Equal treatment in unequal societies? The case of Bulgaria & Romania

Written by Thomas Huddleston, MIPEX Research Coordinator, Co-author and Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group

Today and tomorrow, I present MIPEX for the first time in Bulgaria and Romania, two ‘new’ EU Member States since the last MIPEX in 2007. Many attending NGOs shared their experience of how difficult they find it to implement the integration policies measured in MIPEX in their general legal frameworks and societies.

The rule of law?

MIPEX is a tool promoting the rule-of-law. All residents should enjoy basic legal security under their national constitutions as well as European and international law, including the EU’s new Charter of Fundamental Rights.

On MIPEX, Bulgaria & Romania score best for promoting integration where they transposed EU law: labour market mobility (at least for some migrants), family reunion, long-term residence, and anti-discrimination. You can visualise this with our website’s “Play with the Data” bar graphs:

The two countries have similar strengths as other ‘new’ Member States (in EU jargon, they’re called the EU 12) who are entirely new countries of immigration. Across these regions, EU standards have played a larger role in establishing today’s migration laws.

If you combine MIPEX Indicators with the World Bank’s Good Governance Indicators, you appreciate the implementation challenges that these integration stakeholders raised. Bulgaria & Romania are the EU Member States with some of the greatest problems with the rule of law and corruption. My first graph in this blog were the World Bank results for Central European Member States on Control of Corruption. This second graph are the results for the Rule of Law:

As you see, Bulgaria & Romania score lowest and far below many of its Central European neighbours in the EU. These general gaps on the rule of law are especially worrying for foreigners, since MIPEX shows that authorities in new migration countries like Bulgaria and Romania retain wider administrative discretion over their right to reunite with their family, settle permanently, and be treated equally as citizens.

The below graph demonstrates the few conditions but the insecure status for family reunion, long-term residence, and naturalisation:

In these countries, conditions set in law are few and basic, but there are more vague grounds for refusal or withdrawal, where decision-makers are not legally obligated to consider an individual’s personal ties and circumstances. My first question is: what is the standard for implementation for foreigners’ comparatively discretionary procedures when severe problems pervade the general legal framework?

Equal opportunities?

MIPEX measures whether all residents have equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities in law, as EU Member States agreed in the 2009-2014 EU Stockholm Programme. Equal rights and responsibilities should help immigrants obtain the same opportunities in society as other people with the same social and economic background. The legal integration of foreigners is one step in the long path to integrated societies.

New migration countries offer equal socio-economic rights to long-term residents, reunited families, and sometimes migrant workers—often motivated by EU legal requirements. However Bulgaria & Romania are some of the most unequal societies in Europe, according to the 2010 Human Development Index:

These non-EU immigrants are granted equal rights under EU law but in societies with some of the most unequal opportunities in the EU. In addition, very few targeted policies in countries like Bulgaria & Romania specifically support immigrants to attain equal participation rates in the labour market, education, political participation, naturalisation, or anti-discrimination.

My second question is: what is the standard for integration when countries are rife with social & economic inequality?

On a methodological note, I find the Human Development Index and World Bank Good Governance Indicators complement MIPEX so that you can analyse how different national contexts affect the implementation and outcomes of integration policies. MPG’s Director Jan Niessen has contributed on how to use MIPEX to implement equality and the rule of law. What other indicators do you recommend to use when analysing MIPEX? Do you know any MIPEX-like Indexes that analyse how inclusive general policies are for employment? education? gender? rule-of-law?

Post a comment and share your suggestions.