1.10.2007 | Von:
Christian Joppke


How successful are the new civic integration policies in achieving their goals? The answer is: no one really knows. A first, and most obvious, reason for this is the newness of the programmes. In addition, however, it is not so clear what the "goals" of the policy really are.

Overview of new civic integration requirements in the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United KingdomOverview of new civic integration requirements in the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United Kingdom Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
Of course, the stated goal is to further immigrant integration. Here one may question whether it is sufficient to look at measures of successful course completion, which are central in the various evaluation studies that already exist (particularly in the Netherlands and Germany). This is a questionable way of measuring success, because the ultimate declared purpose of the courses is the reduction of immigrant unemployment and welfare dependency, and this hinges on a multitude of other factors, apart from state policy. Note that in Germany (together with Britain) immigrant unemployment has for years been among the lowest in Western Europe, despite the absence of any integration policy before 2004. This suggests that structural factors unrelated to integration policy are ultimately more relevant for socio-economic integration–such as the German system of "dual education" (vocational training in private firms combined with formal education in state-run vocational schools), or the famously flexible labour markets in Britain. In general, it is misleading to assume that something as multi-dimensional and complex as immigrant integration could ever be the result of a single "policy", and one as small-budget and paltry as "civic integration" at that.

But perhaps immigrant integration is not the thrust of the new policy. There are other, more implicit goals as well, which one can read from the larger debates surrounding the policies. One such goal is to reduce "undesirable" family migration, which is clear from the Dutch, French and German cases, and which has more to do with migration control than with immigrant integration. In this respect, one can say with certainty that the Dutch policy of "integration from abroad" has been very successful, as it led immediately to a sharp reduction in applicants for family unification.

A second implicit goal of the new policy is to appease the native populations of the destination countries, who may feel ill at ease with increased legal immigration. It is conspicuous that the new policies were introduced just as the economic and demographic case for new legal immigration had become overwhelming and calls for increased legal immigration more frequent. From this angle, the true addressees of civic integration may not be the immigrants but the natives, who are to be assured that the state is sternly requiring newcomers to adjust and thus protecting the status quo. In this sense, obligatory civic integration courses are a prime example of "symbolic politics", whose mere existence matters more than the declared goals pursued by it.

Finally, what does civic integration augur for the pending Europeanisation of immigrant integration policy? As one would expect, its main impact so far has been restrictive. Article 15.3 of the EU Long-Term Residents Directive, [1] passed in November 2003, allows member states to apply their "integration measures" to non-EU citizens who have already gone through the process of obtaining a long-term residence permit in another EU state, yet only with respect to "attend(ing) language courses". This means that long-term residents who are non-EU citizens can be subjected to cumulative integration requirements which do not apply to EU citizens. This constitutes a significant barrier to free movement for Europe's non-EU-immigrant populations, even though the declared purpose of the Directive had been to remove such barriers. If anything, European immigrant integration will continue to be driven by member state interests, and any further harmonisation in this domain will first have to pass this critical test.


For more information on this document, see the website of the European Commission, Justice and Home Affairs: http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/fsj/immigration/residents/fsj_immigration_residents_en.htm



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