Tag Archives: EC
EU migration through the lens of inequality: how Britain shaped the unequal Europe it wants to leave | British Politics and Policy at LSE
Lorenza Antonucci and Simone Varriale highlight the UK’s influence over EU supranational policies and explain how Britain contributed to an unequal Europe. In
— Read on blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/eu-migration-and-inequality/
The European Union is not a state: why the debate about the EU and democracy is misconceived
The more the EU seems to resemble a state rather than an international organisation, writes Pippa Catterall, the more it becomes judged by the normative expectations of how democratic states are. But it is as an international organisation that it should be judged.
No international organisation is ‘democratic’. Indeed, there is only one international organisation which even tries to be democratic, the one called the European Union. All international organisations increasingly have impacts behind borders, particularly those which – like the EU – deal primarily with trade, because of the way international trade has come to be dominated by regulations and standards. Only the EU has sought to give voice to those affected by such developments, in the form of a directly-elected parliament representative of the peoples it encompasses, rather than simply being beholden to its Member States. Yet this most democratic of international organisations is also the one which is most often traduced as ‘undemocratic’. Why?
The most obvious explanation is that it is not widely grasped that the EU is much more democratic than its analogues among international organisations. For instance, the irony of Leave voters calling the EU ‘undemocratic’ while wanting to operate under WTO rules instead, seems to be lost on them. The global protests which followed the founding of the WTO, not least in Seattle in 1999, demonstrated an appreciation then, among other things, of how deeply undemocratic the WTO was. It still is. Like virtually all international organisations, the WTO’s membership consists of legal persons, called states, rather than natural ones, actual human beings. The same holds true for those international consortia of trading states – such as Mercosur, ASEAN, the Cairns Group, and so on – which increasingly have become significant players in the diplomacy of world trade. The states which are members of these bodies may be mandated by their domestic parliaments on how they handle issues at the WTO and similar organisations, and they may be scrutinised on what they have agreed in those parliaments. However, if this is democracy it is an attenuated form.
The same observation could hold for all the other international organisations Leave voters seem quite happy for Britain to remain in. The UN, NATO, the Commonwealth, together with a host of other less well-known bodies, are all organisations which – at best – only allow states rather than peoples directly, to participate in their decision-making processes. To all of these bodies as well, Britain is a net contributor. That is not to say that there are not benefits to the UK from its membership of, for instance, the International Whaling Commission. However, neither the benefits nor the effects of British membership of the IWC will be apparent to the average Briton, if they are aware of it at all. They rightly do not perceive any discernible impacts on their lives of such membership, whereas they do think they are affected by Britain’s membership of the EU. So the second reason for the complaint that the EU is ‘undemocratic’ is the perception that it has imposed on people decisions that affect them and to which they have not consented.
To a large extent this perception reflects the peculiarities of an international organisation which tries to be democratic. Representation at the EU is both popular (through the parliament) and international (through the Member States). For the latter, there is a perennial incentive to blame the EU as an institution for decisions to which they have been party and usually supported, but which may be unpopular with sections of their domestic electorates. Britain is by no means the only Member State whose politicians have acted in this way. The democratisation of the EU through the gradual extension of the powers of the parliament has not prevented this behaviour by Member States. Indeed, as the intrusiveness of international trade and relations has required growing competences on the part of international bodies like the EU, so the incentives for Member States to play to the gallery of their national audiences has similarly increased.
In the process of acquiring these growing competences, the EU has come to acquire some, though only some, of the appurtenances of a state. This has become more apparent since the introduction of the Single Market, of which the Thatcher government were among the chief progenitors. The attempt to harmonise trade and related activities across all Member States involves the creation of top-level rules which apply as evenly as possible throughout. Such developments make the impact of the EU on citizens more apparent than with other international organisations. Yet, because it remains fundamentally an international organisation, it does not have a ‘government’ which can be voted out by the disgruntled. Its parliament makes laws and holds confirmation hearings on appointees, but those appointees are placed there by horse-trading between the Member States, rather than directly.
