European Economic Area
The Regional Migration Context
Ongoing recession and uneven recovery in a number of European destination countries has contributed to a worsening of the public perception of migrants and asylum-seekers, which, together with the rise of xenophobic rhetoric and initiatives, has degraded public discourse and exacerbated the economic and social marginalization of some migrants. At the same time, in the context of an ageing Europe and with the general political shift from austerity towards a more pro-growth stance, discussion on improving labour mobility and tackling rising youth unemployment has become more prominent, thus presenting opportunities for countries in the region to gain an edge in the global competition for workers. Reverse emigration and intra-EU migration dynamics are also noteworthy: new emigration from crisis-hit Southern States to Northern economies and to other regions is a trend that is likely to continue for migrants following employment opportunities, and will thus test the response of governments and societies to manage and benefit from these flows.
Externally, the EU and the governments in the region continuously factor in the role that the European Neighborhood and the enlargement candidate countries in South-Eastern Europe play as main countries of origin and transit to the EU. Volatility in the Middle East and North Africa region, in particular, has resulted in considerable cross-border movements; instability in these countries has also impacted Europe. As such, the EU and many governments in the region have taken practical steps or made proposals to respond to irregular migration and the resulting migration pressures on the EU’s external borders.1
1 For instance, through the EU’s “Action on Migratory Pressures” (April 2012) and its “Common Framework for genuine and practical solidarity towards Member States facing particular pressures on their asylum systems, including through mixed migration flows” (March 2012).