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The idea of the EU-passport is not a silver bullet solution but could actually make a larger difference for many people. Since the beginning of 90’s the freedom of movement has contributed to a socially better and economically stronger Europe and also benefitted the millions of Europeans. Refugees could also be provided with similar opportunities where freedom becomes a stronger possibility for a successful integration process.
Since the beginning of the 1990’s and the Maastricht Treaty the EU has been struggling with establishing common institutions and policies for immigration. The refugee crisis that became a more visible and stronger part of the public discourse in Europe since 2015 could have been handled in a more efficient, decent and benefiting way keeping in mind all the EU-states owned material and institutional resources. However, one should keep in mind that migration has not always been the most popular or primary topic for discussions within institutions such as the Council of Ministers or the European Council.
The recent aftermaths and developments have sped up the process on ideas about the future of EU:s migration policy. One of the most controversial but also popular ideas is having a policy for humanitarian immigration based on relocation of refugees and asylum-seekers through a quota system. The majority of Europeans are in favor of having EU-level migration policy but the main differences are when it comes to the expression that the “devils is in the details”.
Some citizen favor doing more on the EU-level in order to help and integrate the refugees and some are in favor of doing more to reduce the numbers of refugees or to prevent refugees from entering the union. For example, before the UK referendum about its EU-membership there were discussions about how many refugees or migrants would come to the UK as more people would become EU-citizens.
The idea of refugee resettlement is also referring the aspects of multi-level governance. For example, in federations as Canada the policy area of immigration is a shared one, involving both the federal and state institutions. Canada offers an interesting and insightful example for the EU because of its cultural diversity that is also a part of the immigration process.
In the most parts of Canada refugees are learning English in the first hand while in the French speaking parts as Quebec the French language and the francophone culture are the primary parts of the integration process for a refugee. One main difference is however the geographical position, as Europe’s position makes it more attractive for movement of people from Africa, Russia and the Middle East.
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For the EU the problems are not only institutional, like for example the lack of similar institutions for immigration comparing to Canada. Despite the different historical backgrounds of the human mobility and migration issues in the European countries, one can say that Europe has almost always been open for people on the move.
The current problems, such as conflicts between the EU-governments, are very much connected to the identity politics. In countries as Poland and Hungary leading politicians have been communicating about the refugees as a threat to security and collective identification, but also in historically seen the migration friendly countries as Sweden and Germany the communication about refugees became harsher. Another problem is related to the economic differences within the union. There have been many cases of resettled refugees leaving countries as Latvia and Greece in order to get the better economic opportunities somewhere else.
The current situation also raises a question if the refugees should be placed and resettled in the parts of the union with the worse economic opportunities and social attitudes towards the refugees, the parts where the politicians use indecent, dehumanizing and even racist communication? One strong argument in favor of the common migration policy based on resettlements is that all of Europe needs to do this together.
But at the same time there is a lack of proposals that a common migration policy also demands, such as more integration, not only political but also economic, namely job creation, improving quality of life and funding the important institutions such as for border management and asylum offices.
One solution that could contribute to the EU:s handling of the current problems and challenges around refugees could be usage of an already existing system of EU-passport. In accordance with the regulation 1417/2013, also known as “EU:S laissez-passer”, the EU-passport valid for a 6 years-period can be issued in special cases such as to the EU-diplomats and individuals employed by the European External Action Service.
A similar idea was proposed as a part of the EU-citizen initiative connected to the Brexit process – that EU-passports could be issued to citizens instead of the national ID-documents. Basically, the idea of the EU-passports offers an alternative to the current passport systems and in the case of refugees it could offer new possibilities for the processes of integration and economic establishment.
Regarding the institutional process a system with the EU- and state institutions interplaying with the refugees could be developed. The EU-passport could be provided to refugees that have been processed and approved by European Asylum Support Office or by the state institutions in cooperation with EASO. During such process a refugee could be introduced to EU:s political system and constitutionalism as well as get information about economic opportunities as job seeking or internship, English or other languages studies etc. Refugees could also get in touch with the member states representatives who are interested into attracting and integrating the refugees to their societies.
The EU-passport could offer a new possibility for managing migration because it could provide the refugees with the basic political rights and the better economic opportunities in order to be able to search for work, studies or internship across the union. At the same time it would not provide the passport holder to access the welfare state and its resources.
This is also important due the face that EU still lacks the institutional and political experience of federations as USA or Canada when it comes to immigration. Different EU-countries have different historical experiences and resources. In addition, the EU-passport offers a kind of a civic affiliation for the refugees, not in the sense of the fully fledged citizenship but still enough to provide the refugees with a symbolic value and better economic opportunities in the union.