In that sense, the EU’s organisation falls someway between that of an international organisation (which few people expect to be democratic), and that of a state. However, the more the EU seems to resemble a state rather than an international organisation, the more it has become judged by the normative expectations of how democratic the former rather than the latter are. For those who see states as bodies where democratic accountability involves throwing out governments (something that cannot directly happen at EU level), the absence of such mechanisms can easily seem to be a democratic deficit.
Yet the EU is not a state, nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable future. Nor does it have the operational functionality of a state, which within the EU is delivered through its contracting parties, the Member States. The temptation to measure its democratic procedures by the standards according to which its Member States are judged – even though not all of them would pass – is understandable but misconceived. In origins and still in most of its characteristics, the EU is an international organisation. As such it provides benefits for those who live in its Member States through harmonising trade and exchange across their territories. Uniquely for an international organisation, it has a directly-elected parliament in which the rules governing those processes can be proposed, scrutinised and amended. Among the gallery of its peers – that is, other international organisations – it is a singular example of an attempt to democratise the processes which shape our globalised world. It is, of course, not without its flaws. But it is as an international organisation, rather than as a state, that those flaws should be judged. However, that will not stop its detractors misleadingly claiming that it is ‘undemocratic’.
About the Author
Pippa Catterall is Professor of History and Policy at the University of Westminster.
On Brexit’s latest stay of play – Novara Media
On Brexit’s latest stay of play – Novara Media
— Read on www.yanisvaroufakis.eu/2019/10/03/on-brexits-latest-stay-of-play-novara-media/
Vox Political proved right about payments to the EU – £200m/week LESS than claimed
Vox Political proved right about payments to the EU – £200m/week LESS than claimed
Vox Political proved right about payments to the EU – £200m/week LESS than claimed
— Read on voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/02/vox-political-proved-right-about-payments-to-the-eu-200m-week-less-than-claimed/
NEW DEAL EUROPÉEN La synthèse
L’idée de l’Europe est en déclin, et l’Union Européenne est dans un état avancé de désintégration. Avec le Brexit, un pilier capital de l’Union Européenne s’est déjà effondré. D’autres pourraient suivre – si ce n’est pas au cours des cycles électoraux de cette année, alors ce sera pour les suivants.
“ Peu importe le coût. Nous avons repris les rênes de notre pays ! ” clament èrement ceux qui ont soutenu le Brexit. Quitter l’Union Européenne, c’est une aspiration qu’on commence à rencontrer aux quatre coins de l’Europe, même au sein de partis de gauche qui défendent un retour à l’état-nation.
L’Europe est-elle une cause perdue ? Peut-elle être sauvée ? Doit-elle être sauvée ?
DiEM25 est convaincu que nous, les peuples d’Europe, devons reprendre les rênes de nos pays. Nous devons même reprendre les rênes de nos régions. De nos villes et cantons. Mais pour cela, nous devons retrouver un but commun entre peuples souverains. C’est ce que nous apportera un projet Européen internationaliste, commun, transnational. C’est ce que nous apportera un New Deal Européen. Ce document vise à le démontrer.Partie 1 – INTRODUCTION
TIME TO ELECT A EUROPEAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (WITHOUT ASKING ANYONE’S PERMISSION)
Rather than putting all their hopes in top-down democratic reforms that never come, progressives should themselves assume responsibility for building a truly democratic Europe. The 2019 elections could be the best chance to engage citizens in radical, participatory processes and end years of statis in the European institutions.
Waiting for European democratic reform is more frustrating than waiting for Godot. In the Beckett play, Godot is clearly never coming, and at least in the eternal wait we can meditate on the absurdity of human existence (and anyway the play will finish at some point). In the European Union, democratic reforms are coming at some point, but are seemingly endlessly deferred. When they do come, as a result of political compromise and national obstructionism, they are rarely what is needed. In the meantime, for lack of ambitious European democracy, the forces of reaction and nationalism grow so that on the one hand democratic reform becomes less likely, and on the other any such reform is less likely to be satisfactory or ambitious. A perfectly vicious circle.
