I was invited to speak at the Young European Federalists rally/conference as a representative of AEIP and CTOE. I spoke about CoFoE’s proposals on Migration, and the need for a generous and inclusive citizenship definitions.

The context

Migration is an issue of some controversy as we well know in the UK. It is one of the few policy areas where racism is seen as a legitimate policy design goal. For the EU there are two countervailing political forces, both having some age now. The EU or its predecessor was founded as a response to the 2nd World War and its consequent movements of people primarily as refugees or asylum seekers. The second is the massive post-colonial legacies held by so many of the member states many of which are ex-empires, although some seem to have recovered from these influences more rapidly than others. I said at the meeting that I’d be happy to learn from others about their colonial pasts, but the list is longer than the obvious.

Given the technical problem solving nature of CoFoE the proposals need to be judged in the light of scope of the issue. Immigrants are, workers, refugees, family members or students. Counting students as immigrants is a subject of argument. The European economies need migrant workers. If they don’t come, work doesn’t get done. It’s not just the taxes, it’s the output. The domestic demand for migrant labour is demand led, if they are stopped, then the work they seek doesn’t get done. Refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing for their lives, escaping war or oppressive regimes who may be seeking to kill them for their sexuality, or political opinions. Legally and morally we owe refugees a duty of care and should be proud they choose our countries of places of safety. I can’t comment on other countries but the UK has been busy making it hard for its citizens to pass their nationality onto spouses and even to children. It is hard to bring spouse to the UK, i.e. if you want to marry a foreigner, you may have to live in their country.   Students shouldn’t be counted in the immigration numbers.

We have missed one opportunity as I note the EU’s shameful partial response to the UN Global Compact on Immigration, ; it was a missed opportunity to show a united, world leadership on this critical issue. It shows the resistance in the the political leadership in the EU which may be characterised as specific to a limited number of member states but racist popularism is embedded across the Union.

A route for change

The Conference and particular the citizen panels were more progressive than might have been expected and the worst of the proposals from the digital platform were ignored.

There are a couple of proposals on reducing labour market friction which are probably a good idea. There may well be a view that if employers can fill vacancies with local labour then there will be less need to employ immigrants, but I think that effectively this would be marginal.

There is a proposal to increase aid to likely source countries that need it. The debate about aid is also complex; aid must not create dependency and must avoid corruption.

There are proposals on the policing of immigration criminality. When one reads the words, it is clear that human traffickers must be caught and stopped, however, care must be taken to ensure that the EU and its member & neighbour states must not be criminalise the aiding of and rescue of people at sea as has occurred in Italy and been attempted in the UK. This proposal talks of the proper resourcing of Frontex. If immigration is to become an EU competency, then it needs an agency and the common border, Schengen now includes the vast majority of the population of the EU. The strength of this recommendation will have been helped by having Frontex as one of the experts to the citizens panel.

On refugees, there are strong progressive statements, empasising a duty of care and welcome to refugees. It also recognises the duty of solidarity to those countries who bear the brunt of welcoming refugees. It seems there is an EU agency for asylum and there is a need to move on from the Dublin Regime, which was designed to allow refugees some say in where they go, but has become a trap keeping them in the first place they arrive.

There are proposals on integration. This is another complex area of policy as in some decisions requirements to integrate can be posed against the rights to practice one’s culture and the development of a multi-cultural society. The EU should be one of the most sympathetic political entities in recognising the rights of multi-culturalism since it has so many.

At the least

In the UK, our politicians have been getting this wrong, albeit for 20 years, maybe even longer and is one of the reasons the UK voted for Brexit.

We need workers, we must welcome and protect refugees, we must allow people to love who they choose and marry who they choose and then live together. We should welcome students from abroad; they enrich the host nation’s culture and teach the young about the peoples of the world.

We cannot compromise with the racism inherent in anti-migrant policy; it’s the route to disaster.

We i.e. AEIP fear that adopting common standards will lead to a levelling down which is not what’s needed.

In some places in the document the words are unclear in intent and may be misused. I am reminded of the newspeak used by the UK Government in selling its offshore immigration camps to the UK and international public opinion. On aid and border control, the words may be innocuous but there is still time to get it wrong.

We need to ask ourselves, “Motives, motives, motives?”.

The truth is that migration and citizenship are currently split between the EU and the member states. Asking the member states to share the right to define citizenship is a big ask but when looking at the proposals in the Democracy chapter, it’s clear that citizenship needs to be more inclusive; one initiative that deserves support is the ECI “Votes without Borders­” which seeks to ensure that EU Citizens can vote in the EU no matter where they live. This should be supported, but sadly UK citizens, even those resident in the EU cannot sign the petition.

Democracy requires an inclusive view of who is a citizen, which while it’s an argument in the UK and other countries, the famous slogan of the American Revolution, “No taxation without representation” applies here. We can’t welcome people to work, pay taxes and then deny them the vote.

ooOOOoo

There were two questions, one on the accountability of politicians and, the second, asking if the EU can EU protect its citizen’s against an EFTA member.

Politicians can be held to account via the mechanisms of the institutions and by the political parties. The parties are part of civic society but as a member of the Labour Party I recognise that members and voters can’t always hold the politicians to account.

Citizenship of the EU gives its citizen’s the protection of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which can be exercised initially through the member state courts. It also avoids the longer passport control queues. The duty to protect citizens against harassment by a foreign government belongs to the member state. The EU embassies do not offer consulate services.

CoFoE’s final word on Migration
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