Debates about integration have a long history in social and sociological theory. In relation to ethnicity, arguably the first key thinker was Robert Ezra Park, a member of the ‘Chicago School’ a little under a century ago. In his view, integration was one position on a continuum that characterises the relations between migrant minorities and majority populations as moving from competition/conflict to accommodationism and (via integration) to assimilation and acculturation. This deterministic model has been widely criticised but in many countries integration policies have often posited a close relationship between integration and assimilation. This ‘merging’ of populations as a one-way process is highly contentious and is at variance with the two-way process such as that advocated in EU policies (A Common Agenda for Integration - Framework for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals in the European Union,  COM/2005/0389 final) and in a significant EU policy statement (Council of the European Union, 2007, Handbook on Integration. Brussels.

The 11 Common Basic Principles for Integration of Immigrants in the EU (2004):

  1. ‘Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States’
  2. ‘Integration implies respect for the basic values of the European Union’
  3. ‘Employment is a key part of the integration process and is central to the participation of immigrants, to the contributions immigrants make to the host society, and to making such contributions visible’
  4. ‘Basic knowledge of the host society’s language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integration; enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to successful integration’
  5. ‘Efforts in education are critical to preparing immigrants, and particularly their descendants, to be more successful and more active participants in society’
  6. ‘Access for immigrants to institutions, as well as to public and private goods and services, on a basis equal to national citizens and in a non-discriminatory way is a critical foundation for better integration’
  7. ‘Frequent interaction between immigrants and Member State citizens is a fundamental mechanism for integration. Shared forums, intercultural dialogue, education about immigrants and immigrant cultures, and stimulating living conditions in urban environments enhance the interactions between immigrants and Member State citizens’
  8. ‘The practice of diverse cultures and religions is guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and must be safeguarded, unless practices conflict with other inviolable European rights or with national law’
  9. ‘The participation of immigrants in the democratic process and in the formulation of integration policies and measures, especially at the local level, supports their integration’
  10. ‘Mainstreaming integration policies and measures in all relevant policy portfolios and levels of government and public services is an important consideration in public-policy formation and implementation’
  11. ‘Developing clear goals, indicators and evaluation mechanisms are necessary to adjust policy, evaluate progress on integration and to make the exchange of information more effective’