Germany and Britain fear a rise in poverty-related migration — The right to freedom of movement in Europe now in danger — Europe suffering from schizophrenia

 Workers from Bulgaria and Romania may settle wherever they like in the EU starting January. Countries like Germany and Britain fear a rise in poverty-related migration. Is the right to freedom of movement in Europe now in danger?

Let governments give priority to own citizens

In the debate over the free movement of workers across the EU, countries like the UK and Germany fear it will put too much strain on the social welfare systems. In the conservative daily Financial Times chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman recommends breaking with the core European principle that all EU citizens must be treated equally:

The idea that a national government should not discriminate between its own citizens and those of other EU member states is seen as fundamental in Brussels. But in much of the EU, it still seems second nature to feel a bit more solidarity with your own citizens than with other Europeans. … Changes to the welfare rules – allowing countries more scope to give priority to their own citizens – would make it easier to win the more important argument for open borders. So why not?

Migration debate: Tusk criticises Cameron

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has criticised the UK’s approach to dealing with Eastern European labour migrants. He announced that he would make a telephone call to his counterpart David Cameron to speak about the matter. According to some commentators Cameron is using populist slogans to divert attention from domestic problems. Others stress that the British are genuinely concerned about the country’s economic difficulties.

 

East and West benefit from free movement

David Cameron’s statements on migrant workers from Eastern Europe are nothing but populism, the liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht comments:

Certainly, one will find both cases that support free movement of workers in Europe and cases that speak against it. Political decisions, however, must be based on the general picture. Studies have shown that immigrants put more into the British economy than they take out of it. In fact it should be the Eastern European politicians who fight against free movement because the benefits for their countries are not immediate. We only benefit when the emigrants send part of their earnings home, or if they return to their home country with experience and savings later on. … Cameron’s campaign may help him domestically in the short term, but in the long run it’s unfounded and unjust.

 

Scapegoats for domestic problems

Cameron’s plan to scrap child’s benefit for immigrants to the UK when the children themselves still live in their home country is pure populism and an attempt to divert attention from domestic problems, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza criticises:

Because he didn’t make any mention of the fact that according to a study by London University College, citizens from the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein contributed 22 billion pounds [26 billion euros] in tax revenue to the British economy between 2001 and 2011. That sum is 34 percent higher than what the state has paid for them, for example in social benefits. … So the claim that migrants make a huge dent in the budget can’t be the real reason for Cameron’s attacks. He just wants to show that he can take a hard line against foreigners, whom the British tend to blame for many problems, such as unemployment or long queues at the doctor’s.

 

Fears of mass immigration understandable

More than 75 percent of British citizens want immigration to their country to be slowed down, according to the latest British Social Attitudes Survey. Columnist Iain Martin shows understanding for these sentiments in the conservative newspaper The Daily Telegraph:

It is hard for many people to understand why a country that has run out of money, that has a great many unemployed young people, should decide to import so much labour. Equally, a welfare system built on the idea – even if it is somewhat bogus – that we earn the right to claim because we, or our parents, put in, struggles to cope with new arrivals getting tax credits or benefits. It erodes trust and runs contrary to most people’s understanding of what the post-war welfare system is for. … We need immigration but that does not mean that a huge unregulated influx is sensible or desirable.

 

EU freedom of movement no longer works

The debate over Bulgarians and Romanians migrating to Western Europe to escape poverty is the result of a structural defect in the concept of EU freedom of movement for workers, migration expert Dainius Paukštė argues on the web portal Delfi:

Freedom of movement (as conceived by the founders of the EU) is only possible between countries at similar levels of economic development. The accession of economically weaker countries has distorted the principle of free movement of persons, because it triggered not just an economic but also a mass immigration in the truest sense of the word that has nothing to do with the free movement of people within the EU. And not just people from the new EU member states, but also people from non-EU member states come to the richer EU states. Clearly we must prepare for new challenges and debates about a new immigration policy within the EU.

 

Scapegoats for domestic problems

Cameron’s plan to scrap child’s benefit for immigrants to the UK when the children themselves still live in their home country is pure populism and an attempt to divert attention from domestic problems, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza criticises:

Because he didn’t make any mention of the fact that according to a study by London University College, citizens from the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein contributed 22 billion pounds [26 billion euros] in tax revenue to the British economy between 2001 and 2011. That sum is 34 percent higher than what the state has paid for them, for example in social benefits. … So the claim that migrants make a huge dent in the budget can’t be the real reason for Cameron’s attacks. He just wants to show that he can take a hard line against foreigners, whom the British tend to blame for many problems, such as unemployment or long queues at the doctor’s.

