Doc. 10409

22 January 2005

Links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin

Recommendation 1650 (2004)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 912th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (19 January 2005)

1.       The Committee of Ministers considers that Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1650 (2004) on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin, raises important and timely issues that should be given serious consideration. Therefore the Committee of Ministers has brought it to the attention of the governments of the member states. The Committee of Ministers has received opinions on the Recommendation from the European Committee on Migration (CDMG), the Steering Committee for Culture (CDCULT) and the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CD-ESR) (see Appendices 1 to 3 to this reply).

2.       The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly that growing expatriation may constitute a positive effect of globalisation that contributes to building diverse, tolerant and multicultural societies. It recognises the role that migrants can play as vectors of development for both countries of origin and destination. It also recognises the importance they can have for their countries of origin and the Committee of Ministers will pay due attention to the institutional and human conditions necessary for the full development of these potentials. A workshop that was recently organised in the Council of Europe’s North-South Centre in Lisbon (April 2004) considered this issue in the context of co-development. The Committee of Ministers invites the CDMG to reflect on the institutional deficiencies that may exist in this field in order to better target the sectors that could necessitate specific action.

3.       The Committee of Ministers also shares the view expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly that a right balance between the process of integration into host societies and the links with the country of origin should be achieved and maintained. In particular, it agrees that the problem of emigration should be given greater attention at international and local level. The Committee of Ministers charges the CDMG with examining the concrete mechanisms linked to the migratory processes at the pan-European level, with a view to identifying the legal measures that could contribute to such a balance. In this context it wishes to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Assembly to the Migration Management Strategy, adopted by the CDMG, which provides a framework within which many existing or potential issues related to the links between migrants and their countries of origins can be addressed. As the CDMG stresses in its opinion, it is committed to continue to develop the Migration Management Strategy to better reflect the needs of migrants, willing to maintain and strengthen links with their countries of origin as well as the interests of the countries of emigration.

4.       Furthermore, the Political Platform, which constitutes a basis for harmonising national approaches to migration and the development of synergies with the European Union policies under the Common Asylum and Migration Policy, serves as a forum where all the questions relevant to the problem under consideration may be discussed and examined. In particular, issues of student migrants and the role of co-development have been subjects of discussion within the Political Platform. The Committee of Ministers considers that it would be of interest in these consultations to provide for the participation of the relevant NGOs, if this has not already been done, in order to increase the transparency of the harmonisation process in this field, as well as the relevance of the measures resulting from it.

5.       With reference to paragraph 9 (vi), the Committee of Ministers recalls its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1624 (2003) on a common policy on migration and asylum, in which it pointed out that the CDMG is undertaking a study on the feasibility of establishing an Agency on Migration, which, if established, would address the root causes of forced migration and other migratory movements in close cooperation with other international actors. It considers that this feasibility study should cover also the question of the need to establish a pan-European, harmonised system for collecting statistics on migration in Council of Europe member states. It could cover also the question whether such an agency would be able to undertake some of the other tasks referred to in the Assembly’s Recommendation (paragraph 9 (ii-viii)).

6.       The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly that expatriation should be accompanied by coherent migration policies involving both host countries and countries of origin. It will continue to explore the possibilities of developing common approaches for relations between expatriates and their countries of origin. This may concern both the reception of foreigners in host countries and the full and equal participation of expatriates in the economic, social and cultural life of the receiving community. In this context, it is of vital importance that migrants’ qualifications be fairly recognised across national borders. The Council of Europe / UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (the Lisbon Recognition Convention, ETS No. 165), as well as the Council’s activities to promote implementation of this Convention, are cornerstones of the overall European offsets to facilitate the recognition of higher education qualifications.

7.       In the context of the Bologna Process aiming to establish a European Higher Education Area by 2010, to which the Council of Europe is an important contributor, the work to develop transparent and compatible degrees and cooperation in quality assurance are also of great importance. The development of joint degrees could be of particular importance in maintaining contacts between expatriates, including children of expatriates, and their countries of origin. The Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee adopted a Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees at its meeting on 9 June 2004.

