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March 1998, Volume 5, Number 3

EU: Asylum, Mobility

On January 30, 1998, European Union interior ministers agreed that EU countries should fingerprint asylum seekers who arrive in the EU, and exchange fingerprint data among EU member nations to prevent individuals from filing asylum applications in more than one EU country. Italy currently fingerprints asylum-seekers without proper documentation and swaps the information with Germany.

The Dublin Convention, which went into full force on December 1, 1997, calls for the creation of Eurodac, an EU data base that would include the fingerprints of all foreigners who have undergone an expulsion process in any EU member nation.

Also on January 30, 1998, EU interior ministers announced plans to create a safe haven for Kurds somewhere in the Middle East, similar to the safe haven established in northern Iraq after the Gulf war in 1991.

The K4 Committee met February 10, 1998, and announced a joint program against alien smuggling.

EU member countries have their difficulties in coordinating police and immigration activities. For example, France and Germany do not believe that Italy does enough to prevent illegal immigration policies. As the EU expands eastward, new problems arise. Anita Gradin, European Commissioner for Justice, Home Affairs and Immigration, said that "certain sections of the Polish border are vulnerable and lend themselves to exploitation by criminal organizations trying to deliver illegal immigrants to the West," a situation that must be corrected before Poland can join the EU.

The European Commission is considering a proposal to share the burden of Kurds arriving from Turkey and Iraq. One of the proposals is to set up camps for Kurds in Italy, and then distribute them among the other 15-member nations of the EC. Sweden and Germany support this approach to burden sharing, but the UK argues that each EU country has its own history of immigration, and should deal with foreigners who arrive according to its own laws and procedures.

The EU's June 18, 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam is to be ratified by EU member nations by the end of 1998, and to replace the Treaty of Maastricht on January 1, 1999. There may be reluctance to ratify in the parliaments of Denmark, Belgium, and France in part because the Treaty of Amsterdam transfers sovereignty in some areas of asylum and immigration policy to the EU.

The European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs in mid-February criticized the EU's record on human rights, finding "grave problems linked to immigration and the right of asylum." On a majority vote, the Parliament called for an amnesty for some illegally present foreigners in the EU, and for family unification, but defeated a resolution that would have called for anyone born in an EU member nation to automatically receive the citizenship of that country.

Mobility. About 10 percent of the EU's 374 million residents live in border regions and about 500,000 EU nationals cross an international border regularly to work. EU population data are at: http://europa.eu.int/en/comm/eurostat/compres/en/1498/6301498a.htm />
It is generally agreed that the expected single market and currency union--which aim to increase economic efficiency by reallocating economic factors such as capital and labor--will reduce the ability of EU member nations to use national policies to deal with their economic problems. Thus, for example, if there were a recession in Spain, the Spanish government would be unable to lower interest rates to stimulate economic activity.

Economists Barry Eichengreen and Thomas Straubhaar expect that instead, the adjustment to recession in one country will cause migration from recession to boom areas within the EU. Thus, monetary union may signal the beginning of a new era in intra-EU mobility, as Europeans imitate the Americans who moved from Detroit to Texas in the early 1980s when oil prices were high, and moved back with oil prices fell. Eichengreen argues that the five to 10 percent of the EU population who are foreigners are already mobile, and can act as the shock absorbers willing to move within the EU.


Elizabeth Neuffer, "Patchwork Refugee Policy Frazzles," Boston Globe, February 8, 1998. Walter Ellis, Robert Fox and Ian Mather, "No more room in the lifeboat," The European, February 2, 1998. Eichengreen, Barry. "Thinking about migration: notes on European migration pressures at the dawn of the next millennium," University of California/Berkeley Economics Department Working Paper C93-019. July, 1993.