Brussels, 31 Mar 2003
With enlargement looming, more research will be needed to understand the socio-economic, legal and practical implications of eastward expansion.
The European Union is poised to receive ten new members in 2004. These accession countries bring to the Union numerous benefits and skills, but their presence also poses a number of potential challenges. One key challenge to be addressed is the perception that a massive influx of migrant workers from the east might lead to increased crime and unemployment in the EU.
A recently published EU report tackles this very subject. The report reviews the findings of 17 different research projects – from the Targeted Socio-Economic Research Programme – and provides an up-to-date picture of migration in Europe. It proves conclusively that, among other things, there is no direct cause and effect relationship between immigration, crime and unemployment.
Presenting the findings of the study, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: "Ignorance is the basis of racism. This new report will help to ensure that any future policies dealing with immigration issues take into account some of the latest information available about the problems that migrants encounter in Europe today."
This report also underlines the importance of research as a way of strengthening and structuring the social sciences at the European level. Mr Busquin echoed this view at a recent kick-off meeting for 33 new EU-funded projects in the social sciences.
Research framework for the social sciences
EU framework programmes were originally directed at European competitiveness, but socio-economic aspects entered the policy arena in the Fourth Framework Programme. In the Fifth Framework Programme, some 1 800 research teams from 38 countries carried out valuable research addressing myriad economic, social, political and cultural issues.
Now, in the Sixth Framework Programme, the social sciences are covered in the 'citizens and governance' thematic research priority, with a budget of €225 million. At the same kick-off meeting, Mr Busquin also stressed how important it is to include social research aspects in the other six thematic priority areas.
Another key factor, if social research is to fully benefit the EU's current 'and' future citizens, is that it must be well disseminated. "Research should not be filed away and never discussed. My own political experience has told me that this is often the case," said Mr Busquin, emphasising the value of such research for policy makers.