French minister defends 'Pact on Immigration'
Published: Wednesday 16 July 2008
Rebutting criticism from the press and MEPs, French Minister for Immigration and Integration Brice Hortefeux insisted that an EU 'Pact on Immigration and Asylum' is essential, presenting his country's EU Presidency priorities before the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on 15 July.
No effective management of migration fluxes is possible without coordination at European level, stressed Hortefeux. He added that the priority of the French Presidency's pact, presented at the Justice and Home Affairs ministerial meeting last week (EurActiv 07/07/08), would be to enhance and streamline this coordination process.
He further rebutted allegations made by the press that the original French document had been “watered down”, after two of the most controversial aspects of the pact a general ban on mass regularisations and the idea of 'integration contracts' obliging immigrants to take language classes and courses on the culture of the host country had to be dropped to win the necessary support of the Spanish government.
Instead, he insisted that his Spanish colleague Prez Rubalcaba had in fact contributed to strengthening aspects of the pact, for instance by pushing for clearer and uncompromising wording on the expulsion of illegal immigrants.
Hortefeux further defended the move towards selective legal immigration under the Blue Card proposal, saying: “EU migration policies must be selective and concerted.” He also expressed hope that an agreement on this would be reached under the French Presidency, while the main obstacle will be defining exactly what “highly-skilled labour” is. The minister added that he considers the way forward on this could be to link certain minimum requirements to statistically-calculated average salaries.
At the same time, Hortefeux, who also deals with cooperative development in the Sarkozy-Fillon cabinet, stressed the importance of concerted action with third countries. Responding to concerns expressed by several MEPs over selective migration becoming a form of “pillage of third-country labour”, Hortefeux confirmed the French Presidency's commitment to circular migration, investment in third countries and bilateral agreements.
Establishing a common framework for the integration of migrants is also part of the Pact on Immigration's objectives, the minister recalled, pointing out that up till now, integration policies vary greatly throughout the 27 member states. In Germany for example, integration is not even a competence of the federal government but rests with individual Lnder, he said.
“Integration means ensuring social cohesion and stability,” Hortefeux explained. But “while everybody agrees that language, education and housing are the key factors for successful integration, it is extremely difficult to find concrete measures which can be implemented in all member states,” he added.
The Pact on Immigration and Asylum is scheduled for adoption at the EU summit on 15 October.
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