SLOVAKIA needs migrants to meet the needs of its labour market: that was the main message the cabinet sent out by passing its migration strategy for the country for the next decade. And although the document suggests several changes in policy which migrants might welcome, some cabinet members have already made it clear that Slovakia will still expect migrants to “fully integrate”.
“The current demographic trends show that the Slovak labour market, as well as the social security system, are significantly dependent on the inflow of human capital from abroad,” the Migration Policy of the Slovak Republic with the Outlook until 2020, which the cabinet passed on August 31, states.
To respond to the challenges of the labour market, the Slovak government declares it wants to be “active and flexible” in welcoming foreigners to the country, focusing on migrants with high qualifications, particularly in those professions where a lack of qualified labour is hindering the inflow of new investments into the country.
Foreigners told to adjust
To support the strategy, the cabinet proposes several measures intended to allow Slovakia to become more attractive and welcoming to qualified migrants, among them a ‘Slovak Card’, a modification of the EU’s Blue Card for migrants. The cabinet also pledges to redefine the conditions for recognition of foreign diplomas and qualifications, in order to avoid skills being wasted.
Integration of migrants who decide to live and work in Slovakia receives considerable attention in the migration policy, which reads that Slovakia leans towards an integration model “based on the full acceptance of the reality of the Slovak Republic by migrants”. The proclaimed aim of the integration policy is to prevent the emergence of economically, socially, and culturally excluded communities, i.e. ghettos.
“We’ve got enough segregated shantytowns, we don’t need to create new segregated communities,” Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic commented after the cabinet session.
Lipšic repeated his previous statement that multiculturalism as a project has failed, and said that this is the reason why Slovakia is orienting its migration policy towards qualified people from countries with close cultural proximity.
“The condition of legal migration should be full integration; that is, acceptance of Slovak culture and traditions,” Lipšic said.
Full integration also includes mastering the Slovak language. The migration policy document reads that the government wants to make Slovak-language lessons and classes in “socio-cultural orientation” more accessible. The document also refers to the creation of a unified methodology for testing Slovak-language skills in migrants with low qualifications.
Naturalisation to become easier?
The newly-passed integration policy also promises that the government will “consider changes to the naturalisation process”, which could speed up integration. In practice, the cabinet will consider making the process of granting permanent residence and state citizenship more transparent and simpler.
According to the international Migration Integration Policy Index (MIPEX III), in which Slovakia ranked third from bottom among 31 countries, Slovakia now imposes Europe’s longest waiting time before making migrants eligible for citizenship, three years after acquiring a permanent residency permit, while adding that applicants for citizenship must overcome “some of the most subjective and restrictive conditions”.
The report states that the citizenship procedure in Slovakia is difficult, potentially lengthy (24 months), and is one of the most expensive (€663.50), especially in central Europe. Problems in the area of granting citizenship to foreign nationals became worse after Slovakia’s Citizenship Act was amended in 2007, MIPEX stated.
Still not attractive
Statistically, Slovakia has one of the lowest numbers of incoming migrants of any EU country.
The Slovak Statistics Office reported that there were 62,882 foreigners with residence permits living in Slovakia in 2009, representing just over 1 percent of the country’s total population. In addition, two out of every three foreigners living in Slovakia were citizens of other EU countries, mostly Czechs, Romanians and Poles.
To date, Slovakia has been principally a country of emigration rather than immigration, but this situation will slowly change, experts say.
“The country is not yet attractive for foreigners, despite the fact that since EU accession the situation has been changing,” Martina Sekulová, an expert on migration affiliated with the Institute of Public Affairs (IVO), told The Slovak Spectator.
According to Sekulová, being a foreigner in Slovakia is not an easy undertaking. She pointed out that Slovakia still lacks an adequate concept of multicultural education and human rights education, which leads to an ethnically-focused perception of the public space: meaning there is a perception that Slovakia is a country for Slovaks only.
“There is a lack of perception of the state on civic principles,” Sekulová said.
5. Sep 2011 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani