Beyond Borders: Immigration Within the EU


Integration is key, says Matthias Ruete, the European Commission’s chief of migration and home affairs. He spoke to Nikodem Chinowski about the impact of refugees and immigration on the economies and labour markets in the CEE region and the actions that the European Commission is planning to undertake on refugee camps in Serbia and Hungary.

How does the European Commission see the impact of immigrants on labour markets in the EU and Central and Eastern Europe?

Immigration plays a significant role in addressing the labour and skills shortages experienced in certain sectors; shortages which are expected to increase in coming years. This also plays a key role in tackling current and future demographic challenges within the EU, and labour migration will certainly contribute to the economic development of the EU in the long term.

Several studies indicate that labour migration does make sense economically. In the long term, both high and low-skilled workers who migrate bring benefits to their new home countries, by increasing income per capita as well as living standards. High-skilled migrants bring diverse talent and expertise, while low-skilled migrants fill essential gaps where the EU workforce is in short supply. The population broadly shares these gains; therefore, it may be well worth shouldering the short-term costs to help integrate these new workers.

In this respect, integration is key. For refugees, labour market integration in the EU has improved significantly over time. Refugees have skills that their host countries can build on, with at least one in five refugees having benefited from tertiary education. If the reception of refugees and their family members is combined with effective measures to ensure their integration, the EU can capitalise on their potential and on their strong motivation to become active members of European society. The commission is working with member states to forge a coherent and comprehensive way of both reaping the benefits and facing the challenges of migration in the long term.

When it comes to the Central and Eastern European countries, the number of migrants in relation to the population is relatively low. It is therefore difficult to assess the economic impact migration has in these countries.

Is it not true that these ‘talents from third countries’ prefer to live in Germany or France rather than in the CEE region?

At country-specific level, the impact depends on the number of migrants and refugees and how they are integrated into the labour market. Labour market integration is crucial to ensure that migrants can positively contribute to the economy. There is a need to reinforce specific measures to support the integration of vulnerable migrants such as refugees but also family migrants, in particular women, who have large inactivity rates. Stepping up efforts to better integrate migrants into the EU labour market must be seen as an investment into the future for our economy and society.

Does the European Commission have data on job-profiles of immigrants? Can we assess which sectors of the labour market affect most immigrants?

At present, there is no EU-wide comprehensive data on job profiles of newly arrived migrants. Data is not collected systematically based on those sectors where migrants are employed on an EU level. We do however have information on employment rates and educational levels, and understand that non-EU nationals may need further education and training to access the labour market. In this respect, integration will be key to making migration an opportunity for everyone.

What is the European Commission’s plan to help people in refugee camps in Serbia, Hungary, and the Balkans?

We, the commission, and the EU’s agencies, have always stood by our member states and candidate countries when it comes to addressing the challenge of migration. Since May 2015, Serbia and other countries in the Western Balkans have been facing an unprecedented refugee crisis. In 2015 and in the first quarter of 2016, more than 920,000 refugees and migrants – primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq – passed through Serbia on their way to Hungary and Croatia. We know that Serbia and other countries in the region have made a lot of efforts to deal with this unprecedented phenomenon.

Matthias Ruete
Matthias Ruete (courtesy of the European Commission)

What are your views on the prospects for the southern Balkans regarding the next wave of immigrants? Should we expect another wave? What preventative measures has the commission taken?

If the situation in countries of origin and transit of irregular immigration towards the EU, such as Syria and Libya, remain unresolved, people will continue to travel to Europe to seek protection. What is worth noting is that thanks to our cooperation with Turkey, arrivals to Greece have dropped by 97 per cent since April 2016. Compared with two years ago the difference is like night and day. Not only has our cooperation with Turkey, and the Turkish Coast Guard, contributed to substantially reducing irregular arrivals to the Greek islands, it has also contributed to preventing loss of life in the Aegean Sea by stepping up the fight against migrant smuggling. We are also seeing a decrease in arrivals to Italy. In July the number decreased by 50 per cent compared to June.

Despite recent positive trends, we need to remain vigilant and we are ready to face any future changes in migratory flows. We are continuing our work to better manage migration and strengthen our borders. Although it is difficult to predict with any certainty the changes and evolution of migratory flows at our external borders, we believe that all the measures we have taken in the past year should enable us to keep the situation on the eastern Mediterranean and western Balkan routes under control. We are in a better position now to react promptly and efficiently should the situation change.

Preventing onward secondary movements along the Western Balkans route is a specific priority for the EU and its members. The Commission, in cooperation with member states, third countries along the western Balkans and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), have set up a platform for regular exchange of information, among the countries concerned, which allows us to continuously monitor the situation.