It is time to stop waiting for others. Godot isn’t coming, and he is not called ‘Emmanuel’ or ‘Angela’. The 2019 European elections can be an important moment to mobilise citizens around the request for democratic change. But change will not come through the official ballot boxes alone. Whatever welcome progress may be made by having spitzenkandidaten or transnational lists or even genuine transnational parties will not be sufficient to drive through an ambitious democratic transformation. And so, in addition to fighting in the official elections and getting votes in the official ballot boxes, citizens need to set up their own ballot boxes, and even their own elections.
Turning back the technocratic tide
The intergovernmental and technocratic system of the EU increasingly frustrates any meaningful space for the expression of European citizenship. For as much as the Parliament has gained powers of co-decision, decision-making has moved to informal groups like the Eurogroup, intergovernmental agreements outside of the Community method (such as the Fiscal Compact or the scandalous EU-Turkey agreement), and into secretive ‘trialogue’ negotiations. The structure of the Parliament itself prevents the emergence of real transnational parties. By consequence, European citizens are deprived of political agency at precisely the time when they demand it and need it the most.
The question ‘what Europe is going to do?’ – about the banks, about Greece, about the euro, about the migrants, about Brexit, about Catalonia, about TTIP, about tax evasion… – has been discussed every day in almost every bar and café up and down the continent for nearly a decade of crisis. The idea that there is no European public sphere is no longer tenable. And it is not just discussion. Millions of Europeans have mobilised on the streets in protest or solidarity over the past years. The alleged apathy of citizens is a myth actively fostered by governing elites: it provides the ideological justification for keeping the EU a technocratic, intergovernmental, backroom affair. The distance of citizens from ‘formal Europe’ is fully understandable. They have no seat at the table and few avenues of meaningful political participation. But Europe has a meaning beyond the grey corridors of the European Council, and citizens have been reclaiming it.
It is now time to go the extra mile. People deprived of political agency have little to gain by crafting common positions in the hope that the ‘powers that be’ will take them up. In the 20th century, both the Indian Congress and the South African Congress realised that, rather than expect the imperial elites to change, they needed to construct bottom-up political power in order to transform a system that structurally deprived colonial subjects of citizenship rights. This required a movement that politically enfranchised its members through organised struggle in order to legally and socially enfranchise the majority that was being denied a voice. Today in Europe, most people are not subject to state violence – although migrants and Roma very often are – but like in colonial contexts, institutions increasingly impervious to democratic control need to be resisted and citizens need to politically enfranchise themselves as citizens of the European Union against repeated attempts to relegate them to mere subjects of undemocratic, intergovernmental governance.
Hacking the 2019 elections as an act of civil disobedience could be the way to open up fresh alternatives. We propose using the occasion to elect a Constituent Assembly for Europe.
A democratic strategy for a citizens’ Europe
This political and performative act would work as follows. All candidates in the official European parliamentary elections, as well as all citizens and any individual who declares an interest in the future of Europe, would be able to stand for the constituent assembly.
These candidates may organise themselves in transnational lists, and European parties would be asked to field candidates for election, so as to create an immediate link between the emerging assembly and the European Parliament. Taking part in the assembly process would represent a stupendous opportunity to show commitment to the idea of citizens-led democratic renewal. Civil society and social movements would be encouraged to propose their own lists. Ideas, programmes and values for a future European constitution would come forward. The communication campaign and the performative act of organising the election of such an assembly would provide a powerful push for getting the debate on European democratic reform on the agenda for the 2019 election campaign.
Preparing the ground for the election of a constituent assembly will take time and money. The whole exercise could be carried by NGOs interested in democratic renewal coming together before the election to organise it. A network of organisations could secure the necessary funding and human resources to start the process and see the election through. New transnational parties could also play an important role. Clearly, depending how large the elections get and how many places hold them, the process might get very expensive. But as a performative act there is no need for a complete coverage of the European territory, only for enough participation to create awareness around the idea and a sense of legitimacy.
