Skip to navigation

Skip to main content


March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3

EU: Immigration, Co-Development, Soccer

European Commission President Romano Prodi in February 2001 said that the EU should open itself to 1.6 million skilled foreign workers. Prodi said "We want qualified immigration. This is different to mass immigration. Skilled labor immigration does not usually cause social and political problems." However, Employment Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou said that Europe must do more to train high-tech workers: "Immigration cannot solve our skills-gap problem."

In a July 12, 2000 speech, European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Antonio Vitorino said "the European Union is facing a changing economic and demographic situation which, I believe, calls into question our existing response to the phenomena of migration… the zero immigration policies of the past 25 years are not working but, in addition, they are no longer relevant to the economic and demographic situation in which the Union now finds itself."

Vitorino noted that the number of foreign workers in the EU rose from 5.9 million in 1988 to 7.4 million in 1996 despite high unemployment rates, and that the EU should agree "on new legal ways for immigrants to enter the EU, recognizing the contribution…[but] avoid the creation of new ghettos in our towns and cities."

The 1999 Amsterdam Treaty committed the EU to develop a common immigration and asylum policy by 2004 that focuses on the more efficient management of migration flows, such as more effective border controls, the combating of illegal migration, and reducing the economic exploitation of migrants, especially women. During the October 1999 Tampere summit, EU leaders committed themselves to developing: (1) common rules for the admission and processing of asylum applicants; (2) a coordinated approach to offer temporary protection to asylum seekers; and (3) a burden-sharing mechanism to share asylum costs among member-states.

The European Commission was asked to make proposals to implement these migration agreements and to draw up a "scoreboard" to monitor progress in immigration and asylum.

The discussion of Europe's need for immigrants was accelerated by UN projections that the 15-nation EU, which currently has a labor force of 170 million in a population of 380 million, would need to admit 1.4 million immigrants a year to maintain the size of the labor force at current levels. The EU has been receiving about 850,000 newcomers a year.

Mountain View Research Associates used these projections to conclude that, to keep social security and benefits at current levels, by 2030 retirement would have to be postponed to age 74 in France, 73 in Italy and, for comparison, 78 in Japan and 72 in the US. By 2050, retirement ages would need to be 78 in France and 79 in Italy. It is estimated that at present, European men retire on average at 61 and women at 58. About half of the men 60-64 are in the labor force in the US, compared to 34 percent in Germany and 10 percent in France. The share of EU residents aged 60 and older is expected to increase from 21 percent of EU residents in 2000 to 29 percent by 2025.

These patterns lead to many projections for more immigrants. Demographer Jean-Claude Chesnais in 1990 was quoted as saying: "The need for immigrants will grow. You'll have fewer people entering the labor market and more leaving. You'll have an aging labor force that is tired and less efficient but also wants higher salaries. What does a businessman do? He turns to immigrants who earn less and work harder."

Co-Development. Vitorino said the EU needs a co-development policy that ensures "migrants have possibilities of moving on or going back as the situation develops in their country of origin and elsewhere in the world…[including] innovative ideas to encourage the voluntary return of migrants …in a framework of supported reintegration in countries of origin…[and] reduce the negative factors associated with emigration and ensure longer term benefits, particularly for developing countries."

France's Inter-ministerial Mission on Co-development and International Migration (MICOMI) held a conference in July 2000 that defined co-development as combining immigration control efforts in Europe with efforts to bolster stay-at-home development in migrants' countries of origin, thus gradually reducing the flow of migrants to industrialized countries. Stable migrant communities abroad would be given an official role in helping build up the home country's economy. The French model also includes co-development agreements with individual countries that would provide an official structure to help migrants set up businesses in Europe with minimal red tape and foster trade relations with their countries.

French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement emphasized that "co-development is not a way of controlling migration flows" but a way to integrate development and migration policies.

The EU also formed a High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration, and gave it the task of developing action plans on six countries from which large numbers of immigrants come to Europe (Morocco, Albania and the surrounding region, Afghanistan and the neighboring region, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Iraq).

It is not clear if co-development will be extend to the Balkans. Albania, Bosnia, and Croatia have requested EU funds to bolster their efforts to fight alien smuggling. It is estimated that at least 50,000 foreigners a year enter Western Europe through the Balkans; Bosnia does not require visas for citizens of many Islamic countries.

Soccer. More than 1,000 soccer players are being investigated for holding false passports that enable them to play as "Europeans" on soccer teams. National rules restrict the number of non-EU foreigners on each team. For example, Italy allows only five players from outside the EU on any Italian team, and only three non-EU players can be on the field at one time.

The "Bosman ruling" forced national teams to end their restrictions on players from outside the country, but inside the EU, which led to some, for instance, English teams, to have no British players. In an effort to get around the restrictions, many Italian and Spanish clubs sign South American players and give them Italian and Spanish passports, enabling them to play as national players.

On February 15, a soccer agent, Alfonso Martins Costa Filho, told a Brazilian congressional commission that two Portuguese officials gave Portuguese passports to two Brazilian players so that they could play on an Italian club in 2000. The congressional commission is one of two set up to investigate alleged corruption and mismanagement of Brazilian soccer.

French police and immigration officials, at the request of the French soccer league, launched an investigation into the French passports issued to French first and second division players. Each French club is allowed only three non-EU players, a rule that was violated by a club with a Ukrainian playing under a Greek passport and a Brazilian player with a Portuguese passport.

Marco Sibaja, "Football: Brazilian agent reveals passport source," Independent, February 16, 2001. "Hoey supports FA move on passports," Evening Standard, February 13, 2001. Paul Cabray, "Soccer's false-passport crisis still widens," The Gazette, February 12, 2001. "Soccer-French minister calls for action over false passports," Reuters, January 10, 2001. Alan Riding, "Western Europe, Its Births Falling, Wonders Who'll Do All the Work," New York Times, July 22, 1990.