The commission also supports capacity building in the field of border and migration management, including operational cooperation among the border guard authorities of member states and western Balkan countries. We have for example provided financial support for the deployment of border guard officers from EU member states to the borders of Macedonia and Serbia.

How will the waves of immigrants affect the EU’s economies, specifically in CEE?

In the short term, transit and host countries will face costs arising from the need to provide food, shelter and first aid. In the medium term, host countries need to deal with the processing of asylum applications and the costs of social and economic integration. The long-term impact might very likely be positive for the European economy if members have efficient integration policies in place. Non-EU nationals can play a vital role in tackling Europe’s alarming demographic trends, improving the ratio of active workers to non-active persons, such as pensioners, whilst also contributing to innovation, entrepreneurship, and GDP growth. In respect of the labour market, migrants can fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy and contribute to labour-market flexibility.

Population projections by Eurostat show that, without migration, the EU’s working-age population will decline by 17.5 million in the next decade (2015-2025) and by nearly 30 million by 2030. Moreover, skills shortages are already emerging in some sectors. Attracting talent from third countries and ensuring that those who are already in the EU are fully integrated will not solve demographic and skills issues. However, it will become one of the ways we can ensure the growth and competitiveness of the EU economy and enhance the sustainability of our welfare system.

How would you describe the role of Frontex, headquartered in Warsaw, Poland?

With Frontex we now have the possibility to deploy border guards from member states to neighbouring third countries to support border control along common borders. We have already negotiated agreements with Serbia, and will start negotiations with Macedonia in September and plan negotiations with Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the future.

Is there a risk that the dispute over the relocation of refugees between countries can move into economics?

The obligations of member states when it comes to the relocation of applicants for international protection, from Italy and Greece, is an essential element of our comprehensive response to the current migratory situation in the EU. All members must apply the principle of solidarity and assume their fair share of responsibility. This implies that all members stick to their commitments and show solidarity with those under pressure. After repeated talks with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to start relocating, the commission decided to launch infringement proceedings against these countries, which are in breach of their obligations. The commission still hopes, however, that they will reconsider their position and contribute to the implementation of the relocation scheme fairly and proportionally so that the commission can halt the infringement proceedings.

Can you achieve that goal soon?

Yes. The pace of relocation has been continuously improving, with most other member states now pledging and relocating on a monthly basis both from Greece and Italy, we believe that it is indeed possible to achieve this goal. The main goal of this emergency scheme is to relocate all eligible applicants present in Greece and Italy in the coming months.


Hungary Today: Potential and Challenge

Chain bridge on Danube river in Budapest city. Hungary. Urban landscape panorama with old buildings and domes of opera

EY: Belarus’ IT Scene Is Thriving

High tech park minsk

Effective Policies Have Strengthened the Georgian Economy

TBILISI GEORGIA Jul. 18 2017: Bridge of Peace is a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge a steel and glass construction over the Kura River in downtown Tbilisi capital of Georgia

Baltics Seek Lockstep With High Tech States

Euro money: Macro view of euro coin and bill. Suitable for financial, monetary, euro or European Union concepts and ideas

Latvia Urged Not to Increase Expenditure As Economy Grows

Riga, Latvia - August, 2010: Panorama view from Riga cathedral on old town of Riga, Latvia

Poles Still Keen on German Jobs

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in Germany. The Brandenburg Gate is a triumphal arch a city gate in the center of Berlin. It is one of the most known sites in Berlin.

More Brexit Fears As the UK Proves To Be A Needed Member

City of London view from Waterloo Bridge. This view includes: St. Paul`s Cathedral The Gherkin Tower 42 and Blackfriars Bridge.

GSA Names Ukraine as UK’s Offshoring Destination of the Year

map of ukraine emerging europe

CEE Emigrants Could Boost Their Countries’ Economies

Londoners walking through Millennium Bridge with St.Paul's Cathedral at the background after sunset - London, UK

World Bank: Brexit Hides Greater Challenges to the European Union and the CEE Region

Non-Financial Reporting No Longer a Secondary Consideration in CEE

Škoda too Strong for VW Group

MLADA BOLESLAV CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 30: Skoda Octavia on conveyor line during Doors Open Day at Skoda Auto a.s. factory. Skoda auto celebrated 120 years since its founding on May 30 2015 in Mlada Boleslav.

Ukraine Is Offering Europe Unique Combat and Technological Experience

Albania’s Economy Booms Despite Political Infighting

Panorama view to the city Tirana Albania

The Reality in Romania Exposes False Perceptions Of The Country

CEE Tech Growth Continues: Poland and the Czech Republic Lead the Way


Lithuania Gives Innovation a StartUp

MILAN ITALY - MAY 2: People visit Lithuania pavilion at Expo universal exposition on the theme of food on MAY 2 2015 in Milan.

