Final Declaration of the Stuttgart Conference on “Foreigners' integration and participation in European cities”

Stuttgart, 15-16 September 2003

The delegates at the Stuttgart Conference on the theme of "Foreigners' integration and participation in European cities", held in Stuttgart on 15 and 16 September 2003 and attended by almost 400 people from 30 countries, mainly local and regional authority representatives, parliamentarians, government experts and representatives of civil society and various migrants' associations;

1. Note that, at this time of globalisation, increasing numbers of migrants will move to Europe from all parts of the world. Their successive migratory movements will involve a growing number of countries of origin and will foster the diversity and vitality of our cities, while presenting a challenge.

Although the historical dimension of 21st century migration will be different, we may note that the migrants of the past and those of today have helped to shape the European continent and enriched it in many ways.

This is why we are convinced that migratory movements will continue in future to bring major challenges, problems and tasks for the countries of immigration, but will also bring numerous advantages in the demographic, economic and cultural spheres.

It is all the more important for this migration to take place in accordance with common European rules for the fact that unlawful migration fosters the exploitation of human beings, the trafficking of human beings and other criminal activities.

More than ever, the causes of forced migration, when people flee or are expelled, for example, must be combated through national and international efforts, particularly through the prevention of violent and aggressive conflicts, and by promoting democratic structures, respect for human rights and sustainable economic development. Intercultural and inter-faith dialogue play an important role in this context.

2. In order to implement a successful integration policy, use must be made of networks of different political tiers, but also of every local political sphere and of the commitment of civil society. Only by working together will it be possible to attain the three following strategic objectives:

Ø Integration and participation which will make possible de facto and de jure equality of opportunity, and the same rights and obligations for all.

Ø A peaceful coexistence which makes possible the rights and freedoms of the individual, freedom of opinion and freedom to exercise religion in a tolerant manner.

Ø Use of cultural diversity as a resource. It must, however, also be regarded as a mission in order to achieve equality of opportunity in working life as in society, through an intercultural opening up of urban life and through achievement of an intercultural dimension in public services.

3. It will be possible to achieve these three objectives only through co-operation between the different political tiers.

At European level

Ø Close co-operation must be guaranteed between the Council of Europe and the European Union in order to ensure that human rights are respected in the same way in all member states, and that nobody will be obliged to leave his or her country because of an infringement of human rights. The human dignity of every individual must be respected in all circumstances.

Ø Immigration policy must be drawn up with common rules for potential migrants, but also for refugees. This also applies to family reunification.

Ø A joint platform must be set up for political dialogue between countries of origin and transit and host countries, so as to put an end to "human shunting”.

Council of Europe Development Bank support programmes must be set up, so as to improve the living and working conditions of migrants in the cities and regions of member states, including financial conditions.

At national level

Ø Appropriate priority must be given to integration policy and, in particular, support must be provided in terms of finance and human resources to local/regional authorities which are required to integrate new migrants.

Ø In respect of all regulations and definitions relating to migration and integration policies, it must be ensured that municipalities and regions participate appropriately, and that the principle of subsidiarity is complied with where these measures are concerned.

Ø The acquisition of nationality must be facilitated and dual nationality made possible.

Ø In the context of political education, support must be given to exchanges of experience concerning the integration and participation of foreigners in public life as a task incumbent on society as a whole.

Ø Measures with a view to school and vocational training and labour market integration in cities must be supported. State assistance is required to promote languages among children and adults.

Ø Urban planning and housing measures must be so structured that municipalities will be able to offer migrants and their families appropriate housing in different neighbourhoods.

Ø It must be made possible, through national constitutions, for all who have lived in a municipality for a certain length of time to have the right to vote in municipal elections.

Ø Ratification of the relevant Council of Europe conventions is necessary, particularly the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level.

At local/regional authority level

Ø The integration and participation of migrants can be successful only if they are regarded as a vital aim of municipal policy. Political officials, like municipal authorities, public-service organisations, trade unions, schools, associations, etc, are required to play their part in this integration process.

In order to make the participation of the different groups of society compulsory, an "integration pact" should be introduced.

Ø Integration and participation must be based on information provided both to people long resident in our cities and to those newly arrived. It is therefore important actively to provide information about immigration, to encourage tolerance and to react rapidly and decisively to any manifestation of racism. This also implies the provision of information to migrants about our democratic values, so that human rights are respected and the exploitation of human beings eliminated and prosecuted. This also includes the provision of information about those laws which it is most important to comply with.

Ø Integration and participation are most successful when support measures take account of the individual situation of migrants. It is necessary to design a support programme appropriate to migrants' individual living conditions and age.

This implies that migrants living in a country must be able to understand, speak and read that country's language.

Language learning at nursery school is the easiest way. But there is also a need to encourage language learning and education at primary and secondary schools.

Language lessons, in conjunction with integration lessons, should be offered to adults in neighbourhoods, as should specific language lessons for the purposes of integration into employment.

Employment authorities, youth offices and enterprises should support measures intended to encourage the acquisition of vocational skills.

Ø Peaceful coexistence among the different nationalities in an urban society will be fostered by the genuine existence of equality of opportunity.

This implies the promotion of migrants' access to low-rent housing in all neighbourhoods, so as to prevent the formation of ghettos. The prime aim is to prevent the segregation of certain nationalities or ethnic groups, insofar as such ethnic ghettos render integration difficult over a long period.

Ø In order to encourage participation and prevent prejudice and tension, "round tables" should be set up in each neighbourhood. At these public events, the representatives of musical, cultural and sports associations and of schools should find opportunities to play an active role, so as to encourage the greatest number of migrants to play their part in the many activities open to citizens.

The programmes of citizens' centres or community centres should cater for migrants' specific needs.

Intercultural and inter-faith dialogue in neighbourhoods enables prejudice to be eliminated. The joint organisation of events fosters conviviality, togetherness and diversity in cultural life.

Cultural diversity will in future, even more than today, play an important role as an intellectual and economic resource in the global competition between locations. Hence it is also in the interest of appropriate urban development to encourage intercultural initiatives and events and to make possible exchanges between artists from different cultural backgrounds.

Municipal services and offices should operate on an intercultural basis. This implies the introduction of guidelines and training programmes for municipal staff, the creation of intercultural teams and a greater effort to recruit workers who speak several languages.

Ø Whether or not all foreign citizens have the right to vote in municipal elections, it will be appropriate to set up integration committees (consultative structures) for the whole city and for its neighbourhoods. So that these enjoy migrants' trust, it is preferable for their members to be elected.

4. Policy on integration into European cities will be a growing challenge and a long-drawn-out task.

The various local possibilities and experience encourage us to ask the Council of Europe:

- to support the setting up and functioning of a network of local and regional authorities in order to facilitate and improve on a lasting basis the exchange of experience,

- to promote an evaluation process covering the quality, duration and success of local integration policies, so that these may be evaluated and compared. This will enable municipalities' officials to learn from each others’ experience.

We call on the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe:

- to disseminate the proceedings and conclusions of the Stuttgart Conference widely in Europe,

- to continue its efforts to integrate foreign residents and enable them to participate in local public life, in conjunction with the other Council of Europe sectors concerned and other relevant European organisations,

- to support the exchange of experience between municipalities regarding good integration practice, within the framework of a network of towns and cities.