So here is how it would work: on the day of the elections, in as many cities, towns and villages as possible across Europe, just outside the official polling stations, voters would be able to physically elect members of the constituent assembly. At the same time, online elections would be held. These elections, which should be accompanied by as much publicity as possible, would choose a group of, say, 200 elected representatives.
The constituent assembly itself would not have the legitimacy to decide on a new democratic constitution. ‘Elections’ self-organised citizens across Europe would not be formally adequate for that. Rather, the assembly would serve as a new civic power to inject ideas for democratic renewal into the European institutions, show that citizens are full of ideas and energy for such a project, and ensure that they cannot be ignored or side-lined in any future convention or treaty change. The assembly could be accompanied by a secretariat and would operate as a new kind of organisation: a cross between a citizen-led NGO and a democratically elected congress.
Following the elections, the assembly would meet as the elected representatives together with randomly selected citizens, representatives of non-European countries (because Europe’s actions impact the whole world and the whole world needs to have a say – and this is what real transnationalism should ultimately be about), representatives of municipalities and local authorities as well as interested NGOs and social movements to elaborate ideas for the values and content of a democratic European constitution. Online, a wiki-constitution would be discussed and collaboratively drafted. Indeed, the assembly would be a significant actor to initiate a wider process of citizens’ assemblies, through a cycle of meetings, discussions and debates organised in town-halls, schools, universities, cultural spaces and other venues throughout Europe, with coordination and exchange between these different cities and citizens.
The process could focus on three questions:
How to ensure democratic decision–making at a European level in which the interests of people throughout the continent, and the consequences of European decisions for other people affected, are taken into account and the common interest is guaranteed through a just, accountable and transparent process?
How to ensure the maximum possibilities for direct citizen involvement in political decision–making, as an expression of European citizenship and the best guarantee of common interest?
Which economic, political, and social issues are best approached at European level and what legislative competences should democratic transnational institutions have in these areas?
This process could run in parallel to ‘official’ processes at a European level, but would be more effective if it could fully infiltrate and initiate the formal processes and possibly lead to the participatory drafting of a new constitution to be approved by European citizens by transnational referendum. Beyond just a drafting of a new constitutional proposal, such process would itself be an experiment in transnational participation and a testament of the possibility of practicing European democracy in a new way. The recent process of participatory constitutional redrafting in Iceland is an important precedent in the development of empowering processes where citizens commonly decide their rules for living together. The scale of the task is enormous, but that is no reason not to start.
Doing nothing is not an option
Many of the changes proposed by such a participative process may require EU treaty change, and therefore unanimity between Member States. Treaty requirements should not prevent European citizens from initiating processes of change and adopting various strategies for enacting those changes. The important first step would be to establish transnational movements of citizens for a democratic infrastructure for Europe. The second step would be to adopt strategies, depending on legal procedures, for forcing institutional changes to be adopted. Leaving all initiative for treaty change to Member States, or worse, just some powerful Member States, is no longer an acceptable option. Doing so just reinforces the impression that the only options available are either to submit to the authority of the leaders of the most powerful countries or to abandon all European integration. However, a third alternative is available: citizens themselves proposing a genuine European democracy.
Etienne Balibar has recently powerfully argued that we need to be more nuanced in the way we talk about the EU and its history. It is important to distinguish between the philosophical prehistory of Europe as a utopian idea of perpetual peace, the political origins of the federalist project particularly in the anti-fascist resistance, and the historical beginnings of the supranational institutions in the Cold War. Only by reclaiming Europe in the first two senses, taking Europe into hands of the citizens as an act of resistance and invention, and through recovering a sense of utopian energy that can transform the apparently insolvable contradictions of political power, will projecting a positive European future become possible. This is no play, and citizens are not spectators in a theatre. Let’s stop waiting and let’s start acting.
The first transnational European list – a DiEM25 initiative
PAOLA PIETRANDREA 19 March 2018
On 7 February in Brussels, the European Parliament rejected the idea of creating transnational European lists for the 2019 Elections. Nevertheless, the first transnational European list of candidates for the 2019 Elections was created on 10 March, in Naples.