Chickens Blamed for Romanian Budget Deficit

Two white chickens or hens inside a chicken coop or hen house seen through chicken wire.

Do Your Homework First and Starting Business in Poland is Easier

Western Ukraine Could Be an Entry Point into the Country

Lithuania Handed Top Marks for Business Services

Beautiful panorama of Vilnius Old Town taken from Gediminas hill; Lithuania

Larisa Manastirli: Where is Bulgaria After Ten Years in the EU?

Ukraine to Restart Privatisation to Realise Profits

Pricatisation electricity ukraine

Economy Minister: Internationalisation Is the Key To the Slovenian Economy

Georgia’s Growth Continues

Batumi, Adjara, Georgia - May 27, 2016: Batumi, Adjara, Georgia. Gogebashvili Street Road And Marine Station Or Maritime Station Building Batumi On Background

Moldova Launches New e-Procurement System In Search For Positive Change

Photo team work process, holding contract hand, signs documents. Account managers young crew works with startup project.New idea presentation, analyze marketing reports.Blurred, film effect, horizontal.

Business Standards Are High in SEE But Vary Widely

Aerial view of The Cathedral of the Assumption in Varna

Digital Business Space Gives All Businesses an Office in Sarajevo

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 24 2015. View from Vraca Memorial Park with building of Avaz Twist Tower

A Risky Evaluation of Croatia’s Economy?

ZAGREB, CROATIA - JULY 17, 2017: Square Ban Josip Jelacic with tourists and trams on a summer day in Zagreb. City of Zagreb is the capital of Croatia.

Jadranka Joksimović: Serbia Takes Its Candidacy of the EU Seriously


Romanian Economy Grows Fast in 2017

Brasov cityscape panoramic and aerial view over medieval architecture of Brasov town, in Transylvania Romania

Global Players Dash for Tempting CEE

dollar pound euro coin on euro background.

Estonia Leading CEE Country in WEF Competitiveness Index

pharmaceutical factory woman worker operating production line at pharmacy industry manufacture factory

Automotive and Transport Companies Dominate the CEE Region

Car bodies on the production line inside automobile factory

Poland Stays Cool on Euro Adoption

Euro cash and Zloty on one photo.

21st century Manufacturing Arrives at Great Stone

Great stone

UK Economic Growth Slows as Brexit Uncertainty Bites

flags of UK and EU combined over icons of London - Brexit concept

Fitch And the World Bank: Economic Growth To Remain Solid Within CEE In 2016

CEE Must Improve Infrastructure and Logistics

Aerial view of Gliwice Sosnica motorway junction. There are international traffic in four directions

Albania’s Construction Sector Supports the Country’s Growth

SARANDA, ALBANIA - MAY 18: View of the city Saranda, most important tourist attraction of the Albanian Riviera on May 18, 2017 in Saranda, Albania.

China Agrees to Build Hi Tech Business Park in Serbia

BELGRADE SERBIA - SEPTEMBER 29 2016: View on the city center and the junction of Rivers Sava and Danube in Belgrade Serbia.

Romanian Car Maker Dacia Sees Sales Boom

Sables d Olonne France - May 07 2017 : Dacia Tour 2017 is a commercial operation organized by the car builder in order to present its cars throughout France - Close-up on cars

Nadiya Savchenko: I Dream of a Great Ukraine

Panorama of the top part of the Andrew's Descent from Castle Hill in springtime in Kiev Ukraine.

Investigations Into the Corrupt Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Sectors

Ukrainian money hryvnia. The national currency. Corruption in Ukraine

Mayor: Armenia And Its Capital Yerevan Offer Safe Investment And Tourism To a Growing World

Sarajevo Stock Exchange Connected to SEE Link

sarajevo stock exchange

Changes Are Making Ukrainian Banking More Aligned with International Standards

Lithuania Set to Streamline Competition Legislation

Industrial dock with cranes on the quay

EU Membership and Transition into Market Economies Have Helped CEE Achieve Social Progress

Despite Public Anxieties, Migration is Playing a Key Role in ECA Growth

Bratislava city aerial panoramic view. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia.

More EU Help for Belarus SMEs

GRODNO BELARUS - DECEMBER 13 2013: Seamstress in textile factory sewing with a industrial sewing machine .

Lech Wałęsa: Hard Options Can Force Nations to Get Down to Work

Romanian Cabinet Reshuffled as New Splits Emerge in Ruling Party

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 25 2014: The Victoria Palace. Victoria Square.

