Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2008

Executive Report "Spanish-Italian Dialogue on Immigration: Past Experiences and Future Initiatives within a European Framework"

May 2007

Istituto Affari Internazionali


Immigration matters have become one of the most important topics of the Community debate. An integrated approach to immigration whereby issues relating to development cooperation, migration management, integration and security policy might be considered together.

However, given that the reality of immigration across member states is extremely varied, it is by no means obvious what the objectives and/or priorities of these integrated policies on immigration should be, nor is it clear to what extent there is room to pursue the development of EU common policies in this field. The premise underlying the one­day seminar was that Italy and Spain are two major stakeholders in any joint venture in the field of immigration and bilateral cooperation with third countries, be they common policies or simple multilateral cooperation ventures.

Italy and Spain share a substantially similar immigration problem. Both are mass immigration countries which together receive more than half of the EU's new immigration. Both are major recipients of African and Latin American immigration, and they have recently become increasingly attractive for Eastern European migrants. They are geographically similarly located and exposed to both trafficking and illegal border crossings in a comparable fashion. In addition, by being exposed to mass immigration the two countries are bound to share problems related to the successful integration of immigrants in their respective societies.

Surprisingly, however, little progress has been made in terms of mutual understanding about how Italy and Spain go about solving their immigration problems. At best, both countries are aware of each other's dilemmas, but there are very few initiatives whereby these two immigration giants effectively exchange views on their particular experiences. Furthermore, little has been done to build a joint strategy towards immigration, both in the short and the longer term, in which their exposed positions with respect to south­ north immigration might be catered for in a sustainable way, and in keeping with their geo­strategic interests.

With this in mind, the seminar sought to bridge the two countries' immigration experiences, with a view to opening up a more constructive Italian­Spanish dialogue on immigration issues while fostering a dialogue among policy­makers as well as exchange views on good practices in those situations where both countries share similar immigration policies.

Three interrelated thematic sessions structured the one­day seminar mobilising experts from various disciplines and professional backgrounds.