The way forward for the Family Reunification Directive

Cecilia Malmstrom

Fam­i­ly life is a fun­da­men­tal right for every­one and fam­i­ly reu­ni­fi­ca­tion is a right flow­ing from it, acknowl­edged by the Mem­ber States and enshrined in the Direct­ive on fam­i­ly reu­ni­fi­ca­tion for third-coun­try nation­als.

Fam­i­ly life is a fun­da­men­tal right for every­one and fam­i­ly reu­ni­fi­ca­tion is a right flow­ing from it, acknowl­edged by the Mem­ber States and enshrined in the Direct­ive on fam­i­ly reu­ni­fi­ca­tion for third-coun­try nation­als. It is a right that must be gen­u­ine­ly used and it is impor­tant that Mem­ber States can effi­cient­ly fight mis­use wher­ev­er it occurs.
On the oth­er hand, the right to fam­i­ly reu­ni­fi­ca­tion should be pro­tect­ed and we must iden­ti­fy and remove any dis­pro­por­tion­ate bar­ri­ers that pre­vent third coun­try nation­als from exer­cis­ing this right. From the anal­y­sis of con­tri­bu­tions to date it appears that stake­hold­ers - both NGOs and most Mem­ber States - are not ask­ing to re-open the Direct­ive but con­sid­er it more use­ful to ensure its cor­rect imple­men­ta­tion through more active imple­men­ta­tion pol­i­cies. This can be accom­plished through infringe­ments or inter­pre­ta­tive guide­lines.
In addi­tion to the con­sul­ta­tion con­tri­bu­tions, both Mem­ber States and NGOs have also recent­ly made spe­cif­ic sug­ges­tions for pol­i­cy actions going for­ward, for which we are very grate­ful.
When it comes to the cor­rect imple­men­ta­tion of the present EU rules, the Com­mis­sion will con­tin­ue to close­ly mon­i­tor Mem­ber States' present leg­is­la­tive and admin­is­tra­tive prac­tice and will act if nec­es­sa­ry to ensure com­pli­ance with the cur­rent EU rules.
In its report, the Com­mis­sion had already iden­ti­fied cer­tain are­as where imple­men­ta­tion of the EU rules seems to be prob­lem­at­ic in more than one Mem­ber State. Efforts will be inten­si­fied to ensure com­pli­ance and, if nec­es­sa­ry, we will ini­ti­ate infringe­ment pro­ce­dures.
As regards inter­pre­ta­tive guide­lines, the Com­mis­sion is open to pre­par­ing them. Due to the small num­ber of rel­e­vant court cas­es that could form the basis of such guide­lines, elab­o­rat­ing them will be more com­plex than for oth­er Direct­ives. This is the rea­son why fur­ther work is need­ed to devel­op these guide­lines.
The Com­mis­sion wel­comes the state­ment pub­lished by NGOs on 15 May which already goes some way towards iden­ti­fy­ing the key issues where guide­lines are required, such as the length of pro­ce­dures, inte­gra­tion meas­ures and def­i­ni­tion of fam­i­ly mem­bers.
The Com­mis­sion is com­mit­ted to mak­ing the proc­ess of devel­op­ing guide­lines as inclu­sive as pos­si­ble. We are con­sid­er­ing orga­nis­ing dis­cus­sions with inter­est­ed stake­hold­ers and Mem­ber States.
An inclu­sive fol­low-up proc­ess will help us all sat­is­fy the com­mon desire that the Euro­pe­an rules on fam­i­ly reu­ni­fi­ca­tion are gen­u­ine­ly and effi­cient­ly used, and that there is a sus­tain­a­ble mech­a­nism to ensure it.
To con­clude, I hope that today's dis­cus­sion will help crys­tal­lise what the next steps should be. With­out pre-judg­ing the out­come of today's pub­lic hear­ing, I am pre­pared to take a deci­sion on the pol­i­cy fol­low-up in the event it is need­ed but I am in any case com­mit­ted to ensur­ing that the proc­ess of this fol­low-up will remain inclu­sive at all sta­ges. (con­cise)
Speech by Cecil­ia Malms­trom, Com­mis­sion­er respon­si­ble for Home Affairs, 7th Euro­pe­an Inte­gra­tion Forum, Euro­pe­an Par­lia­ment Eco­nom­ic and Social Com­mit­tee Pub­lic Hear­ing on the right to fam­i­ly Reu­ni­fi­ca­tion of Third Coun­try Nation­als liv­ing in the EU, Brus­sels, 31 May 2012.

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