Privileged Europeans

Published on 4 September 2009 at 14:34

More than anything, the development of Europe has depended and continues to depend on the principle of freedom of movement, which allows citizens of the EU to travel, and the dismantling of barriers that might prevent them from living and working in any member state of their choosing. It is a principle that has become a reality which affects the daily lives of all the citizens of the Union. Without it, how could Europe have developed its tourist industry to the extent that it has today? Would we have ever seen the phenomenon of low-cost flights? And what of the hopes and dreams of so many East Europeans, who have found employment in other member states just 20 years after the fall of the communist regimes? Or the aspirations of students entering the Erasmus programme, which enables them to study and experience life in other countries of the Union? None of this would have existed had the Union not made it possible.

However, let's not forget that beyond the borders of the EU, there exists a different reality, where access to Europe and all the advantages it implies, notably the immense privilege constituted by the principle of freedom of movement, is a dream that often turns into a nightmare. The summer of 2009, like the summers of so many preceding years, has been marked by the arrival of dangerously overcrowded boats of migrants, who hope to find a refuge from war and poverty in Europe. Immigration is a tangible reality that affects the daily lives of Europeans throughout the Union. However, until now, the response of member states has been fragmented, and devoid of solidarity. Now that the Swedish presidency has announced its commitment to a harmonized immigration legislation, and now that proposals have been tabled for greater solidarity with the countries of Southern Europe – Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece - which have to contend with large flows of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean, Europe has an opportunity to implement a coordinated policy for the movement of people, not only within, but also across the borders of the EU.


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