02 November 2007 - 04 November 2007

Can Europe benefit from migration?

Chair: The Rt Hon Lord Jay of Ewelme GCMG

Surrounded by stunning autumnal colours over a remarkably mild weekend, Ditchley tackled the topic of migration within and into the European Union and how lessons from North America and elsewhere could inform the debate taking place in Europe . 

It quickly became clear that `Europe` could not be analysed and discussed as a homogeneous entity – there were many different policies, attitudes and pressures at play amongst the member states.  In fact, disaggregation was a key theme over the weekend.  Migration itself described many different processes and people, push and pull factors were varied and policies on receiving migrants, of whatever ‘type’, differed between member states.  Source countries and receiving countries also required disaggregation.  Nevertheless, the term ‘migration’ continued to be used to encapsulate permanent settlement, long-term but temporary movement and short-term movement caused by various identifiable factors.  The key was to respect the complexity of the topic, recognise its central position in most countries’ political agenda and allow for the politicised nature of the debate.  Policies would not be based on reasoning and facts alone – they would also be influenced by attitudes, values and beliefs.    Participants were keen to debunk some of the common myths associated with migration and thereby make the subject seem less toxic.  In the popular discourse migration seemed mainly to be associated with economic pressures, labour aspirations and market mechanisms.  In fact, about 70% of migration to the United States and about 60% to the EU was due to family formation or family reunion.  This depended on what national laws and policy-makers defined as ‘family’.  But the figures highlighted that such motivations as a desire for safety, employment, educational opportunities or improved quality of life produced a lower number of movements, and less emotional intensity, than family connections.     Another commonly held misconception was that migration would be able to compensate for the increasing demographic pressures within Western countries and would help to sustain the welfare and pension systems of ageing populations in the years to come.  In fact, statistics and projections clearly showed that the level of migration needed to alleviate these demographic strains in such countries as Germany and Italy was completely unrealistic.  In any case, ageing populations were a worldwide phenomenon, affecting China , for instance, just as strongly as Europe .  These pressures might in the future lead to increased competition for migrants.  There were already efforts to attract the ‘right’ migrants to fill skills gaps.  In addition, countries such as the UK were projected to maintain their current population levels without migration.  The demographic argument was not as simple as often portrayed.  We were reminded that migrants constituted only 3% of the world population while 97% remained in their country of origin.  Of those 3% the majority were South-South migrants.  The discourse surrounding migration was therefore often not an accurate reflection of the real life complexities.  

The concepts encompassed by ‘migration’ had to be teased out.  There were legal and illegal migrants, skilled and unskilled migrants, temporary and settlement migrants and asylum-seekers.  Responses and policies needed to recognise this complexity and address all varying forms of migration individually and appropriately.  We noted that the ‘undesirable’ migrants were often described as the unskilled.  However, in many Western European countries unskilled labour was overwhelmingly provided by people from new EU member states and third countries: unskilled migrants were therefore highly important to these countries’ economies.  Many of these unskilled jobs were filled by qualified migrants who would hold different jobs if their qualifications were adequately recognised.  Keeping these differences in mind, participants felt that the EU could and should do more in working towards a common migration framework.  Agreement could be more easily reached within the EU on asylum policy and illegal immigrants – and the free movement of peoples associated with eventually receiving citizenship rights made this even more important.  However, as different member states defined both asylum seekers and illegal immigrants differently and applied different laws and policies to them, working on a common framework would anyway entail the need for a common migration policy.  

With these complex considerations in mind, participants felt it might be more helpful to speak of ‘mobility’.  It was important to recognise that intra-country mobility was itself a huge phenomenon. People needed to get used to the idea of the free movement of peoples within all EU member states and the distinction between that and third country movement.  The 2008 removal of internal borders between the A8 countries ( Czech Republic , Estonia , Hungary , Latvia , Lithuania , Poland , Slovakia and Slovenia ) and the rest of the EU would have a marked impact, material and psychological, on approaches to mobility and free movement inside the EU.  Migration was described as a business, with a series of actors with vested interests in migration.  This way of commodifying migration was however not widely picked up as a theme, possibly in recognition of the human variables tied to culture, history and tradition.  Free movement and mobility of peoples was generally agreed to have a link with the free movement of goods and services, but they could not be equated.  

The discussion constantly came back to the poor quality of data.  Policy-makers and researchers needed to cooperate in identifying the relevant questions and analysing the available data to start providing answers.  Statistical analysis should be disaggregated to recognise the many different types of immigrants and the different reasons for which migration occurred – whether family reunion, labour demands, poverty or conflict.  Participants felt that politicians and policy makers mainly addressed the issue in the short term, whereas academics and researchers had a more useful long-term outlook.  Migration policies tended to take a long time to be developed and implemented and there was therefore a policy lag between identification of a problem – e.g. a skill shortage – and its being addressed.   

