Unemployment, Migration and Nationalism
 – Threats to EU Cohesion?

Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum, Swedish Network for European Studies in Economics and Business and Skåne European Office gave a seminar in Brussels on April 23, 2012

– It is unworthy of the European Union that he asylum system works like a lottery right now. And that only six member states receive 90% of all asylum seekerds. These are sensitive issues but the Commission is continuously working for a a common high standard, said key note speaker Maria Åsenius, Chef de Cabinet, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

– Economic migration is based on  different legal foundations and it seems the way forward is to work sector by sector. E.g. separate regulations for seasonal workers, for “intra-corporate transferees”, for Blue Care holders, for students etc.

– It is set down in the EU treaty that the member states decide on numbers, but that there should be EU rules and regulations.

– EU demographic development calls for more focus on how to make Europe more attractive. On top of that the members states also need to increase pension ages and participation in the labour force.

– The fundamental idea of free movement of persons within the EU must not be hampered by dubious arrangements by individual member states, like customs control in Denmark or the Berlusconi / Sarkozy arrangement between Italy and France, formally directed to hinder illegal immigration but in effect re-establishing border controls within Schengen.

Fabian Zuleeg and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama

Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist, emphasized the importance of migration, but pointed out that other measures are necessary to cover the needs of labour supplies.

– Migration is not the only solution –  we need an increased participation in the labour force. And the EU is doing really badly when it comes to integration.

– It is unfortunate and strange that we treat “mobility” and  “migration” in two different ways. We need a common migration policy too.

– The future of the EMU is also connected to labour mobility; Europe is not a very attractive place right now.

– Europe needs an “incentivized mobility”.

Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, Director ECIPE, pointed to economic growth and meant that Europe has really never grown thanks to innovation. Historically we had mercantilism which states that exports are “good” and imports are “bad”. Unfortunately this mental picture still prevails, we see an imperfect union where policy measures are often counter-productive.

– Migrants seek economic possibilities, not economic benefits.

Petra Herzfeld Olsson Researcher in International Labour Law, Uppsala University, talked about the legal status of labour immigrants in the EU. There is an emerging framework of rules for the immigration of workers from outside the Union. Originally the Commission sought to replace the Member States’ different systems in this area with a common system which would be simpler, treat different categories of workers in the same way and  offer them a path to permanent status.

– That  idea has however been abandoned during the negotiations that followed. Different rules were proposed for different categories of workers. Member States can make significant exceptions to these rules

– The labour force of the EU countries will decrease by 52 million people by the year 2050. Immigrants will have to be treated in a fair and just way.

The EU Blue Card gives preference to highly qualified immigrants, but that is not enough. Seasonal workers are less protected. And separate rules apply for intra-corporate transfers.

– My recommendation is that the EU should introduce a strict equal-treatment principle, thereby ensuring adequate legal protection for all groups of workers, concludet Petra Herzfeld Olsson.

Matz Dahlberg, Petra Herzfeld Olsson and Lisa Pelling

One major driving force behind the migration of both regular and irregular labour is the difference in prosperity between migrant-sending and migrant-receiving countries. Lisa Pelling, Ph.D Candidate in Political Science, University of Vienna, talked about the European Union’s efforts to strengthen the connection between labour maigration int the uNion and the reduction of poverty in developing countries.

Focussing on remittances and circular migration, Lisa Pelling brought up the difficulties the Union has met with trying to frame a coherent policy for promoting development. Her research also analyzes the “brain drain” turning into a “brain gain” back into developing countries.

– Remittances of migrants will only be invested in an efficient way if conditions are improved.

As for the European Union policy, Lisa Pelling stated that the single most important policy change is to improve the possibility of legal immigration to the EU.

Matz Dahlberg, Professor of Economics, Uppsala University, finally, presented research on the attitudes towards the welfare state, and to redistribution of income. Having studies the general dynamic between migration, ethnic diversity and social-welfare policy he concluded that greater ethnic diversity influences popular opinion in the direction of less redistribution and a smaller welfare sector.

–The scientific eveidence is week when it comes to the exact levels, but there is evidence that the mix is strongly influenced by ethnical diversity.


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