8.       In its opinion the CD-ESR draws the attention to the brain drain phenomenon, which is also referred to in paragraph 9 (iv) of the Assembly’s Recommendation. The Committee of Ministers recalls that its Recommendation R (95) 7 on the Brain Drain in the Sectors of Higher Education and Research promotes a set of measures to be taken in order to combat brain drain. It also recalls the 2nd Conference of Ministers of Education from South-East Europe (Strasbourg, 19-20 November 2001) on “The future of educational reforms and the obstacles facing them – from the brain drain to brain gain”, which focused on practical measures for reducing brain drain and in particular for stimulating the return in their countries of skilled young migrants. The Committee of Ministers encourages the CD-ESR to explore policies in this area, with a view to elaborating specific programmes and projects aimed at encouraging qualified expatriates to return to their country of origin in line with the Assembly’s Recommendation.

9.       The Committee of Ministers shares the opinion of the CDCULT that language education is of particular importance for the successful integration of migrants. It recalls that the revised European Social Charter in its Article 19, relating to the right of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance, provides that Parties to the Charter shall undertake to promote and facilitate the teaching of the national language of the receiving state or, if there are several, one of these languages, to migrant workers and members of their families as well as to promote and facilitate, as far as practicable, the teaching of the migrant worker’s mother tongue to the children of the migrant worker. The Committee of Ministers invites the Steering Committee for Education (CD-ED) to consider measures aiming to promote learning both of the language of the host country and of the country of origin.

Appendix 1 to the reply

Opinion of the European Committee on Migration (CDMG)

on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1650 (2004)

on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin

1.       The European Committee on Migration (CDMG) welcomes the attention of the Parliamentary Assembly to the subject of the links between Europeans living outside their countries of origin with their home countries. It agrees that growing expatriation should be viewed as a positive effect of globalisation that contributes to building diverse, tolerant and multicultural societies in Europe. It recognises the role that migrants can play as vectors of development for both countries of origin and destination.

2.       Moreover, the CDMG recognises the importance of immigrants for their countries of origin. A workshop that was organised in the Council of Europe’s North-South Centre in Lisbon in April 2004 considered this issue in the context of co-development.

3.       The CDMG also shares the view expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly that a right balance between the process of integration into host societies and the links with the country of origin should be achieved and maintained. In particular, it agrees that the problem of emigration should be given greater attention at international and local level. It also wishes to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Assembly to the Migration Management Strategy, which provides a framework within which many existing or potential issues related to the links between migrants and their countries of origins can be addressed. At the same time, the CDMG wishes to stress that it is committed to continue to develop the Migration Management Strategy to better reflect the needs of migrants, willing to maintain and strengthen links with their countries of origin as well as interests of the countries of emigration.

4.       The CDMG believes that the problem raised by the Parliamentary Assembly is acute not only for Europeans, but also for nationals of non-European countries residing in Europe.

5.       The CDMG also wishes to mention that the Political Platform serves as a forum where all the questions relevant to the problem under consideration may be discussed and examined. In particular, the issues of student migrants and the role of co-development have been subjects of the discussion within the Political Platform.

Appendix 2 of the reply

Opinion of the Bureau of the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CD-ESR)

on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1650 (2004)

on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin

1. The CD-ESR Bureau notes with satisfaction the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1650 (2004) on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin, which raises a good number of timely issues. While the present opinion is limited to the aspects concerning higher education, the CD-ESR Bureau would like to underline the educational, cultural, political and economic importance of international exchange, including migration. The CD-ESR Bureau underlines that such exchange represents numerous opportunities and should be encouraged, and it regrets that much current political discourse only focuses on negative aspects of migration. Education, at all levels, has an important mission in conveying a balanced approach to migration, and in promoting attitudes of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion.

2. The CD-ESR Bureau agrees with the Recommendation that expatriation should be seen as a positive expression of modernity and dynamism and should be accompanied by coherent migration policies (paragraph 6). In this context, it is of vital importance that migrants’ qualifications be fairly recognised across national borders. The Council of Europe / UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (the Lisbon Recognition Convention, ETS No. 165), as well as the Council’s activities to promote implementation of this Convention, are cornerstones of the overall European offsets to facilitate the recognition of higher education qualifications.

3. In the context of the Bologna Process aiming to establish a European Higher Education Area by 2010, to which the Council of Europe is an important contributor, the work to develop transparent and compatible degrees and cooperation in quality assurance are also of great importance. The development of joint degrees could be of particular importance in maintaining contacts between expatriates, including children of expatriates, and their countries of origin. The Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee adopted a Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees at its meeting on 9 June 2004.

