Many of today's most pressing social issues are transnational in nature: climate change, the corona pandemic, and migration and refugee movements do not stop at national borders. In addition, there is a growing mistrust in the problem-solving capacity of democracy and the European Union. Creative, democratic, sustainable and effective approaches are needed to find answers to challenges such as increasing economic and social inequality, migration and refugee policies that violate fundamental rights, and the question of how to shape the ecological transformation in a just way. Municipalities can play an important part in addressing these challenges. They are directly confronted with the effects of global challenges and must develop sustainable solutions for them.
During the project, complementary governance concepts were developed, which are currently being implemented and tested in further projects.
2018 – 2022
Giulia Fellin, Alina Lyapina, Johannes Krabbe
While the European Union and nation states are unable or unwilling to find solutions to the crisis-ridden European migration and asylum policy , in recent years more and more European cities and municipalities have declared their willingness to proactively take in those seeking protection. These progressive municipalities stand for a Europe of solidarity that respects human rights and takes responsibility for the protection of human lives. These municipalities can contribute an important part to the solution for the migration challenges. We propose a governance concept that relies on the direct relocation of refugees from Europe's external borders to European municipalities that are ready to receive them. An algorithm-based matching process can play a central role in this process, in order to match the needs of those seeking protection with the offers of the municipalities willing to receive them and to bring them into the best possible agreement.
This idea gave rise to the pilot project Re:Match for the needs-oriented and individualized admission of refugees via matching.
In order to organize the voluntary reception of refugees in a sustainable manner and to place it on a broad basis, development advisory councils consisting of political, economic and civil society representatives should be formed in the municipalities to advise on the orientation and design of future policies and to prepare their implementation. They are based on the principle that inclusive, sustainable development works best when all relevant stakeholder groups are involved. This is the place to think together about the demographic development of the community: about needs and possible offers in the economy and in terms of workforce and its training, about the development of the necessary infrastructure, about education and further training, about offers of housing, about perspectives for cultural development and social integration of all citizens of the place. After all, in a pluralistic democratic society, integration is fundamentally a permanent general-societal challenge and task, not only in connection with refugees, but also with regard to all marginalized persons.
The format of the municipal development councils has now been implemented in several model projects.
Municipalities can decide to take in refugees on the basis of their demographic, but also economic and cultural development. They receive an additional incentive for this if they are reimbursed for the costs of integration in this regard by a European Integration and Development Fund and additionally receive financial resources for their own development in the same amount. As an additional incentive, they should also receive funds in the same amount for their own municipal development. The municipalities, which take on more responsibility, would thus have the financial means to do so. In addition, the cities and municipalities would experience a revitalization not only economically, but also culturally , since, for example, funds would be available for cultural projects. In many European regions from which people are migrating, this would also trigger a positive dynamic. Instead of fearing the loss of nation-state sovereignty and competence, the member states could accept the voluntary offer of the cities and municipalities as a possible way out of the reform blockade .
To European integration and development fund concept we published a legal opinion and held several panels.
Europe urgently needs a medium- and long-term strategy that does not see the reception of protection seekers as a threat, but protects fundamental rights. A decentralized and participatory approach of networked communities in asylum and refugee policy could give the EU the impetus for a positive new beginning by not perceiving the reception of refugees as a burden, but using their integration as an impetus for sustainable development .