Migration: What Role for Regional Policy

Cite as: Polverari, L. (2019) Migration: What Role for Regional Policy. European Policy Research Paper, No. 110, European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

The paper provides an overview on the migratory phenomenon, observed through the lens of its territorial dimensions, and examines the degree to which this phenomenon affects territorial disparities. 1 It also reviews some of the policy responses put in place to tackle the territorial issues related to migration, focusing primarily on the social and economic integration of migrants. The inflow of foreignborn nationals in EU Member States presents both challenges and opportunities for regional development. On the one hand, it entails the need for different approaches to the provision of services and for measures aimed at actively pursuing the societal, civic and labour market integration of this growing group of actors. On the other hand, immigration can help counteract negative demographic trends, raise the levels of skills available in local labour markets, and contribute to the pool of financial resources available to fund public services in increasingly cash-strapped local authorities.

The integration of migrants has both short- and long-term dimensions, and it requires a comprehensive and synergistic approach that cuts across a plurality of levels of government, types of actors, and policy sectors. The complexity of the problems tackled also requires policy responses to be designed and implemented with the active involvement of all stakeholders – foreign-born as well as nationals – at grassroots levels, to ensure that needs, opportunities and barriers are identified in a comprehensive manner. Equally, it needs to be recognised that integration policies take a long time to yield returns and that policy packages need to tackle short-term needs without prejudice for the long term. Regional policy is long-term, place-based, participative and cross-sectoral. As such, it can be a powerful tool for the integration of migrants. However, the actual and potential role that regional policy has in this sphere raises a number of open questions and trade-offs, such as: first, the need to reconcile the macro- and micro-dimensions of regional development; second, the need to maximise synergies while avoiding fragmentation; third, the achievement of a balance between the demands from different vulnerable groups and the prevention of races to the bottom; and, lastly, building the skills and cultural competencies that are necessary to respond to the migration challenge in a comprehensive and inclusive fashion.

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