More generally, politicians were regarded as failing to get to grips with the real underlying issues in migration, largely because of the political and social sensitivities.  Moreover, the effects of public policy had so far been quite negligible – the capacity of governments to shape or affect the mobility of people was over-estimated. They tended to be concerned mainly with making mobility acceptable to the receiving populations.  New policies were therefore needed to reach the root of the issue – what these might be would vary in different contexts, but they needed to be based on more rigorous and honest public discourse.  

The three working groups spent some time discussing the push and pull factors (‘desperation’ and ‘aspiration’) and policies to ‘manage’ or integrate migrants upon arrival.  There was wide agreement that levels of migration should be managed not only through control mechanisms but also through more effective development, conflict prevention and failed state policies.  Foreign Direct Investment and fair trade were also needed in the wider picture.  In recognising the importance of remittances, we felt that host countries could enable developing countries to spend remittances more effectively by tackling corruption and promoting good governance.  We were reminded that these policies would be long-term, as trade liberalisation and economic growth would initially cause an increase in mobility.  But it was thought that after ten or fifteen years many migrants would return to their countries of origin, as the effects of development and better governance manifested themselves.  Circular migration, in which skills would be brought back to the source country after some years, was however discounted as having any substantial effect on overall migration trends.  Ultimately, only the global application of equity and justice would eliminate all push factors and there was no prospect of achieving this in the short term.   

On effects, discussion kept returning to the integration of migrants.  Within host communities resistance could too easily be generated by cultural and competitive factors and governments often failed to explain the benefits.  It was generally agreed that integration was a slow and sometimes painful process.  European countries were struggling in particular with the successful integration of Muslim migrants.  A willingness to adapt on both sides was absolutely vital and several participants felt that some Muslim communities had no wish to integrate or adapt to their host societies.  Great care was needed, however, not to conflate migration and terrorism in voicing legitimate concerns.  Participants were unable to make concrete suggestions for how to move forward but it was universally agreed that progress on integration was needed and new thinking on the subject was vital.  

As far as host country receptiveness was concerned, it was important to highlight the benefits of migration, which were often seen at the macro level while its costs were felt at the micro level.  For instance, the significant amount of economic growth ascribable to migration needed to be adequately redistributed and filtered down so that those local communities that received the migrants and subsequently shared their public services and public space with them could themselves feel the benefits.  It was also crucial to acknowledge the rights of migrants and the responsibility to protect both migrants and receiving communities.  

The flipside of these positive aspects was the need to exercise a control on entry.  It was easy to see that a middle way between absolute control and absolute openness was desirable.  In any case, absolute control, i.e. closing off borders to all migration – would simply drive migration underground and thereby increase illegal migration.  It was logistically impossible, even on an island like Britain .  But finding the right degree of control was necessary to create confidence in the government’s overall approach.  Some participants felt that, without a perception of effective control, it would be difficult for the government to implement a credible integration policy.  Future migration pressures and flows were hard to predict and therefore hard to plan for.  This in turn would have an effect on public services.  There was disagreement over whether migrants added an undue, or even ‘overwhelming’, strain on public services, whether they simply highlighted pre-existing problems, or whether they in fact contributed to improvements in public services by filling labour gaps, for instance in nursing homes and hospitals.  What was clear, however, was that the lack of reliable evidence made policy planning extremely difficult.   We spent some time comparing experiences in Europe and North America .  It was accepted that migration was ‘in the DNA’ of American and Canadian nationhood.  The debate in the US and Canada generally focussed on illegal migration, while the debate in European countries revolved around migration as a whole, and especially numbers and culture.  However, Europe and North America both faced similar problems of harmonisation at the local level.  The EU was attempting to increase cooperation through such mechanisms as the Blue Card, but came up against the different attitudes of, and labour market realities in, member states.  A more harmonised EU-wide approach was desirable, going beyond pure number-setting to the establishment of norms and principles for managing migration.  Member states’ common interests lay in such areas as effective border controls, a prosperous labour market and the successful integration of migrants.  The relative success of FRONTEX demonstrated that cooperation on some of these issues could produce positive results.  Studies also showed that local-level integration, for instance in Germany , worked better in practice than was generally assumed.  Nevertheless, participants agreed that migration at the EU level could be better addressed by the sharing of best practice and the engagement of local actors within each member state.  An effective policy partnership with local government, local community leaders and local public services was indispensable.  