On the initiative of the Democracy in Europe Movement, DiEM25, founded in 2016 by the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, several national, regional and municipal political organisations from all over Europe met in the Domus Ars in Naples:
Génération-s, the left-wing French environmental movement led by Benoît Hamon;
DeMA, Democrazia e Autonomia, a citizen platform, led by the mayor of the “rebel city” of Naples, Luigi De Magistris
Razem, the Polish feminist, pro-labour, anti-austerity movement, represented by, among others, Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk
Livre , the pro-European, left-wing libertarian, ecological, Portuguese movement, represented by its co-founder Rui Tavares
Alternativet, the Danish, progressive, European, environmentalist party represented by Rasmus Nordqvist
Bündnis – DiEM25, the electoral wing of DiEM25 in Germany
Open to the public with its press conference livestreamed, the meeting took place under the benevolent regard of a great lady of the European left, Susan George, and was observed by representatives of the Romanian DEMOS movement, the German DiB party, the French Communist Party, the Croatian parties Nova ljevica and Zagreb Je NAŠ! the Slovenian Levica Party, as well as the Party of European Greens and the Party of the European Left.
In the context of the European Elections of 2019, the organisations gathered at the Naples meeting decided to present:
– a common policy programme,
– a single spitzenkandidate (a candidate for the head of the commission),
– a common coordination,
– a list of candidates (corresponding to the sum of the lists presented in each country by each party and movement member of the list). This list, which will be agreed upon and democratically voted on by the members of the various movements and parties, may provide for the swapping of candidates across countries.
An act of constructive disobedience
This initiative is put forward, explicitly and deliberately, as an act of constructive disobedience, that is, an act of concerted, manifest disobedience capable of accelerating change.
The technocrats in Brussels don’t want transnational lists? In reality, it only takes a little imagination and political creativity to simulate them within the framework of existing laws.
A rebellion is developing
This act of disobedience announced by the organisations gathered in Naples is only the first in a long series.
The European New Deal, for example, i.e. the economic policy developed within DiEM25, around which the list will build its programme, recommends disobeying the status quo by using existing European institutions in order to simulate federal functionality within the framework of the current treaties – thus without providing a pretext for ruinous and unrealistic exits from the European Union.
This federal simulation will ensure the creation of an economic, ecological, feminist and social policy framework capable of addressing under-investment, poverty and inequalities in Europe, tackling public and private debt crises, promoting public and common goods, and implementing a massive green investment programme representing at least 4.5% of the European Union’s GDP in direct cooperation with European cities.
In the same spirit, the forces gathered in Naples plan to launch a citizens’ assembly process, beginning in villages and cities all over Europe. This process will enable European citizens to implement, at least symbolically, the constitutional process that Europe needs and that the European institutions do not have the strength to ensure. This process of participatory democracy will initiate the creation of a democratic Constitution written by the peoples of Europe for the peoples of Europe, capable of putting citizens, local communities and municipalities at the centre of decision-making processes, eventually leading to a Constituent Assembly which, together with the European Parliament, will draw up the future European democratic Constitution by 2025.
A European liberation movement
Far from being a simple electoral cartel, therefore, this newly created list represents the electoral expression of a common vision now beginning to spread among the peoples of Europe.
Aware of the fact that European problems can only be solved at the European level, and firmly opposed to any compromise with the existing European institutions, the groups gathered in Naples have set themselves the objective, not only of participating in the 2019 elections, but more generally of launching a movement that Rui Tavares has proposed calling a European liberation movement.
As well stated by Luigi De Magistris, for years the forces of national, local, civil society have been resisting Brussels’s institutional violence – the time has come to strike back.
An open call
The organisations gathered in Naples intend to broaden the scope of this movement well beyond its first members. A call has been extended to other political and civil society movements throughout Europe to participate in the political elaboration and electoral expression of the programme.
We stress that the process is wide open to civil society.
For too many years, professional politicians have had an interest in deepening an artificial distinction between grassroots politics and institutional politics, thus separating citizen action from power.
