EU begins to see migrants as a problem to be fought

The "brain drain" keeps being a major challenge in many European countries. The number of EU immigrants in the UK is constantly increasing (in a recent approximate estimation by the Italian Embassy and Consulate our compatriots in England are around 500 thousands) and there is a growing concern that they may have a negative impact on welfare.

REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

In the past months, a few studies have showed the significant impact of mobility on job creation and that immigration may have a net positive benefit on hosting countries like the UK (see here for instance). However, the European Court of Justice affirmed in a recent verdict on the issue of “welfare tourism": «A member state must therefore have the possibility of refusing to grant social benefits to economically inactive Union citizens who exercise their right to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another Member State’s social assistance».

Court of Justice stop to the welfare tourism

Following the case presented to the European Court of Justice regarding two Romanian citizens, a mother and her son, who in Lipsia, Germany, were refused welfare assistance because they are not economically independent and are inactive, the Court clarified the EU Directive on the rights of the “Citizen of the Union”. For the first five years of stay in another member state, the EU citizen who is inactive, not looking for a job and without any economic sources may be denied certain social benefits. Indeed, Elisabeta Dano has been denied unemployment benefits because she doesn’t have a job, she is not looking for one and she has been residing in Germany less than 5 years. There is a re-ignited debate about the use of welfare by migrants in the host country.

«The interests of English people come before everything else» said David Cameron, UK premier, in the past weeks. With the upcoming election around the corner, in May, he is trying to satisfy the Eurosceptic party UKIP. In several moments he announced his wish to limit the “economic migration” , as he describes it. Too many benefits and subsidies, he thinks, for the EU migrants in England.

Expulsions for unemployed EU citizens after six months of stay in United Kingdom is being considered. For now, they will be allowed to receive some benefits only after 4 years of legal residence in the UK.

Establishment of the national supremacy

While the English think tank Open Europe is pushing on the European migrants' affair, it developed a new EU Directive on citizenship and integration. The most relevant ideas of Open Europe for the Directive are the concession of social assistance, public grants for internships, housing allocation should be reserved to resident citizens and only in limited cases to the new citizens arrived. In the authors' opinion the supremacy of national citizens should be re-established. Yet, that would undermine the reason behind the demolition of the barriers in the EU and the meaning of feeling a European citizen everywhere.

The internal migration is still a source

While some member states are becoming intolerant with the increasing number of European migrants, a study of the economic think tank Bruegel shows the positive impact of this phenomenon; it gives the chance in countries that were more affected by the crisis to reduce the local pressure of the local job market. But it also helps match demand and supply, the skills requested by the enterprises vs. the ones offered by the workers, so that it reduces the shortage of skills in the local job market: too few workers with low skills or too few workers highly qualified. There are no doubts about the gains from international trade and exchanges coming from the demolition of the cultural barriers.


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