Municipalities that agree to take in people seeking protection should be incentivised financially. To this end, we propose the establishment of an EU fund to which municipalities can apply directly for financial resources. In addition to the costs of reception and integration, local authorities can receive the same amount of funding for their own municipal development.
Cities and municipalities are key players in the reception of migrants and people seeking protection. They are responsible for the provision of housing, integration into the local labour market and the provision of social services such as healthcare, childcare and education. At the same time, they are notoriously underfunded and excluded from most EU decisions on asylum and migration policy. Nevertheless, many municipalities across Europe have declared in recent years that they are willing to voluntarily accept additional migrants and protection seekers and have shown their willingness to participate in resettlement from countries of first arrival. Although municipalities do not have the legal powers to participate directly in resettlement programmes, their willingness to take in protection seekers could be used to overcome the political blockade at European level. To do so, they would have to be provided with adequate resources by the European Union, among other things.
As a way to support voluntary reception by municipalities, we propose the establishment of an independent European "Integration and Development Fund", from which municipalities could receive reimbursements for reception costs and the same amount for their own municipal development. Such an innovative combination of integration and municipal development measures would provide municipalities with adequate funding and transform the reception of refugees from a financial burden into an opportunity for sustainable development at local level. This fund can give cities an incentive and greater room for manoeuvre to work towards humanitarian, sustainable and inclusive solutions. Especially in times of rising anti-migration sentiment and the reluctance of EU member states to participate in intra-European programmes for the redistribution of refugees, this municipal approach offers a new perspective for progressive European solidarity.
However, the joint financing of urban development and integration in a common fund and the direct transfer of EU funds to municipalities and cities raises legal and practical questions. Do the EU treaties authorise such a fund? And how should it be organised so that it is a useful and accessible instrument for both large and small cities and municipalities? In order to discuss these legal and practical challenges and possibilities, we have commissioned a legal opinion together with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and discussed this with European stakeholders and legal experts.
There are also limited opportunities for cities and municipalities to apply for direct EU funding for reception and integration costs. However, the procedure is often complex and the costs for local authorities are very high. In a policy brief, we provide an overview of the various EU funding mechanisms in this area.
2020 – 2022
Giulia Fellin, Johannes Krabbe, Malisa Zobel