration", whose stated purpose is to "fashion the face of France for the next 30 years", epitomises the general logic of Europe's current transformation of immigration and integration policy. In Sarkozy's terms, the new law is to bring about a fundamental change from "unwanted" (subie) to "chosen" (choisie) immigration. This implies an opening for highly-skilled migrants, and a parallel closing for presumably lower-skilled family and asylum migrants – the closing being a major purpose of "civic integration", not only in France.


For further information on immigration and integration issues in France, see Engler, M. (2007): "http://France" focus Migration Country Profile No. 2.



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