In Europe, migration and integration policies are complicated by the fact that the European Union (EU) now comprises twenty-seven member states. The concern expressed by some Europeans is that this continuous expansion of the EU will generate more immigration into Western Europe, bringing with it numerous problems, such as inadequate integration.
The last two countries to join the European Union (EU) on January 1st, 2007 were Bulgaria and Romania. Despite joining the EU, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, the UK and Malta have restrictions on workers from the two countries, which will only be lifted in 2014. Immigrants cannot receive welfare for the first seven years of residency while residency requirements of seven years are required to vote in local elections. Italy lifted all restrictions against Bulgarians and Romanians on January 1, 2012. Germany and France have eased access for immigrants from both countries, while Switzerland will not ease restrictions until 2014 (Sofia News Agency, 2012).
The entry into the EU brings with it many advantages for the joining countries, such as trade, cultural exchange and economic growth. However, for the existing member states, this expansion tends to trigger certain fears, most notably the issues of migration and integration. Many richer member states are worried about being overrun by workers from poorer member states. While the free movement of its citizens is one of the basic liberties of the EU, it is often associated with political anxiety.
|All Member States of the European Union (EU) are affected by the flow of international migration. They have agreed to develop a common immigration policy at EU level. The European Commission has made proposals for developing this policy, most of which have now become EU legislation. The main objective is to better manage migration flows by a coordinated approach which takes into account the economic and demographic situation of the EU (European Commission).|
In order to combat these fears of being overwhelmed by the inflow of ‘poorer workers’, the treaties overseeing the accession of new member states have put in place a ‘transitional clause’, which allows existing member states to restrict the free movement of labor from EU accession countries for a period of up to seven years. In 2004, the majority of the original fifteen EU member states applied this clause towards joining Eastern European countries. However, with the exception of Austria and Germany, most of the countries lifted the ban after the first two years of the transitional period.
Perhaps in the case of Germany, this decision can be explained by taking a closer look at Germany’s relationship with its Turkish immigrants. The fact that Germany’s per capitaPer unit of population. Per capita energy consumption, for example, is the amount of energy that is used on average by each person in a given country. income ($34,800, 2008 est.) is nearly triple that of Turkey’s ($12,000, 2008 est) has been proven a huge incentive for Turkish workers to move to Germany.
The country’s history regarding the integration of its Turkish “Gastarbeiter” or “guest workers” is a difficult one. While Germany has opened its doors for guest workers for many years in order to fill the labour shortage caused by World War Two, the German government expects immigrants to take on an active, integrated role in society.
Berlin, Germany’s capital, now has the fifth-largest Turkish population of any city in the world. Even with such staggering numbers, the integration of Turkish immigrants into German society is often described as somewhat failed. In many cases, Turkish citizens do not speak the language (even after having lived in the country for many years), while others do not leave the district they live in and spend most of their time with other Turkish immigrants, ultimately leading to a widening gap – and inevitable clash – of the two cultures.
The same issues faced by Germans regarding Turkish immigrants are now being faced by the Europe as a whole, as it debates whether or not to admit Turkey into the European Union. Not only would the addition of 70 million Turkish Muslims drastically change the cultural makeup of Europe, which currently hosts over 15 million Muslim citizens already, but it would open up Europe to the possibility of a major influx of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa who would use Turkey as a stepping stone to Europe. As it currently stands, tens of thousands of illegal migrants are thought to cross Turkey every year, while large amounts of refugees and asylum-seekers from Iraq and Africa have entered Turkey, as conflict in these regions have created an increase in displaced persons in recent years.
Thus, in order to gain EU membership, Turkey has been pressured by many European countries to enact asylum and refugee-recognition legislation and step up its border patrol enforcement in order to limit the impact on EU countries of Turkish inclusion. On the other hand, it has been argued that the vast number of young unemployed male Turkish citizens could serve as a dynamic labor force that could be the antidote to the labor scarcity problem currently facing many European countries with aging populations, such as Italy.
This is just one example of possible problems associated with the free movement of people within the EU. Many other EU member states face similar problems; for instance France, which – in a similar fashion – struggles with the integration of its many Muslim immigrants.
For more information on EU Integration, please view the Expert Video Interview: Dr. Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, on international migration.