– Hello, Gregg Bucken-Knapp, Professor at the School of Public Administration! You recently gave a lecture at the Brussels Parliament. What were you there to speak about?
Gregg: This event was organized by the WELCOME Project, funded by the European Commission DG Justice, in which I serve as transnational research coordinator. The project brings together six European cities – Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Gothenburg and Hamburg – that have an interest in developing municipal policies, practices and administrative measures that will better facilitate the inclusion of mobile EU citizens. In my lecture, I took the opportunity to reflect on how the WELCOME project – which is primarily oriented towards cooperation with administrative agencies in these six cities – could be related to another recent project in which I was involved – the IMAGINATION Project – that explored the governance implications of Central and Eastern European migration for urban areas.
– What do you see as the most practical important challenge in this area?
Gregg: In practical terms, we still see a shortcoming of relevant information – both in terms of the material that is made available to mobile EU citizens in terms of services that are available to them – but also to those engaged in the front-desk work of advising mobile EU citizens. Fortunately, the situation for front-desk staff has begun to improve substantially, as the cities involved in the WELCOME Project have now been developing training sessions for relevant staff so that they are aware of both the broader context regarding this form of migration, as well as the services that should be made available to mobile EU citizens.
- And in terms of the public administration research community, how does this project make a contribution to the broader research field?
Gregg: Both the WELCOME and the IMAGINATION Project highlight that while the matter of developing appropriate policies to facilitate the inclusion of mobile EU citizens is a complex process that involves multiple levels of government, it turns out that it is not an instance where we see much in the way of multi-level governance. Rather, challenges seem to be both identified and solved at the local level. To the extent that we can speak in governance terms -- what we see in the case of mobile EU citizens is a governance response that is horizontal and situated at the local level.
– What was the reaction from the audience to your argument?
Gregg: Quite good. The final section of the talk focused on our upcoming tool kit – designed to provide cities with a set of practical tools for developing their policies targeting mobile EU citizens. One chapter I have in this tool kit focus on the role of the media, and how it is a central actor in the framing of migration challenges. As media discourses can frequently over-simplify very complex social phenomena, I argue that cities need to devise appropriate strategies to ensure that relevant factual information is made accessible to a variety of target audiences – the general public, those working in municipalities, and even the media itself.