Intervention ramon sanahuja european integration forum
10th Meeting of the European Integration Forum.
Participation of Migrants in democratic process- towards a more inclusive citizenship –
towards a more inclusive citizenship”
Brussels, 26- 27 November 2013.
Closing Session 11:30 – 13:00
“Support of Cities for migrant democratic Participation”
Greetings to the Organization of the European Integration Forum for taking in account the
voice of the cities and Eurocities. Thanks to the European Commission, European Economic
and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.
I am the director of Immigration and Interculturality of the city of Barcelona, but today I
will talk on behalf of the Migration and Integration working group of Eurocities.
Eurocities is the network of the major cities of Europe: more than 140 cities over 30
Our working group is chaired by Barcelona and vice chaired by Helsinki some of the cities
member are: Rotterdam, Berlin, Oslo, Milan, Genoa, Nantes, Riga, Brno, and Brussels
among many others.
Eurocities has a long tradition contributing on the agenda on the issue of Integration in
Europe. Since 2008 we have been undertaking several projects in collaboration with the
commissions, like for example the integrating cities Charter signed already by 33 cities.
The content of the conference of the EIF - “Participation of Migrants in democratic processtowards a more inclusive citizenship” suits very well with the work that many cities have
been doing in the last years all across Europe.
We believe that CITIES, IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP are 3 concepts that are very
I will try to contribute to the discussions from a point of view of the local level that is from
the perspective of the cities and the local administrations. We strongly believe that we are
key actors in the process of “integrating” new resident from third countries into our
The Zaragoza declaration of Ministers of immigration (2009) considered cities as privileged
areas to foster dialogue and to promote social cohesion; the declaration takes in account
public policies that European cities have been developing.
Regarding to the concept of Citizenship I will not refer to the legal concept at State level.
Very often citizenship is used only as a synonymous of nationality and full political rights.
Nevertheless Citizenship it is a legal concept but not only. And we in cities know it very
well. Overall citizenship is also a political concept and a social concept related to
interaction and sense of belonging to a community. Citizenship means also being part of,
means accepting rights and duties, means visibility in the public space, means coresponsibility, etc. And these issues are all the more obvious at city level.
I will try to explain very briefly what we cities do in order to try to empower migrant
residents to become full citizens of our societies.
Historically cities have been the natural space of citizenship. Cities are the territory where
men and women are free and equal. Remember the old German sake: “Stadtluft macht
frei” / the air of the city makes you free.
It meant, in the middle age an accepted principle of law that serfs who lived for more than
one year and one day in a city where set free from the feudal system obligations. Therefore
citizenship started in the cities. In cities, “democracy” was shaped and reinvented, as was,
in particular, the concept of citizen as member of a municipal corporation, as a taxpayer,
and as a inheritor of property.
Nowadays, in Europe, around 75% of all the population live in urban areas, and if we
consider migrants, the percentage who live in big urban areas is much higher since
migrants usually settle in cities. Third Country Nationals choose cities as the main entry
points to Europe. Cities have developed a range of instruments that aim at social and
political participation of migrants. The INTEGRATING CITIES Charter, developed by
Eurocities in 2009, and signed by political leaders of 33 large European cities, underlines
One of our commitments is:
“As policy-makers we will (…) ensure equal access and non-discrimination
across all our policies” and “facilitate engagement from migrant
communities in our policy-making processes and remove barriers to
Many local authorities across Europe have experimented in recent years with initiatives
which offer opportunities for participation, giving new reality to the idea that urban
citizenship may be based on residence rather than nationality. Therefore municipalities
across Europe have rather pragmatically begun to develop a variety of channels through
which residents can move towards social, political and civic integration, irrespective of
I will mention a few interesting examples from quite different approaches:
A. Enable access to basic public services in context of National restrictions.
One of the conditions of full citizenship is access to basic services in equal
conditions for everyone.
There are many examples of cities and regions across all Europe that
overcome national restriction on access to health and education (Munich,
Mayors and local administrations are very aware of the segregation and
exclusions problem that would be generated if a part of the local population
is kept away from basic services and programs.
Ensuring equal access and non-discrimination across all policies is a key
issue towards citizenship and it is a commitment of our Charter.
