In October of last year, under the French presidency, EU heads of state endorsed the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum. The pact introduces the ‘Blue Card’ system for skilled immigrants outside of the EU, but among others, it also states that “the European Union […] does not have the resources to decently receive all the migrants who hope to find a better life here”.
As the independent media portal Euractiv.com reported, the pact “calls for better management of immigration and enhanced coordination at EU level as required by the creation of an area of free movement without internal borders.” It also touches upon the idea of illegal immigrants by setting EU-wide standards for returning them to their home country.
In spite of the fact that immigration is becoming an issue for the EU as a whole, most journalists still look at immigration as a national issue, said Elizabeth Collett, policy analyst with the European Policy Centre in Brussels.
The EPC is an independent think-tank that provides briefings and in-depth analysis on various EU issues, and Collett’s focus is on EU integration. I had the opportunity to get her insight on the matter last week, while on a EU-study to Brussels.
When the EU takes a decision on a matter related to immigration, many journalists call her up trying to place the story in the national context, thus finding the national angle.
Although there is increasing harmonisation across all 27 member states in terms of their visa policies, for example, it is clear immigration continues to remain a matter of national sensitivity. Immigration at the EU level is also a very complex matter, and there are not many Brussels-based correspondents covering just this, Collett said.
As the EU continues to liberalize its internal borders, making it more and more easier for EU citizens to travel from country to country, it is also clear the organization’s external borders also become a higher challenge. In essence, journalists must also look at the bigger picture and understand these changing dynamics, according to Collett.
Immigration has become a touchy subject in quite a few Western European states. Stories about immigrants taking away jobs from the native population are not uncommon, especially during the recession.
The media plays an essential role in shaping public opinion and the same is valid with immigration too. As the EU will continue to develop, immigration will become an even more important topic among policy officers working there – and journalists will have to look at this topic from an overall European lens.
At the end of our meeting, Collett suggested there also needs to be more balance and fair reporting on this topic in the media.
Journalists should also look at the positive impacts of immigration (be it from within or outside of the EU), not just at the downfalls, she added.