Given the complexity of the topic under discussion – ranging from agreeing a definition of the terms themselves, to adapting solutions and policies to the many different facets of migration under discussion – clear policy recommendations were difficult to reach.  It was generally agreed that some migration was not only unavoidable but desirable, that pull-factors for migration might overtake push-factors in the future and that integration at a societal, local level was the central challenge presented by continued trans-border mobility of peoples.  

Nevertheless, some firm pointers were suggested:  

·       Host country governments should work more systematically with academics and researchers (and with the IOM) in providing accurate, thoroughly analysed, data and thereby improve public understanding of the longer-term trends;  

·      Host countries should ensure government-wide coherence between their migration policies and their other relevant economic and social policies;  

·      Central Governments should work more closely with local actors on addressing the specific, community-level effects of immigration;  

·      Host and source countries should explore the possibilities for a stronger partnership approach (co-development), including tailored solutions for specific mobility problems;  

·      The business sector should be more fully involved in the creation of employment relevant to migration.  

The conference ended with an awareness that, under current predictions of world population growth and climate change, the challenges faced by both source and host countries would require long-term solutions.  But many participants seemed to think that the opportunities for improving policy and delivery were there.  We were fortunate in benefiting not just from varied and deep experience around the table but also from the steady hand of our experienced Chairman, who challenged us to reach conclusions throughout.  There was a call for a Ditchley follow-up conference on ‘Integration’ to address many of the issues thrown up by this weekend’s discussion.  It was crucial to sustain an open, fair and frank dialogue about migration.  

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.


Chair: The Rt Hon Lord Jay of Ewelme GCMG
Life Peer (2006-);  Non-Executive Director, Associated British Foods, Credit Agricole;  Valeo;  Vice Chair, Business for New Europe;  Chair, Merlin.  Formerly:  HM Diplomatic Service (1969-2006);  Prime Minister’s Personal Representative for G8 (2005-06);  HM Ambassador to France, Paris (1996-2001).  A Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Gottfried Zürcher

Director General, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna (2005-).  Formerly:  Deputy Director General, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna.

Mr John Macgregor

Dean, University of Kent, Brussels (2007-).  Formerly:  HM Diplomatic Service (1973-207);  UK Permanent Representative to the UN, Vienna (2006-07);  HM Ambassador to Austria (2003-07).

Ms Ilyana Derilova

Chief of the Sofia Mission, International Organisation for Migration, Sofia, Bulgaria (2000-).

Mr John Helliwell

Arthur JE Child Foundation Fellow, Canadian Institute of Advanced Research;  Co-Director, Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being Program;  Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of British Columbia (1971-);  Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research.  Member, Program Advisory Committee, The Canadian Ditchley Foundation.
HE Mr Alex Himelfarb
Ambassador of Canada to Italy (2006-).  Formerly:  Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada (2006);  Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet (2002-06);  Deputy Minister, Canadian Heritage (1999-2002).
Mr Don McCutchan
International Policy Advisor, Placer Dome Inc.  Formerly:  Officer, Canadian Department of Finance;  Executive Director, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. 

Professor Willem Maas

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Glendon College, York University, Toronto;  Faculty Affiliate, Canadian Centre for German and European Studies.

Ms Emma Basker

Speechwriter for Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, The European Commission, Brussels (2004-)
Professor Karl Pichelmann
Adviser, Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission, Brussels (1998-);  Associate Professor, Institute d’Etudes Européenes, Brussels (2000-).

Mr Andrew Duff MEP

Member of European Parliament, East of England, and Leader, UK Liberal Democrats, European Parliament, Brussels (1999-);  Spokesman on Constitutional Affairs, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (1999-); Vice-President, EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Dr Catherine Wihtol de Wenden

Director of Research, CNRS (CERI), Paris;  Doctor in Political Science, Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris.  Formerly:  Consultant:  OECD;  The European Council, The European Commission;  External Expert, UNHCR.

Mr John Evans

General Secretary, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, Paris.

Ms Christal Morehouse
Program Manager, Centre of Excellence for Democracy and Integration, Bertelsmannn Stiftung, Gütersloh (2007-).  Formerly:  Researcher, Global Commission on International Migration (2005);  Research Team Member, German Independent Council of Experts on Migration and Integration (2003-04).

Dr Agnes Hárs

Senior Researcher, KOPINT-TARKI Economic Research Institute Limited, Budapest (1998-).  Formerly:  Editor, Külgazdaság (1996-98);  Research Fellow, Labour Research Institute, Budapest (1980-96).