 

Fears of mass immigration understandable

More than 75 percent of British citizens want immigration to their country to be slowed down, according to the latest British Social Attitudes Survey. Columnist Iain Martin shows understanding for these sentiments in the conservative newspaper The Daily Telegraph:

It is hard for many people to understand why a country that has run out of money, that has a great many unemployed young people, should decide to import so much labour. Equally, a welfare system built on the idea – even if it is somewhat bogus – that we earn the right to claim because we, or our parents, put in, struggles to cope with new arrivals getting tax credits or benefits. It erodes trust and runs contrary to most people’s understanding of what the post-war welfare system is for. … We need immigration but that does not mean that a huge unregulated influx is sensible or desirable.

 

EU freedom of movement no longer works

The debate over Bulgarians and Romanians migrating to Western Europe to escape poverty is the result of a structural defect in the concept of EU freedom of movement for workers, migration expert Dainius Paukštė argues on the web portal Delfi:

Freedom of movement (as conceived by the founders of the EU) is only possible between countries at similar levels of economic development. The accession of economically weaker countries has distorted the principle of free movement of persons, because it triggered not just an economic but also a mass immigration in the truest sense of the word that has nothing to do with the free movement of people within the EU. And not just people from the new EU member states, but also people from non-EU member states come to the richer EU states. Clearly we must prepare for new challenges and debates about a new immigration policy within the EU.

 

Doctors will leave Bulgaria

Bulgaria will have difficulty keeping its doctors and nurses in the country now that the EU labour market has been fully opened for Bulgarians and Romanians, the daily 24 Chasa fears:

In England, France and Germany, doctors receive up to 20 times more pay. In other words: they can earn as much in two years as they can here in 40. Very few doctors and nurses are not thinking about emigrating. For Bulgarians that means that healthcare costs must rise to the levels in Western Europe. And that, in turn, means either higher direct payments or higher health insurance contributions. Otherwise in future Bulgarians will have to travel to England to receive treatment from professionals who speak their language. Provided they have the necessary cash, that is. There is no alternative to raising doctors’ fees in Bulgaria. It’s becoming clear that this will be the first real consequence of the free movement of workers.

 

Wolfgang Scheida dismayed by “poverty immigration” debate

The debate in Germany about a potential wave of “poverty immigration” continues now that the free movement of workers for Romanians and Bulgarians has taken effect. Wolfgang Scheida, an ethnic German immigrant who grew up in Romania and is now a top editor with the conservative Sunday paper Welt am Sonntag, finds such talk unbearable:

When the ethnic German immigrants from Romania came to Germany in the 1990s – including myself, they received a warm welcome – also because of election strategies, without doubt. Many ‘immigrated’ initially in the social welfare system, but as time passed they managed to become independent and earn a living for themselves. Many took advantage of the opportunity to have a better life. We worked hard, attended language courses, studied, integrated. … There are few things as painful as being part of a family but always having to eat at the side table. This is how we ‘Romanians and Bulgarians’ feel. We may belong to the EU and people want to do business with us, but as soon as we want to move around Europe freely and work where we please people start screaming blue murder. And yes, some won’t want to work, just as some Germans don’t want to work. We should put up with them. The country won’t collapse because of this.

 

Cameron exploiting dark mood

With populist campaigns against free movement of workers for Bulgarians and Romanians, politicians in the old EU member states are trying to conceal their own incompetence, the weekly magazine Dilema Veche criticises:

[British] Prime Minister Cameron has an ally: the gloomy mood that currently prevails in Europe and that blames two things for the crisis – the euro and immigration. Right now politicians are focussed on pinning all the blame on these faceless scapegoats. They haven’t even admitted their own mistake in deciding to save the financial system at the expense of the citizens! The euro has survived the major crisis of 2011/2012, so now immigration is the cause of all the EU’s troubles – and a trump card for Prime Minister Cameron and his negotiations with the EU.

 

Europe suffering from schizophrenia

The panicked reaction of the British and the Germans to the free movement of workers is schizophrenic, the left-liberal daily La Repubblica concludes:

While Latvia celebrates its accession to the monetary union with fireworks, the removal of the Schengen barriers is triggering a wave of fear and intolerance in ‘old’ Europe. The sense of solidarity that made possible the creation of what the EU treaties define as a ‘community of fate’ is disappearing. … What will win out in 2014: the optimism of Riga or the fierce countenance of Heathrow airport, which fears an invasion of the barbarians that will never come? The two sides of the schizophrenic European Union have been facing each other for six years, since the start of the crisis that has called into question all its fundamental values. The only possible prediction is that the schizophrenia will continue in the new year. The decisive battle in Europe’s prolonged war with itself has not yet been fought out.

 

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