In many countries public officials are obliged to report to authorities in case
of delivering a service to an irregular migrant. Very often don’t tell, don’t
ask policies are put in practice.
Catalonia Government had developed regional legislation to overcome
National restrictions for migrant to access to public health and local
administrations are actively collaborating with our regional government.
B. We also have active policies to implement better national legislations:
Many cities have specific programs to inform and assess local residents on
the quite difficult process of accessing to naturalization. In Germany, for
example the city region of Berlin. German cities with such a programs show
higher rates of naturalizations than those cities without.
In cities where TCN are allowed to vote some cities put in practice programs
to foster registration to electoral census in order to achieve more
participation and avoid political exclusions of those who have right to vote
Some cities are also seeing a growing number of elected city representatives
with migrant background. 28% of the Oslo city council and 13% of the
Munich city council have a migrant background.
Under the national legislation framework, in Barcelona family reunification
program is developing to foster family reunification in order to meet the
right of migrants to live with their families.
C. Consultative Bodies / Migrant Councils
There are many interesting example of local consultative bodies. Oslo,
Nantes Copenhagen, Athens etc, or the Multi-Agency Refugee Integration of
Manchester (MARIM) provides city-wide forum to engage migrant
communities in policy- making processes.
The mere existence of consultative bodies does not provide for enhanced
participation, but rather their specific design and the micropolitics at play:
who has access, how and why, how binding are decisions and how are they
fed into the formal decision-making process of political institutions, etc.
Nevertheless these consultative bodies are not only symbolic but also they
are a privileged space where those who cannot vote can interact with local
politicians and local administration.
D. Local registration of migrant’s residents and local protection.
The promotion of Sanctuary cities for refugees, an interesting example of
engaging all the community is the city of Leeds. The city wants to extend the
welcome of the city to people who come to Leeds seeking safety.
In Spain all cities have local registration for all citizens, - The Padron - it is an
obligation for nationals and non-nationals. Access to the register grants
everybody the status of being neighbor. It is a very inclusive policy. Many
cities, have an active registering policy towards migrants, regardless of their
legal status. This is quite important, because cities can have an accurate data
on the number of residents. All migrants are “accounted” even those in
irregular condition. If a migrant is not counted does not exist. Registering it
is a first step towards visibility.
The City Council of Milan has opened a special office dedicated to the
second generation immigrants in the city. This enables youth who were
born and grew up in Italy but are denied access to nationality a way to
exercise their citizenship.
E. An important role we have is of fostering social cohesion and a shared sense of
identity and citizenship that strengthens the social fabric of our cities. This is
achieved by promoting civic and cultural participation.
I already mentioned examples of cities that actively engage migrants in the
policy-making process of their local councils. In Brussels, the Zinneke parade
uses culture and public space as a way to foster cooperation and co-creation,
attracting over 85,000 residents.
Copenhagen places diversity as a key element in its city’s strategy. In order
to engage all sectors and stakeholders such as private companies,
educational institutions, housing associations, NGOs, media, and volunteers
in the diversity effort, the city of Copenhagen formulated a diversity charter
and created the Copenhagen Diversity Board, which actively invites business
and community leaders to assist the city in its goal of becoming ‘the most
open and inclusive major city in Europe’.
Oslo Diversity strategy (Oslo extra large) also embodies the values of diversity as
cornerstone for the cities growth and enrichment.
Lastly, one of the ways we can promote diversity as cities and public administration is to
practice what we preach. One of our commitments in the INTEGRATING CITIES CHARTER is
that city staff of our public administrations should mirror the population of the city that is
serving: therefore diversity should be introduced in our workforce.
A Good example is the campaign undertaken by the city administration of Berlin: “Berlin
Brauch Dich”, Berlin Need You, in order to recruit diverse staff.
Finally I invite you to watch a practical example of the work we do among cities in our
Migration and Integration working Group in Eurocities directly related to the issue of
citizenship. This video shows how through a European Integration-funded project
EUROCITIES is aiming to improve political participation of migrants in our cities.
This movie was made during a project visit in Genoa & Milan, as the cities of Athens & Oslo
came as “mentors” to share their experience in political participation of migrants.
Ramon Sanahuja i Vélez
Chair of Migration and Integration working Group of Eurocities.
Director of Immigration and Interculturality of the city of Barcelona.