Migration and the Politics of Proximity: António Vitorino

June 21st, 2011

António Vitorino, former European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, shares his thoughts on multiculturalism and migration in Europe.

I believe that the democratic transitions in North Africa are a unique opportunity for the European Union to develop a partnership with those countries, build upon shared values, economic development, social cohesion, and also mobility between the two margins of the Mediterranean Sea.

What we cannot deny is that there is an overall sense of pessimism – cultural and economic pessimism – in European societies that includes migrants and a certain rejection of migration. But our societies have become – in an irreversible way – multiethnic societies. So the challenges of integration do not disappear just because someone says multiculturalism is dead.

Living together is a challenge both for the host societies and for the migrants themselves. It is a two-way street. It has never been completely achieved. It’s a permanent process that requires new stakeholders and policies of proximity.

I believe that civil society has a key role to play. Governments today are too much obsessed with border controls. Border controls are extremely important but they are not the solution to the need for regulation of migratory flows.

Therefore, civil society needs to mobilize NGOS (organizations that represent the migrants themselves), foundations, business associations and trade unions. They have a role to play in the integration process that needs to be at the local level [and include] the involvement of local authorities, municipalities, the workplace. And, with civil society,  [they need] to be mobilized by policies of proximity.

Dr. António Vitorino’s video interview (below) was recorded on May 27, 2011 at the  2011 European Foundation Centre’s Annual General Assembly and Conference in Cascais, Portugal. It is printed with his permission.

For more information, see  ‘Diversity in Europe: a Crisis of Tolerance?’, a debate organised jointly by the EFC’s Diversity Migration and Integration Interest Group (DMIIG) and the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM).

Dr. Antonio Vitorino is a former Portuguese EU Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs. António Vitorino was previously a law professor, a judge, a Secretary of State of the Macao Government, Vice-Prime Minister of Portugal and Chairman of European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee.

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