On the basis of your experience as mayor of the Slovenian border-town Piran, what do you think are the key factors in successfully integrating migrants?
For integration to be successful it has to be a two-way process. The host community has to be prepared to accept immigrants and the immigrants must be prepared to work closely with the host community. Local authorities have an obligation to explain to their community the impact of the reception of immigrants. The community must be reassured that social services, housing, health services and education services will not be adversely affected by the acceptance of migrants. Of course, it is important that the central government provides adequate financial aid for the local community. The local community must be made aware of the positive contribution to the local economy made by skilled immigrants. At the same time, immigrants must be encouraged to learn the language of their host country, be made aware of the cultural differences between their country of origin and their country of destination, and be swiftly involved in the local life of the community.
How can cities and regions help in implementing comprehensive migration partnerships with third countries?
The CoR can facilitate dialogue and cooperation with local and regional authorities in migrants' countries of origin and transit, for instance through existing bodies and platforms: the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP), the Joint Consultative Committees, and the Working Groups. An essential part of any compact will be the joint efforts to make returns and readmission of unsuccessful asylum seekers and irregular migrants work. Local and regional authorities in countries of origin are at the forefront of migration policies and have many key responsibilities, such as providing access to the labour market, housing, education, and healthcare, all of which impact directly on their capacity to reintegrate returnees and thus ensure social cohesion and sustainable societies.
Is their role sufficiently recognised in the European Commission's communication?
While the proposed partnership framework does mention the need to reinforce local capacity-building through development and neighbourhood policies in its introduction, it does not elaborate further on tangible measures to meet this need. Best practices can be shared among local and regional authorities in the EU and partner countries regarding all aspects of migration, including but not limited to integration and reintegration policies, tackling irregular migration, recognising early warning signs and/or early prevention of crisis situations, and fighting human smuggling and trafficking of migrants. The CoR is well placed to reach out to cities and regions in partner countries to facilitate and encourage the exchange of innovative ideas and practices and to promote more effective involvement of local and regional authorities in the design and implementation of migration and integration policies, in line with multilevel governance and the subsidiarity principle.