Mr Giuseppe Casucci

Journalist (1977-);  Head, Migration Policy Department, Italian Labour Union, Rome (2002-).

Prof Dr Johann C Rath

Professor of Urban Sociology and Director of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam (2005-).  Formerly:  Associate Professor and Co-Director, Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam (2000-05).

Dr Marek Kupiszewski

Founding Director, European Forum for Migration and Population Research, Warsaw (2002-).  Formerly:  Founding Head of Institute of Migration Office in Warsaw (2001-04).

Sir Michael Arthur KCMG

HM Diplomatic Service (1972-);  Ambassador to Germany (2007-).  Formerly:  British High Commissioner, New Delhi (2003-07);  Director General, EU and International Economic Issues, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London (2001-03).
Ms Kay Carberry
Assistant General Secretary, Trades Union Congress.  Formerly: Head, Equal Rights Department, Trades Union Congress.
Mr Christopher Cook
Senior Researcher to Mr David Willetts MP.
Mr Phil Douglas
First Secretary, Justice and Home Affairs, UK Permanent Representation to the EU, Brussels.  Formerly:  Seconded National Expert on Asylum, European Commission, Brussels;  Head, European Asylum Policy, the Home Office, London.
Lord Dykes of Harrow Weald
Life Peer (2004-);  Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Europe, House of Lords (2005-).  Formerly: Member, Liberal Democrat Team on EU, Foreign Affairs and Defence Policy (1997-2004).
Dr Paul Flather
Secretary-General, The Europaeum, Oxford.
Mr Maurice Fraser
Fellow in European Politics, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science;  Director, LSE European Public Lectures and Debates Series;  Director, Agora Projects.
Mr David Gow 
European Business Editor, The Guardian, Brussels (2000-).  Formerly:  The Guardian:  Industrial Editor;  Deputy Financial News Editor;  Bonn Correspondent;  Education Editor;  Leader Writer.
Mr Charles Grant
Co-Founder and Director, Centre for European Reform (1996-);  Board Member and Trustee, British Council (2002-);  Member, Committee for Russia in a United Europe;  Advisory Board Member, Moscow School of Political Studies.  A Member, Ditchley Foundation Programme Committee.
Sir Andrew Green
Chairman, MigrationwatchUK (2002-).  Formerly:  HM Diplomatic Service (1965-2000).
Mr William Horsley
Writer and Broadcaster on International Affairs;  Chairman, Association of European Journalists in the UK (2001-).  Formerly:  BBC World Affairs Correspondent;  Presenter, Europe Direct, BBC World TV (1998-204).
Mr Mark Knight
Consultant on Conflict and Post-Conflict Interventions.  Formerly:  Program Manager, Post-Conflict Reintegration, Aceh Indonesia, International Organisation for Migration, Switzerland (2006).
Ms Judith Macgregor
Director, Migration, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London (2007-).  Formerly:  HM Ambassador to the Slovak Republic (2004-07).
Ms Shan Morgan
Director, European Union, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London (2006-).  Formerly:  Counsellor, Social, Environmental and Regional Affairs, UKRep, Brussels (2001-06).
Ms Elizabeth Padmore
International Advisor, Consultant and Board Member (2006-);  Associate Fellow, James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation, Said Business School, University of Oxford.  Formerly:  Partner and Global Director, Policy and Corporate Affairs, Accenture (1995-2006).  A Governor and Member of the Council of Management, The Ditchley Foundation.
Mr Christophe Prince
Director, European and International Policy Unit, Border and Immigration Agency, The Home Office, Croydon (2006-).
Mr Gideon Rachman
Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist, The Financial Times (2006-).  Formerly:  The Economist:  Business Editor;  Brussels Bureau Chief.
Professor John Salt
Professor of Geography, University College London (1996-);  Director, Migration Research Unit, University College London (1989-);  Co-Director, Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship (2003-).

Professor Elspeth Guild

Partner, Kingsley Napley, London;  Special Advisor to the House of Lords Inquiry into Economic Migration in the EU;  Professor of European Migration Law, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Ns Kathleen Newland
Director, Migrants, Migration and Development and Refugee Protection Programs, Migration Policy Institute, Washington DC.  Formerly:  Independent Consultant to UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Mr Brian O’Dwyer
Senior Partner, O’Dwyer & Bernstein, New York;  Chairman, Emerald Isle Immigration Center;  Legal Issues Commentator.  Formerly:  Counsel, Department of Community Affairs of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Mr Steven Simon
Hasib J Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Washington DC.