Serbia, Belarus and Ukraine Ranked Lowly by Wharton Business School

Kyiv Ukraine - April 172017: The postal square in Kiev on Podol the Dnipro river. view of the square from the river panorama

Doing Business Across Eurasia Could Be Easier

Eurasia emerging europe schneider group

Trans Adriatic Pipeline Will Fuel Albanian Growth

Xanthi. Greece - July 30 2017: aerial view of construction of gas pipeline Trans Adriatic Pipeline - TAP in north Greece. The pipeline starts from the Caspian sea and reaches the coast of southern Italy

EconMin: Bulgaria — Number One Outsourcing Destination And an Island of Stability in Europe

Estonia Proposes Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for Robots

Robotic hand accessing on laptop the virtual world of information. Concept of artificial intelligence and replacement of humans by machines.

Poland Is Set To Become a Large Economic Zone

Aerial view over the building materials processing factory. View from above.

Chris Lowney — What Jesuit Spirituality Can Teach Us About Global Leadership

Estcoin: Estonia’s Own Digital Currency?

1 euro coin money (EUR) currency of European Union Estonia over blue background

Putin Urges Belarus to End Oil Transit Through Lithuania

Athens Greece - May 27 2016: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers

Derek Chollet: There Is a Resurgence of Supporters of the Transatlantic Relationship

white house

Kosovo: A Population of Talented Young Entrepreneurs Waits at Europe’s Door

Croatian Salaries Are Growing in Line With Other CEE Countries

Dubrovnik Croatia emerging europe

Bad Payers Still Causing Problems for Romanian Firms

Close up Romanian currency note, LEI or LEU, Romania

SEE Link — Sharing SEE Europe’s Hopes for a Brighter Investment Future

Romania Cuts Income Tax, Introduces Solidarity Tax

CLUJ NAPOKA ROMANIA - OCT 2 2016: People on the central street of Cluj Napoka - the unofficial capital of Transylvania.

High Real Estate Prices at Home Force Czech Investors Abroad

Construction of the Petrin lookout tower in Prague Czech Republic

After Economic Shocks Armenia Plans for Macroeconomic Stability

yerevan armenia minister of finance

Poland’s Business Constitution Must Be Finalised

Front of finance ministry in Warsaw Poland with a fountain framing the entrance. Could be used for images about Euro currency problems

Valga and Valka – Where Estonia and Latvia Work Together

Valga valka emerging europe

Belarus’ Economy Is Slowly Recovering From Past Declines

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Focussing on Stability and Business Climate

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 23 2015. View of Miljacka River in Sarajevo city

Meghri Becomes Armenia’s Third FEZ

armenia emerging europe

IMF Increases Growth Forecast With Emerging Europe Prominent

Dambovita river and center of Bucharest at sunset time Romania.

Ukraine’s Q2 Growth Climbs

kyiv ukraine emerging europe

Prospering Czechia Still Needs a Bigger Workforce

prague emerging europe

CEE Is Key to China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Shanghai skyline Panoramic view of shanghai skyline and huangpu river Shanghai China

PE and VC Investment In CEE Is At an Eight-Year High

venture capital

GE Inaugurates Its New Bucharest Software Centre

Asian Outsource Developer Team Sitting At Desk Working Laptop Computer Mobile Application Software Real Office

Poland to Switch from Emerging to Developed Market by September 2018

warsaw stock exchange

CEE Nation Brands Still Behind Western Counterparts

TALLINN ESTONIA- JUNE 17: View of the modern high rise buildings on border with an old part of the city on June 17 2012 in Tallinn Estonia

Growth Continues for State-Owned Azerbaijan Airlines

Azerbaijan Baku - September 16 2015: View of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport sign in Baku Azerbaijan. The airport is the home of Azerbaijan Airlines the national flag carrier.

World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016 Resume For Emerging Europe

Poland’s Q2 2017 Growth Is Stronger Than Expected

WARSAW, POLAND - MAY 07, 2016: Building Palace of Culture and Science among the modern buildings of the city

Lviv Is the Pearl and the Soul of Ukraine

Macedonia — Stepping Out Of the Shadow Of the Balkans

Belarus Introduces New Business-Friendly Auditing Procedures

MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 15, 2016: Aerial view of the southwestern part of the Minsk with Palace of Sport and old and new other buildings. Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus.

Polish Labour Market Deficits Are Impacting All

Construction site with crane and building. Construction site in western europe - in Poland.

Slovenia Sets Green Vehicle Deadline of 2030


Still Potential for Growth in CEE as Economies Stabilise

Air Passenger Volumes Reach Record High in the Baltics


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *