Why is migration an aspect of the population?

Migration in Europe

Michael Bommes

To person

Dr. phil., born 1954; Professor of Sociology / Methodology of Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Migration Research, Director of the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) at the University of Osnabrück, Neuer Graben 19/21, 49069 Osnabrück.
Email: [email protected]

Migration and settlement processes are changing society in Europe itself. Their consequences cannot be limited to the question of successful or unsuccessful integration.


Migration and integration no longer require promoters as a topic. Business and politics, the public and the mass media all agree that this is a significant topic, and migration researchers, who have long complained that the topic is not receiving sufficient political and public attention, now see themselves as being almost dizzying in activism In relation to migration and integration. Since Gerhard Schröder's Green Card Initiative and the Immigration Commission set up in 2001, a kind of permanent mobilization of the political administrations has begun at all federal levels. Migration and integration have advanced to become a political issue in Germany that has attracted the attention of central political decision-making bodies. The same applies in other member states of the European Union (EU); and not only to the extent that these are immigration countries themselves, but also in those countries that are more likely to be among the emigration countries such as Poland or Romania, but as new members of the EU will in turn develop into immigration countries or are currently already emigrating at the same time. and countries of immigration.

Since the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997), the EU itself has acquired more and more competences in matters of migration. The politics of the European states and the EU are characterized by a tension between the mobilization and recruitment of qualified and highly qualified people, who one believes that they will need in the foreseeable future, not least because of the shrinking populations in most states, and a policy of repelling people in particular from Africa, which are not wanted. The latter is being pursued through a sharper stance towards illegal migrants, through border security and expansion, as well as by moving the border forward as part of a Mediterranean and foreign policy that is increasingly geared towards migration control. In addition, in the EU, as in the individual states, new hopes are being placed in a more invoked than proven connection between migration and development. [1]

The different ways in which migration and integration are addressed, regardless of whether it concerns the past, the present or the future, are characterized by a conspicuous normativism. It is always about the fulfillment of the respective assumed expectations: depending on the perspective, for example, whether migrants have integrated and the economy and the state have benefited from migration or whether migrants have been given or denied integration opportunities. In contrast, the question of how society is changing as a result of migration, especially in the immigration regions, is rarely asked with a rather descriptive and inventory-taking intention. Migration and migrants have remained phenomena in an astonishing way that seem to affect society as if from outside. The history of migrants is traced back to the third generation, and it is asked what has become of them from the point of view of integration, in order to draw conclusions for a policy of "catching up integration" or for a future migration policy based on this Way not to repeat what appears to be a mistake from today's perspective.

The question of whether and how societies change as a result of migrations and settlement processes of immigrants also requires a well-developed answer, because this is the only way to assess how significant such processes are for the development of societies beyond the economic cycles of public attention and fears . In addition, all future migration and integration takes place against the background of a more than fifty-year history of migration and integration through which society has already changed. In the present text, such a point of view is to be illustrated with a few examples of the changes in society in Europe due to migration. International migration can be understood as a cause, part and consequence of world society. Neither global society nor its regional characteristics in Europe are homogeneous in themselves. The economic, political, legal, social and cultural conditions and, accordingly, the migration and integration conditions in Europe and its individual member countries differ only too clearly.

The question of the change in society through migration cannot be narrowed down to the question of integration. Ultimately, the focus is on the socio-structural placement of migrants, recorded as a deviation from the average distributions, their social relationships and their social and cultural loyalties. This results in answers to the question of how social inequality relationships and social class structures change through migration and integration processes and how this may result in changed, not least ethnic, conflict constellations. [2] However, there is actually not much to learn about whether and in what way migrations and the subsequent settlement processes affect society in its various areas of economy, politics, law, education, health, sport, the mass media, religion or change of the family, which structural consequences result from this for them and to what extent society is therefore shaped by migration.

On the one hand, the various social areas in Europe are still nation-state. On the other hand, they are subject to homogenization pressure resulting from the processes of European integration and globalization. The migration and integration conditions in all European states are characterized by dynamics, particularly in the demand structure of their labor markets as well as the history of the individual nation states as countries of emigration and immigration, their state-building history, their colonial past and their policies of initiating or preventing migration as well as a more or less far-reaching integration. On this basis and in the process of its political integration, Europe as a whole has developed into a major immigration continent. Accordingly, its migration and integration relationships are differentiated on the one hand regionally and nationally: While a country like Spain, alongside Italy and Greece, has increasingly opened up to migrants since the 1990s and thus developed into one of the main immigration countries in Europe, the North-west European states in particular established legal and administrative structures to prevent and control migration and raised these at EU level. On the other hand, the immigrants of every single state have potentially become the immigrants of all of Europe within the framework of European freedom of movement and with the abolition of internal borders.

But has society in Europe changed as a result of migration and integration processes or what is their structural significance? It is obvious that the ethnic composition of its population has changed considerably in Europe and that this has been accompanied by processes of cultural pluralization. In the following, three contexts - economy, upbringing, religion - are dealt with, which are intended to make it clear that structural changes, such as those emanating from migration, require reassurance, because they also describe the conditions for any future migration and integration policy in Europe and its nation-states .