On 7 September 2020, EU Commissioners Ylva Johansson and Nicolas Schmit together with representatives of the European Social partners reiterated their commitment to a European Partnership for Integration.
In 2017 already, the Commission and the European social partners initiated the Integration Partnership. Its goal is forcing the speedy integration of migrants and refugees in the labour market with a multistakeholder approach. Apart from the Commission, it includes among other also authorities from the Member States, businesses and their representations as well as workers’ representations and refugees. Since the initial signing of the partnership 20 Member States have launched projects. As early as 2017, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) stressed the importance of treating refugees in labour market and society equally. Luca Visentini, General Secretary of ETUC, criticised the lack of solidarity and the abandoning of people who are entitled to be granted asylum. Unfortunately, nothing has changed in the present climate concerning the lack of solidarity with people who had to flee their home country.
The issue is a relevant as ever
On 7 September 2020, representatives of the Commission and its European Social partners reiterated their commitment to the Integration Partnership. Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, pointed out that the EU, compared to other regions, was not particularly successful in attracting qualified and talented people. One of the reasons was the difficult access to the labour market due to racism. The Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit regards the European Integration Partnership as the right way to get the best out of diversity. This had lost none of its relevance. In particular, during the Coronavirus crisis, minorities saw their already precarious working and living conditions worsen. Hence, public awareness of injustices – e.g. the exploitation of East European workers in the German slaughtering industry and during harvesting – which had been known for years, increased. However, the partnership’s focus is not on improving working conditions and abolishing structural discriminations, but more on the better use of key workers and the promotion of entrepreneurship.
Prioritization and embedding of the partnership
The European Integration Partnership shall in particular focus on three areas: the linking of economy and society for the labour market integration shall be reinforced by a strengthened multi-stakeholder approach, entrepreneurship shall be supported, and the identification and assessment of qualifications and skills shall be improved. The Partnership shall also be brought in line with other initiatives: above all with the Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion to be in place by the end of the year and the new European Skills Agenda, which was presented in July 2020.
Key role of the social partners
Luca Visentini, General Secretary des European Trade Union Confederation, reiterates: “Relaunching the Partnership for Integration is more than ever needed”. It is vital to respect and observe human rights, international obligations on solidarity and equal treatment of all. According to Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services, CEEP, integration should be a matter of fact for the economic recovery after the crisis. Maxime Cerutti, Director of Business Europe, adopts a slightly different approach. According to him, the focus should be on “economic migration” and it should be recognised that many people living in the EU are already looking for employment. Apart from that, it had to be ensured that businesses are able to create new jobs and that the labour market will be able to recover from the consequences of the crisis.
From the perspective of workers, a stronger focus on the interests of employees with refugee or migration background would be desirable. However, the main emphasis should be on removing hurdles on the way towards labour market integration. What is needed is a courageous, solidary policy, which really benefits all and reduces existing inequalities and discriminations.