DiEM25, together with all the protagonists in Naples, invites civil society movements, local authorities and citizens’ initiatives to respond to the call and to bring their know-how, experience and demands into the institutional game. We believe that it is only through their contributions that together through the struggle against European institutions, we can forge the European people.
Politicians are clearly misreading EU provisions regarding freedom of movement
UKIP’s success in the Clacton by-election has prompted further unease in Conservative and Labour ranks, with free movement of people in the EU, a cornerstone of the Union, now suddenly under fire from the political elite. Brad Blitz writes that the shift in tone is not only at odds with previous policies, it reflects a clear misreading of EU provisions regarding the free movement of people. The free movement of people is not an absolute right and does not guarantee automatic access to the UK; states are still permitted to treat nationals and EU citizens differently and prevent benefits fraud and welfare tourism.
After 21 years UKIP finally secured a seat in Parliament, prompting both the Conservative and Labour parties to express their desire to revise European Union provisions regarding the free movement of people. Prime Minister David Cameron went on record to say that within the EU, citizens from new EU Member States should not have automatic access to the UK’s labour market and that he supported a crack-down on benefits. London Mayor Boris Johnson stated that freedom of movement was central to negotiations over Britain’s future in the European Union and suggested that it was a deal-breaker. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, though more circumspect and committed to Britain’s membership of the EU, nonetheless called for raising the qualification period for unemployment benefits and argued that Britain must put a stop to the practice of EU migrants sending child benefit back to their families outside the UK.
The cross-party fury over freedom of movement is not informed by statistical evidence regarding levels of immigration from the new European Union Member States. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), between March 2013 and March 2014 an estimated 560,000 people immigrated to the UK. Though a substantial increase on the previous year when the UK received 492,000 migrants, almost half of those who arrived in 2014 were non-EU citizens (265,000). While the overall increase in UK immigration figures is attributed to EU nationals, the ONS records that only 28,000 ‘new Europeans’, Romanians and Bulgarians, moved to the UK during that period. The vast number of EU nationals who entered the UK, including these Romanians and Bulgarians, did so in pursuit of work or study.
Why has the immigration of EU nationals become such a political bugbear? For more than a decade the UK has received considerable numbers of EU nationals, the largest originating from Poland. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants arguably poses a challenge to the existing social infrastructure just at a point when it is calling out for modernisation, especially in the health and education sectors. But previous British governments actively supported EU enlargement, which has been a consistent plank of UK foreign policy. Until recently both the Conservative and Labour parties expressed at least a qualified support in favour of immigration from the European Union.
Unlike most other EU member states, the UK government chose not to impose significant transitional provisions to delay the right of freedom of movement to nationals from the A10 countries – Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia – when these states joined the EU in 2004. Instead the UK opted for a registration scheme for workers of eight of the new Member States. While both the previous Labour and Conservative governments fought to protect UK rights to control immigration – the UK has never joined Schengen – British governments have, until recently, openly respected the rights of EU nationals to freedom of movement (as opposed to asylum seekers and migrants from outside the EU). In contrast to fringe nationalist parties including UKIP, which have seized upon the rise in migration as their principal cause, the main parties have generally worked within the EU system.
The latest declarations from David Cameron and Boris Johnson, however, point in a different direction. The shift in tone is not only at odds with previous policies, it reflects a clear misreading of EU provisions regarding the free movement of people. The free movement of people is one of the fundamental freedoms that underscores the EU but it is not an absolute right and does not guarantee automatic access to the UK. The free movement of workers was historically treated in the context of production where labour was a central input and the desire was to remove national barriers rather than press for a common European right to mobility per se.
The rights to free movement are set out in the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) signed in Maastricht in 1992 and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), formerly known as the EC Treaty, signed in Rome in 1957. In addition, there is an important body of secondary legislation and the right to freedom of movement has been further clarified by the EU Court of Justice, giving rise to a significant body of case law.
While the right to free movement has been expanded, via jurisprudence or through legislation, and most clearly by the introduction of the Citizenship Directive (2004/38/EC) which encourages EU citizens to exercise their right to move and reside freely within Member States, there remains an important divide between those who may benefit from the right to freedom of movement.