4. While fully supporting the initiative of the Parliamentary Assembly that links between Europeans living abroad and the countries of origin should be maintained (paragraph 4) and that further cooperation should be encouraged (paragraph 5), the CD-ESR believes that students and young graduates should be seen as promoters in those activities because of their dynamism and their European-oriented education.

5. For some countries, the need for links with this highly educated segment of population is particularly vital also because of the brain drain phenomenon, which has important costs as well as potential benefits in the long run. The CD-ESR Bureau would like to point to the role of the Council of Europe in tackling this problem.

6. Recommendation R (95) 7 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the Brain Drain in the Sectors of Higher Education and Research promotes a set of measures to be taken in order to combat brain drain in the sectors of higher education and research. The Council of Europe also co-organised the Conference of Ministers of Education from South-East Europe on “The future of educational reforms and the obstacles facing them – from the brain drain to brain gain”, which focused on practical measures for reducing the brain drain and in particular for stimulating the return in their countries of skilled young migrants.

7. In the light of the above mentioned actions of the Council, the CD-ESR Bureau further supports “the elaboration and implementation of specific programmes and projects aimed at encouraging qualified expatriates from particular countries to return to their country of origin” (paragraph 9.iv of the Recommendation). In its future programme, the CD-ESR could explore policies in this area.

8. Finally, the CD-ESR Bureau considers that higher education institutions should be encouraged to maintain links with their former students regardless of their country of residence. The CD-ESR Bureau recalls that by crystallising the solidarity with their students, universities would strengthen cooperation with other universities, in the spirit of the Bologna Process.

Appendix 3 to the reply

Opinion of the Steering Committee for Culture (CDCULT)

on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1650 (2004)

on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin

1.       The Steering Committee for Culture (CDCULT) welcomes and congratulates the Parliamentary Assembly on issuing Recommendation 1650 (2004) on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin at this time of European Union enlargement and global migration.

2.       The Committee agrees with the Assembly in that migration has often been studied from the perspective of immigration and mainly integration policies, whereas the emigration issue seems somewhat underexposed.

3.       The Committee thus underlines the role and potential of expatriates to serve as mediators between their home and host countries and making an important contribution to intercultural dialogue and mutual knowledge and respect between different people and cultures. In this, expatriates are active facilitators – promoting exchange and cooperation at many levels of society.

4.       The Committee welcomes the proposals made in Recommendation 1650 (2004) geared to optimise the balance between the process of integration in the host country and keeping-up relations with the home country for migrants.

5.       With a view to possible follow-up by the Committee of Ministers, the Steering Committee is happy to make the following specific comments on this Recommendation and provide information on its own projects, which are relevant:

5.1       Paragraph 9.i.c.

Immigrants are very often integrated into societies; emigrants however, are very often treated as second-class citizens by their original country's population, and sometimes language can be a barrier. Educational matters, such as language education, could thus be mentioned as well.

5.2       Paragraph 9.ii.

Lifelong education might bring emigrants back to their countries of origin, a possibly interesting option. Again, educational measures could be mentioned in this context.

5.3       General comment

What could be more stressed in the Recommendation is the positive contribution that emigrants make to their new societies, especially with a view to contributing and enhancing cultural diversity, but also in the double perspective host country – country of origin.

6.       The Committee is happy to provide information on its own projects, which are relevant to the context.

6.1       The CDCULT has carried out a transversal study on cultural diversity involving some 15 European countries in recent years and consequently issued a Declaration on Cultural Diversity (adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 December 2000). The Declaration stresses the freedom of creative expression and the freedom of information in every form of cultural exchange (linguistic exchange, book and foreign literature fairs, food festivals, twinnings) and other events (artistic, for example), and more specifically those using new information technologies. A background report “Differing Diversities” is available.

6.2       Since 2002, the Committee is engaged in a priority project on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention. The activity has produced a Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention, adopted at the occasion of a Ministerial Conference in October 2003 in Opatija. The action plan 2002-2004 foresees expert colloquies, intercultural think-tanks (“Rethinking Stereotypes”, 2003, Sarajevo; “Core Values of Intercultural Dialogue”, 2004), an action line on “Shared Cities” and “Peace Cradles” analysing the impact of cultural projects on building inter-community dialogue, flagship activities such as exhibitions and the pilot project “Sarajevo, Intercultural City of the Council of Europe 2004”. As for follow-up in 2005 and beyond, specific emphasis shall be given to migrants within an enlarged project perspective on the social impact of culture.