The European Union and the global challenge of migration

Migration is a central and common phenomenon in human history. The international migrant population in Europe[1] is expected to increase in the future, due to economic and demographic factors, political unrest, conflicts and climate change. One aspect that has become increasingly clear in recent years is that, if the EU wants to successfully manage immigration flows at home, it needs to strengthen its cooperation with third countries of origin and transit of migrants, by fully addressing the root causes of migration and exploiting the potential of migration as a development enabler. In this vein, the European Council conclusions of June 2014 stress that migration policies need to become a stronger integral part of the Union's external and development policies through intensifying cooperation with third countries, while also calling for improving the link between the EU's internal and external policies. Particular account should be taken of the European Agenda on Migration[2] and the European Council Conclusions of 23 April 2015 and 25/26 June 2015.

The migration crisis in the Mediterranean has put the spotlight on immediate needs. But it has also revealed much about the structural limitations of EU migration policy and the tools at its disposal. This is an opportunity for the EU to face up to the need to strike the right balance in its migration policy and send a clear message to citizens that migration can be better managed collectively by all EU actors. In recent years, important steps have been taken in this direction but their success, in areas like asylum/international protection, treatment of refugees, visas, control of borders or detention regimes, remains contested. It is thus essential that the EU continues to engage in a broad debate on the links between its migration policies and other policies with an external dimensions including, but not limited to its foreign and development policies. The European policy for asylum, refugees, visas, external border regime, detention centres should be assessed. Research should also make recommendations on how to tackle migrant smuggling and those who profit from it.


The research to address this challenge should focus on one or two dimensions that have to be comprehensively addressed. The research may also cover other issues relevant for addressing the specific challenge.

1) An integrated approach to migration and development

Building on existing studies, research should further elucidate the complex interrelation between and the implications of demographic trends, socio-economic development, environment and good governance on the one hand, and migration flows on the other, both in third countries of origin and transit of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Research should cover existing migration management experiences in origin and transit countries focussing on compared practices and policy solutions for effective migration management including the gender dimension. In this perspective, cultural and religious traditions, local knowledge and practices that may affect attitudes to and practices of migration should also be taken into account.

Consortia are encouraged to target geographic areas of current and future strategic relevance for the EU, including those most likely to generate irregular flows. Researchers should be careful to capture the two-way relation between migration determinants and the impact of migration on the broader socio-economic infrastructure and processes of transformation in the sending countries. Given its increasing relevance, climate change and its effects, as well as other or environment-related reasons for migration, could also feature in the analysis of drivers of migration when relevant.

2) EU policy coherence and migration

Research should focus on the interplay between the Global Approach on Migration and Mobility (GAMM) and the deployment of EU foreign policy tools and processes and other European policies with an external dimension, in particular the European development, humanitarian and neighbourhood policies. Research should examine and clarify the links between the existing legislative framework developed by the EU concerning non-EU migration and the increasing use of new types of policy tools to achieve migration management related goals as well as their legal consequences for involved parties. The analysis will encompass the implementation of these policies in selected geographic areas of interest for the EU and the combined effects that such policies have on countries of origin and transit of migrants. Pre-departure policies, programmes and related activities could be the object of specific attention, along with other tools promoting mobility and descent treatment of migrants, in a legal and secure environment. Finally, the effectiveness and coherence of the overall EU approach to third-country cooperation on migration will be assessed, including aspects of inter- and intra-Member States cooperation and coordination, along with areas where further synergies are needed to create greater leverage effects between different EU policies (e.g. trade and labour markets, agriculture and fisheries). In selected cases, consortia should look at the role of bilateral migration policies conducted by Member States vis-à-vis third countries and their complementarity with EU level actions.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

The results of research under this topic, with its focus on sending and transit countries, should enhance policy coherence on migration between the EU and its member states. Research is thus expected to bring about greater policy coherence and effectiveness in the field of migration management and relations with third countries by clearly identifying and depicting good practices and effective ways to manage incoming and transiting migration at the benefit of local communities and immigrants. It should also allow a better understanding of the root causes of migration, their interplay with other determinants and the two way interaction between migration and development processes. Research will give EU and national policy-makers stronger conceptual tools to better interpret the role of the EU and its Member States as global actors in the field of migration.

[1] According to EUROSTAT on 1 January 2014, the number of people living in the EU-28 who were citizens of non-member countries was 19.6 million.

[2]COM(2015)240 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: An European Agenda on Migration.

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