Migration is a multidimensional phenomenon that cannot be addressed by one government policy sector alone. This is why the recently adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration calls for a “whole-of-government” approach as a way to develop and implement effective migration policies and practices and to ensure horizontal and vertical policy coherence across all sectors and levels of government. In European policymaking, this means considering the role of ‘non-migration policies’ on migration dynamics. Effective migration management can be strengthened by systematically addressing the questions: How can areas such as trade, investment, agriculture, or environmental policy positively shape the conditions towards fulfilling the objectives of the Global Compact? How can policy coherence at the EU level be enhanced to help alleviate the drivers of displacement and embrace the benefits of human mobility more generally?

In the EU Policy Lab, we recently completed a foresight study about the future of migration in the European Union for the past two years. We identified the need to go beyond migration policies to effectively manage migration at the EU level as one of the key challenges for the future. This is why we organised an informal, exploratory discussion[1] among policymakers from across the Commission, experts and civil society in November 2018. Our aim was to capture some initial insights into how the European Commission can mobilize non-migration policies to support the implementation of the objectives outlined in the Global Compact for Migration.

Here are 7 key challenges and opportunities that emerged from the discussion:

  • We need a long-term vision and a global perspective shaping policy responses to migration and displacement. This new approach should consider global well-being as a framework for future strategies because the well-being of Europe cannot be advanced in isolation from that of the rest of the world.
  • Policy coherence across various areas of EU external engagement on migration, development and trade requires greater collaboration between state and non-state actors. Policy coherence should be encouraged in countries of destination but also in origin and transit countries. For instance, research shows that in many countries of origin, investment in the agricultural sector can significantly influence migration dynamics. Similarly, the impact of EU policies needs systematic assessment. We need to avoid a situation when the EU-Africa partnership collaboration that strives to reduce incentives for irregular migration by promoting employment opportunities across the African continent is undermined by other EU policies that endanger traditional livelihoods and push Africans to search for better opportunities abroad.
  • Mainstreaming migration into areas where it is usually not considered could be a step towards policy coherence. This is already happening in the area of international development where the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) developed ‘Guidelines on mainstreaming migration into development policy’. Mainstreaming of migration considerations in a range of policy areas should also be encouraged in countries of origin and transit.
  • The question around the quality of jobs that are being created across the African continent and their potential to satisfy the rising aspirations of young Africans is an overlooked aspect of partnership collaborations. Many new jobs that are driven by new investments still leave workers in precarious situations with emigration remaining an alternative strategy to secure livelihoods or to diversify sources of income for households. It is therefore important to recognise that generating employment opportunities may not always act as a substitute for international migration.
  • The Global Compact can be read as simply reinforcing what the European Commission is already striving to do. However, it can also provide a new opportunity to join efforts across the organisation and change the way we approach migration and displacement. With the new Commission starting its work in 2019, new initiatives and ways of working around this top EU policy priority could be brought to the forefront.
  • The Commission should also work closely with the IOM to support the coordination of the implementation of the Global Compact.
  • Research and evidence can support the implementation process and help identify successful projects to be scaled up. The research community could support the EU and governments in testing and assessing the feasibility of pilot projects. This could be particularly useful for the initiatives concerning legal migration pathways currently being undertaken or considered by various governments.


Recent reports on the topic:

Arroyo Temprano, Heliodoro. 2018. “Promoting Labour Market Integration of Refugees with Trade Preferences: Beyond the EU-Jordan Compact.” European University Institute, San Domenico di Fiesole. http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/57124/RSCAS_2018_42rev.pdf?sequence=4&isAllowed=y.

———. 2019. “Using the EU’s External Financial Assistance to Address the Root Causes of Migration and Refugee Flows.” European University Institute, San Domenico di Fiesole, forthcoming as an e-book.

Corrado, Alessandra, Francesco Saverio Caruso, Martina Lo Cascio, Michele Nori, Letizia Palumbo, and Anna Triandafyllidou. 2018. “Is Italian Agriculture a ‘Pull Factor’ for Irregular Migration – And, If So, Why?” Open Society European Policy Institute, Brussels. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/is-italian-agriculture-a-pull-factor-for-irregular-migration-20181205.pdf.

IOM. 2018. “Migration and the 2030 Agenda: A Guide for Practitioners.” International Organization for Migration, Geneva. https://publications.iom.int/books/migration-and-2030-agenda-guide-practitioners

MPI. 2017-2019. Towards a Global Compact for Migration: A Development Perspective – a series of issue briefs by Migration Policy Institute, Washington, DC.

Schewel, Kerilyn. 2018. “Ziway or Dubai: Can Flower Farms in Ethiopia Reduce Migration to the Middle East?” International Organization for Migration, Migration Research Series, Geneva. https://publications.iom.int/books/mrs-no-55-ziway-or-dubai-can-flower-farms-ethiopia-reduce-migration-middle-east.


[1] The discussion was hosted by the Joint Research Centre’s EU Policy Lab and co-organised with the Bahá’í International Community Brussels office. Many thanks to Kathrine Jensen for organisational support and help with capturing the outcomes of the debate.


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