The legislation extends access to the Single Market beyond the original beneficiaries, namely workers and self-employed persons, to people who enjoy various types of economic status. Nonetheless, several categories remain outside the scope of existing EU free movement provisions. This includes non-economically active people (with no family link to an EU economically active citizen) who fail to meet the test of self-sufficiency (e.g. the ill, elderly and unemployed); and non-EU nationals who cannot derive rights on the backs of family members. One obvious point of exclusion stems from the transitional provisions which qualify the right to free movement for nationals of new EU Member States.
Both the Treaty of Accession of 2003 and the Treaty of Accession of 2005 include transitional provisions which set out transition periods before workers from new member states are able to enjoy full rights to freedom of movement. Individual member states may restrict the right to work of EU citizens from the acceding states for up to seven years from the date that their home state joined the EU. In the case of Bulgaria and Romania, this period expired at the end of December 2013. Croatian citizens of the EU, however, have been denied the full/free movement rights afforded to other European nationals until 2020 and must apply for work permits in other EU member states. Although migrants who are subject to these transitional arrangements are entitled to equal treatment with national workers after a period of employment, these transitional arrangements enable social assistance and services to be refused.
Moreover, states are still permitted to treat nationals and EU citizens differently when they can demonstrate a justified distinction. Member States’ actions must be in pursuit of a legitimate public interest and must be proportionate. EU Law prohibits clearly arbitrary rules and collective blanket-bans. This applies to areas which may be considered basic rights by large sections of the European population and include, for example, affordable education and decent housing. The case of Förster (C-158/07) illustrates this point. Förster was a German national who had been denied a grant to study because she was economically inactive and had not been a resident in the Netherlands for five years. In this case the Court ruled that the Dutch authorities were permitted to deny her the funding that would have been available to Dutch nationals. This was not a matter of nationality-based discrimination but rather a conclusion that she had not satisfied the criteria for integration – in this case, the residence test. In fact, there are many conditions that may be imposed before an EU citizen from another member state is able to access welfare support in the UK, and the government has been able to introduce several new restrictions within the existing framework of EU law.
Previously the Commission has found that the free movement provisions are not sufficient in themselves to promote mobility. The numbers benefiting from the exercise of free movement rights remain low by comparison with the inward migration of third country nationals into the European Union. Eurostat records that only 2.3 per cent of EU citizens reside in another member state and that almost two-thirds of migrants come from countries outside the EU.
Despite the introduction of EU legislation on free movement, there are still multiple legal, administrative and practical obstacles that complicate the exercise of free movement. These include the recognition of qualifications and portability of supplementary pension rights as well as more typical challenges that face any migrant, for example, housing, knowledge of a foreign language, the employment of spouses and partners, return mechanisms, historical ‘barriers’ and the recognition of mobility experience, particularly within SMEs.
In spite of the development of EU case law, the introduction of the Citizenship Directive, and the promise to respect the rights of family members as set out in Regulation 492/2011 (formerly 1612/68), the practical enjoyment of the right to free movement rests on the satisfaction of several conditions. This includes not only overcoming the societal challenges associated with relocation from one country to another but also political requirements.
The UK government has sufficient tools at its disposal to address the problems of benefit-cheating among what must be a small population of new EU nationals. EU law already allows British authorities to fight potential fraud and welfare tourism, even though the government has yet to provide evidence of the scale or indeed existence of the problem. Furthermore, the suggestions made by the UK government amount to arbitrary blanket rules which are clearly not compatible with EU law. Rather, the government should simply implement EU law on a case-by-case basis instead of answering UKIP’s overblown alarm call to curb the right to freedom of movement.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the British Politics and Policy blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please read our comments policy before posting. Featured image credit:
About the Author
Brad K. Blitz is Professor of International Politics and Deputy Dean of the School of Law at Middlesex University and Senior Fellow at the Global Migration Centre, Graduate Institute, Geneva. He is the author of Migration and Freedom: Mobility, Citizenship and Exclusion, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2014. He is also an LSE alumnus, graduating with an MSc. in European Studies in 1991.