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Migrants’ integration in EU countries: for a selected few only?

Current shifts in conceptions of integration and impact on social and ethnic inequalities in host countries.

The MERITA seed project brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the CIVICA alliance, spanning over Management, sociology, political sciences, economics, and Law to investigate shifts in how EU countries think and practice the integration of persons with a migration background. 

Increasingly, the responsibility of integration is seen as being the one of the individual migrants -and thus less so the one of the host societies. In addition, who is to be integrated and on what conditions is also changing. Increasingly, financial stability and cultural adaptation are considered legitimate grounds for integration, revealing that a certain regime of worth (financial and cultural) is underlying the idea of integration.

MERITA has developed a multi-disciplinary forum on the theme of integration of migrants in Europe, identifying topic synergies across disciplines and problematizing them. For example, in the team's repeated conversations, it has surfaced that integration is actively managed in response to the perceived threat that public discourses associate with migration. The management of integration appears to be done around the idea of merits. Migrants who display the right merits will be candidates for integration, the others are not, or will be asked to continue their efforts. Strikingly, merits for integration are principally associated with a cultural fit and/or a stable financial situation. In other words, migrants are asked to alter their values to display a fit with the host society, and especially so, if they are low-skilled. Integration appears to be conceived as a meritocracy, in which European values and money are merits. 

How is this world of worth doing in view of fundamental EU values of diversity and inclusion? What kind of inequality may this lead to? With a 'meritocratic integration', it seems that structural discriminations around cultural capital, race, and wealth are reproduced. This favours the integration of a limited number of migrants, instead of being an inclusive approach. Is a 'meritocratic integration' leading to a segregated society? Moreover, if we ask only one part of the migrant population (the non-Western low skilled) to change their values and display allegiance to a narrow-defined national host culture: how defendable is it in view of the Human Rights?

The project MERITA will explore several research questions: Is there an actual regime of worth associated with integration? If yes, which is it? What are potential strengths and limitations of thinking of integration in those terms?

This forum's main results are (1) the development of a publication (presented at the IMISCOE 2023 conference, then further developed for the 2024 International Conference of Europeanists) and (2) the draft of an international research project that in submission to national and international research calls from 2024.



Romani, L and colleagues (2023) Because you’re worth it: social and racial inequalities in European integration, short paper presented at the IMISCOE 2023 conference, Warsaw, Poland.

Ganty, S; Romani, L; Arendas, Z and Pachocka, M (2024) The Meritorious 'Other´: Merit as a tool for border and diversity governance in the European Union; Paper accepted to the 2024 International Conference of Europeanists, Lyon, France.


Project coordinators:

Laurence Romani (SSE) 

Paolo Velásquez (SSE)

Researchers involved:

Simon Görlach (Bocconi)

Sarah Ganty (CEU and Yale)

Vera Messing (CEU)

Zsuzsanna Arendas (CEU)

Andrew Geddes (EUI)

Cathryn Costello (Hertie School and University College Dublin)

Natalie Welfens (Hertie School and University of Duisberg-Essen)

Bernadette Bullinger (IE)

Hyun-Jung Lee (LSE)

Paul Apostolidis (LSE)

Janie Pélabay (Sciences Po)

Mirna Safi (Sciences Po)

Marta Pachocka (SGH)

Claudiu Craciun (SNSPA)

Cristian Pîrvulescu (SNSPA)


Funding: CIVICA Research (2023)




Grant agreement No 101017201