The IMAGINATION project focuses on migration from Central and Eastern-European (CEE) countries. This project raises the question what the consequences are of this type of mobility for urban cohesion and urban policies. This involves:

  1. an identification of types of migration from CEE countries
  2. an analysis of social implications of these types of migration for the receiving urban regions and
  3. an analysis of governance approaches by local governments in the receiving urban regions to these social implications.

The project focuses on urban regions in Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey and includes the perspective of the CEE countries themselves as well.

The project is coordinated by the Erasmus University Rotterdam and in cooperation with the University of Goteborg, the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and Koc University Istanbul.

Background concepts and objectives

Migration from the EU Member States in Central and Eastern-European (CEE) has evolved into one of the main migration flows within Europe (Black et al. 2010, Holland et al. 2011), especially toward North- and West-European countries but increasingly also to Turkey. CEE migrants are of course EU citizens and take advantage of the benefits of EU mobility. Yet, the social consequences of CEE migration for the urban host regions are becoming increasingly manifest, as numbers of CEE migrants to other European countries are increasing and as the character of migration acquires a more and more permanent character. Most CEE migrants integrate self-evidently in host regions, nevertheless many of them face barriers of bad and overcrowded housing, poor language proficiencies, and limited information about their legal rights and the functioning of host institutions (f.e. education, social security). Furthermore, some of them experience problems of unemployment, homelessness, discrimination and addiction (Stanley 2010; Crellen 2010; Garapich 2011; Mostowska 2011; Snel et. al. 2011). Many urban host regions appear ill equipped and little prepared to cope with these urban implications of CEE migrants, amongst others because of the novelty of this type of mobility, the long-held assumption that CEE migration would be only temporary and because of the European as well as national policy frameworks which are aimed at the integration of third country nationals’ (TCN’s) rather than fellow European citizens.

This project raises the question of what the implications are of this type of mobility for urban cohesion and urban policies. Latest studies show that migration patterns of CEE migrants are diversifying (Eade et al. 2006; Düvell & Vogel 2006; Fassmann et al. 2009; Grabowska-Lusińska & Okólski 2009; Engbersen et al., forthcoming; Glorius et al., forthcoming). Some migrants continue seasonal migration, some settle permanently, some have their families come over, others move on to other parts of Europe or beyond. This has increasingly raised questions concerning how to deal with the social consequences of temporary and more permanent forms of migration from CEE countries to specific regions in Europe. This involves not just the socio-economic integration of CEE migrants, but increasingly also issues related to housing of migrants, labour market, education of CEE migrant’s children, welfare provision, discrimination, crime, social and political organization and eventually the civic integration of CEE migrants.

Whereas on the European and in some cases also on the national level there seems little space for policy measures aimed at the integration of EU citizens, at the local level there is a growing demand for knowledge on how to promote and facilitate the integration of CEE migrants. Policy responses appear mostly ad-hoc and tend to differ greatly between various cities (Engbersen & Snel 2012; Puymbroeck et al. 2011). These local responses include registration policies, temporary housing facilities, language learning programs, voluntary civic integration programs, neighbourhood policies, programs to combat illegitimate landlords, homeless support services, and even voluntary ‘reconnection’ schemes for those who are willing to return. These local responses are being developed in cooperation with private partners (f.e. employers, international labour recruitment associations, investors), urban organizations (f.e. housing corporations), and non-governmental organizations (f.e. migrant organizations). In some cases these local responses are the result of a close cooperation between local and national governments, in other cases there are structural incongruities between local and national governance levels. Furthermore, some successful ‘reconnection’ schemes presuppose the existence of local transnational governance networks between sending and receiving regions.

The central question this research will address is ‘What types of labour migration have taken place from CEE countries, what social implications can be identified for the urban regions in which these migrants work and settle and what kind of governance approaches have emerged to cope with these implications?’ This involves three aspects:

I. Analysis of types of migration from CEE countries

Different types of ‘migration’ can be distinguished between East- and West-Europe, with specific social implications for urban regions. An ideal typical distinction can be made between circular or seasonal labour migration, footloose migration, transnational migration and settlement migration (Engbersen et al 2011). A first objective of this project is thus to map what types of migration can be identified in the selected urban regions.

II. Analysis of implications for urban host regions

We assume that different types of migration can cause different social implications for the urban host regions. A distinction will be made between urban implications in the socio- economic sphere (labour market; education, housing and homelessness), socio-cultural sphere (language values and norms, religion and discrimination) and the legal-political sphere (civic rights, political participation, citizenship, criminality)

III. Analysis of urban governance approaches to CEE migration

Urban governance approaches in response to these implications of CEE migration involve urban policies as well as urban practices that have emerged in broader networks including semi- and non-governmental organizations. The governance approaches will be analysed in the context of multi-level and transnational governance settings as not all the competences for dealing with these consequences are necessarily located at the local level. Examining the relation and interaction between local, regional, national and European policies is key to understanding the urban implications of the European mobility of CEE migrants. Also, we will analyse forms of transnational cooperation between local governments in sending and receiving countries.

We assume that there is a specific relationship between types of CEE migration, the sorts of urban implications this will bring about and finally the sorts of urban governance approaches that may seem most appropriate. First of all, different types of migration cause different social urban implications. Circular and footloose migration cause primarily socio-economic implications, concentrating particularly on issues of labour market reception and housing and to a lesser degree legal-political implications (especially issues of exploitation on the labour and housing market). Transnational and permanent migration cause primarily socio-cultural and legal-political implications, raising issues like language skills, education, discrimination and political organization and participation. Secondly, such differences in urban implications will trigger different urban governance responses.

The project focuses on CEE migration to urban regions in four European countries: Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey. We choose to focus on urban regions (instead of countries) as the social implications of CEE migration are often not limited by the city boundaries where many migrants live, but also located into nearby suburban and rural areas where CEE migrants work. The notion of urban regions thus captures cities together with their suburban areas and nearby rural areas to capture the complementary social implications within daily urban systems of labour, housing and leisure (Schwanen, Dieleman, Dijst 2001). We selected these four countries as these countries opened their borders to CEE countries in different periods and in different ways. The project will also include the perspective of the CEE countries, to enable a balanced perspective on the implications of CEE migration. Next to this, it is important to the study possible connections between urban regions in the sending and receiving countries in terms of governance approaches, policy networks and stakeholder linkages.

In sum, the overall objective of this project is to contribute to insights about the social implications of CEE migration in European urban regions by identifying types of migratory patterns, social implications effected by this and the urban governance approaches confronted with different implications. More specifically, this involves the following goals:

  1. Contribute to a better understanding of migratory motives of CEE migrants to work or settle in specific urban regions;
  2. Identify and analyse specific social implications which CEE migration effects in urban regions;
  3. Identify, analyse and assess formal and informal networks between the state, private partners, non-governmental and urban organisations to monitor their activity on migration implications;
  4. Identify, analyse and assess multi-level governance conditions of effective policy approaches and transnational governance connections between urban governments;
  5. Analyse how tools and data for policymaking in the area of migration and integration can be used for adequate interventions;
  6. Critically assess the role of local, urban, national and European stakeholders within the effecting processes of CEE migration

PO Box 1738, NL-3000 DR 
Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Co-funded by the European Union European Integration Fund