For decades, until the late 1940s nearly all European countries were sending many their residents to foreign countries, and the outflow tended to outnumber the inflow. Despite their small share in the world population, the Europeans constituted the by far largest group of international migrants. Currently the opposite is true, the outflow is not only rather low but much smaller than the inflow. Over a relatively short time, Europe as a whole has assumed a new role in international migration, the role of a major migrant receiving area.
IDEA is about how Europe has changed from net emigration to net immigration area.
It took that change about a half of the century to fully mature and embrace all parts of the continent. France has pioneered in the transformation, followed by Britain, the Benelux countries, the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, then by Sweden, Denmark and Norway. In the 1970s and 1980s further countries – Italy, Greece and Spain changed their migration status, and so did in the 1990s the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland and Portugal. At the present moment few other countries – e.g. Iceland, Hungary and Slovenia – seem to undergo a turnabout in their migration history whereas a majority of the reminder witness a growing inflow of foreigners even though they may still be net emigration areas.
The process of transformation of the migration status was sequential and complex. The historical context and actual political and economic circumstances differed in its course in particular countries and across the countries. The most distinct manifestation of those differences were the time and time-lags with which the turnabout took place in various parts of Europe: the 1950s and 1960s in a majority of western and northern countries, in the 1970s and 1980s in a majority of Mediterranean countries, and since the 1990s in the remaining European Communities’ countries, including the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).
On the initiative of the Centre of Migration Research, Warsaw University eleven academic institutions representing nine countries of the European Union have set up a consortium that have undertaken to reveal the mechanism and multifarious background of that change. The principal focus of IDEA have become new immigrant destinations in the European Union, those located on its southern and eastern border – the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain. One of major aims of the project has been a comparative analysis involving three groups of countries that at various periods started to systematically attract international migrants: the pioneers of Western Europe and the latecomers representing two distinctly different regions of the continent – the Mediterranean region and the new accession countries of CEE. It is expected that such analysis might enable researchers to deepen the understanding and interpretations of past and current migration trends, and design a projection model capable of predicting future migration in the European Union. Another important objective of IDEA consists in providing the policy makers (both in new destination countries and at the community level) with a sound knowledge that would facilitate their efforts to improve the management of migration flows and immigrant integration.