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 of how areas such as trade, investment, agriculture, or environmental policy might positively shape the conditions towards fulfilling the objectives of the Global Compact. Similarly, policy coherence at the EU level can be enhanced to contribute to alleviating the drivers of displacement and to embracing the benefits of human mobility more generally.

In the EU Policy Lab, we have been working on 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 the key topics that emerged from the discussion:

  • We need fresh perspectives and a long-term vision in policy responses to migration and displacement. A more holistic approach should consider global well-being as a framework for future strategies because the well-being of Europe cannot be advanced in isolation from the rest of the world.
  • Policy coherence across the various fields of EU external engagement in the field of migration, development and trade requires greater collaboration between actors. Policy coherence should be encouraged on all sides, for countries of origin, transit and destination. 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 to be scrutinised. For example, the EU-Africa partnership collaboration that strives to promote employment opportunities across the African continent to reduce incentives for irregular migration cannot be undermined by other policies that endanger traditional livelihoods and push people to search for better opportunities elsewhere.
  • An important step in improving policy coherence would be to “mainstream migration” into other areas where migration is often not directly considered. 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) have been developing ‘Guidelines on mainstreaming migration into development policy’. Mainstreaming of migration considerations in a range of policy areas should also be encouraged in migrants’ countries of origin.
  • The issue of quality of jobs that are being created across the African continent and whether these can satisfy the rising aspirations of young Africans is an overlooked aspect of migration policies and partnership collaborations. Many new jobs driven by new investments still leave workers in precarious situations with emigration as an alternative strategy to secure livelihoods or diversify sources of income for households. Therefore, generating employment opportunities may not always act as a substitute for international migration.
  • The Global Compact can be seen as reinforcing what the European Commission is doing already. However, it can also provide a new opportunity to use the momentum to join efforts 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 policy priority for the EU could be brought to the forefront.
  • The Commission should work closely with the IOM to support the coordination of the implementation efforts for the Global Compact.
  • Research and evidence can support the implementation process and help identify successful projects. The research community could support governments to test and assess the feasibility of pilot projects and provide evidence on smaller initiatives before scaling up. 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 recommended by the participants:

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

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 together with the Bahá’í International Community Brussels office. Many thanks to Kathrine Jensen for organisational support and help with summarising the outcomes of the debate.

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