Saturday, April 27, 2013

EU politics: make immigration easier, says commissioner

Laszlo 027-imm.jpg

In what is being seen as a direct snub to British concerns about migration from other EU member states, László Andor, commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion, hasdelivered a speech introducing a proposal for a directive aimed at ensuring "the better application of EU law on the right of EU citizens to work in another Member State".

The right of every EU citizen to work freely in any country within the European Union, enshrined in the Article 45 of the Treaty, constitutes an essential part of the EU's Single Market, and indeed of the European Union itself, says Andor. Yet, he complains, there is a persistent problem with public and private employers' lack of awareness of EU rules. 

This lack of awareness or understanding of the rules, he says, is a major source of discrimination based on nationality. People also consider that they do not know where to turn to in the host Member State when faced with problems concerning their rights to free movement. 

Thus, the Commission's proposal aims to overcome these obstacles and to help to prevent discrimination against workers on the basis of nationality by proposing practical solutions. 

The press release tells us that the directive, if approved, require member states to create national contact points providing information, assistance and advice so that EU migrant workers, and employers, are better informed about their rights. 

It would also require the provision of "appropriate means of redress at national level" and allow labour unions, NGOs and other organisations to launch administrative or judicial procedures on behalf of individual workers in cases of discrimination. 

The rationale behind the proposal was demonstrated in an October 2010 public opinion survey conducted by the Commission that found that 67 percent of respondents felt "not well-informed" or not informed at all regarding their rights as EU citizens. This lack of awareness is evident not only among individuals, but also among private as well as public employers. 

While EU rules on free movement of workers are long-established, the way in which they are applied in practice can give rise to barriers and discriminatory practices (perceived or real) for EU migrant workers when working or looking for work in another Member State. 

Indeed, says the Commission, just three percent of the EU labour force, or 9.5 million people, live and work in another Member State. An additional 1.2 million people live in one EU country but work in another. 

And so it is that, while Switzerland is able to exclude EU workers, EU member states are being told that free movement of workers is "good for people and good for the [EU] economy", and that they should encourage more migrant workers to come to them. 

In response, a Home Office spokesman tells the BBC that: "We will forcefully resist any attempt from Europe to load additional burdens on to countries like Britain. He adds: "We are already taking tough action to stamp out the abuse of free movement, to protect our benefits system and public services: we will not allow this country to be a soft touch".

However, when it comes to this proposal for a directive, this will pass through the ordinary legislative procedure, which means that it will be approved in Council by qualified majority voting. The UK, on its own, cannot block this new law. 

How, precisely, Mr Cameron's government thus plans to "forcibly resist" the directive is not specified. One suspects, though, that this is pre-election rhetoric which will come to nothing. In due course, we will be establishing help lines and drop-in centres for wannabe migrant workers, and penalising employers for not giving them jobs.