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November 2001, Volume 8, Number 11

EU: Terrorism, Harmonization

Before September 11, most EU members were expected to follow the recommendation of the EU Commission and liberalize immigration policy. Germany and the UK, for example, were expected to allow additional immigration for economic/employment reasons. After September 11, many EU nations suspended such plans and instead proposed anti-terror legislative packages.

For example, German Interior Minister Otto Schilly delayed debate on a new immigration law, saying it needed to be re-evaluated. Britain announced a stricter system of security checks that would deny asylum to foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorism. Austrian populist Jörg Haider asserted that only asylum seekers from European countries should be allowed to reside in the European Union while awaiting a decision on their applications; the others should wait in safe third countries outside Europe.

In Italy, a high-level government official said: "Given the situation of peril, let's close the borders to Muslims because no one forces us to have them here." There were demonstrations outside mosques, with protestors carrying signs demanding that the authorities "get the terrorists out of Milan." There have been regular clashes outside the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan between Northern League supporters and immigrants; the institute has been accused of supporting terrorists.

In the Netherlands, some Muslim youth celebrated the September 11 attacks, making a V-sign for victory while marching in the streets and calling Osama bin Laden "our leader." One poll showed that more than 60 percent of the Dutch believed that Muslims who approve of the terrorist attacks against the United States should be deported.

There are 11 to 12 million Muslims in Europe, including five million in France, three million in Germany, two million in the UK, and one million in Italy. Most pro-immigrant groups, including Amnesty International, warned of an over-reaction: "there is a danger that as the world's political leaders focus on combating 'terrorism' from abroad, a climate is engendered in which racism and xenophobia can flourish."

Many young Muslims born in Europe are trying to liberalize Islam, but they find that many mosques, Muslim schools and Islamic cultural centers are financed by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Libya and Algeria, and they support orthodox Islam. Most of the imams or religious leaders are educated outside Europe.

Most commentators agreed that, even as the EU moves toward common immigration policies, anti-terrorist efforts will take priority, and those opposed to liberal immigration and refugee policies will have a stronger hand. Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said "The reinforcement of the fight against illegal immigration is also the reinforcement of the fight against terrorism;" British Defense Minister Peter Reith says that illegal immigration "can be a pipeline for terrorists to come in and use your country as a staging post for terrorist activities."

One issue is a national ID card. The historic countries of immigration-Australia, Canada, US and New Zealand-do not have national ID cards, while 11 of the 15 EU member-countries do. Their cards range from a voluntary card in France, which almost everyone carries, to a compulsory card that must be carried in Belgium, Germany, Greece and Spain. The UK is considering a national ID card.

Harmonization. The EU reportedly made progress on its goal of harmonizing immigration and integration policies during mid-October 2001 meetings in Brussels. The discussion centered on EU Communication on a Community Immigration Policy (COM(2000)757) of November 2000.

Antonio Vitorino, European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, repeated his plea for agreement on the draft EU directive for economic immigration: "Although Member States are at all times free to restrict immigration for purely political reasons, the principle is that if a posting is not fulfilled within a given deadline, industry would be authorized to find a worker from outside the Union. A preference is given to our partners which are currently negotiating adhesion treaties with us."

In 1998, the EU had 375 million residents. They included 19 million foreigners, five percent of EU residents. Of these foreigners, 13 million were non-EU nationals; the others were, for example, Germans living in Spain. The EU Commission wants to give these 13 million Turks, Algerians and other foreigners free movement within the EU allowing, for example, Turks to move from Germany to France or vice versa.

About 60 percent of annual immigration to the EU represents family unification, often settled non-EU foreigners marrying non-EU spouses or bringing non-EU spouses and children into the EU country in which they settled. The EU would like to standardize family unification rules, generally allowing family unification after one year's residence, and allowing family members to go to school, work etc, but not to receive welfare benefits. However, there is still disagreement on what to do about older children whom parents wish to bring to the EU countries in which they have settled. Can EU nations restrict family unification to children under age 18 or 16, or even younger, under the theory that older children will have difficulty integrating? And what should be done if there is divorce shortly after the family arrives in the EU?

EU member-nations during the 1990s agreed to harmonize their immigration and asylum policies, in part to continue reducing internal barriers to mobility, which is believed to promote economic efficiency and help to bind EU nations closer together. This harmonization occurred on several levels. For example, the 13 EU nations that are Schengen members issue a common Schengen visa to foreigners, so that, for instance, France checks the entry of Turks arriving in Paris who then continue to Germany with no further checks. At the EU level, there are efforts to persuade member-nations to respect each other's decisions, so that, for example, if Belgium expels a foreigner as not needing asylum, that individual cannot apply again in the UK.

Harmonization of immigration and asylum policies has gone hand in hand with the growing power of the EU over national decisions in many areas, especially in economic policy. Closer economic integration has already increased the mobility of young graduates, and many businesses transfer employees from one EU country to another. However, there are still problems with mutual recognition of diplomas and licenses. Non-nationals may be denied jobs in the relatively large public sectors of European countries.

Belgium suggested to a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels in October 2001 that the EU form a common European border guard so that newly admitted Eastern European countries have the resources to defend their borders. The options range from increased cooperation in training and equipment to the establishment of fully integrated European border guard units.

EU member-nations in May 2001 agreed that the minimum sentence for migrant smugglers convicted of direct involvement in smuggling people across borders, should be eight years in 13 countries, and six years in Sweden and Denmark. Traffickers, "those who forcibly or fraudulently exploit people's labor or sexual services," can be subject to more severe penalties.

Freedom of Establishment. The European Court of Justice on September 27, 2001 ruled that EU countries cannot use nationality as a basis to discriminate against self-employed workers from countries that have signed Association Agreements (Europe Agreements) with the EU. The court rulings came in cases brought by Czech, Polish and Bulgarian workers against the British government's refusal to grant permission to work on a self-employed basis; the court ruled that EU countries cannot use "economic considerations," such as high unemployment, to curb the right of entrepreneurs from Association Agreement countries to set up or manage their own businesses.

In the Czech case, two men applied in 1998 to work as a self-employed commercial cleaner and gardener after their applications for political asylum in the United Kingdom had been refused. Their applications to work on a self-employed basis were also rejected, with authorities declaring they were not satisfied that the projects were financially viable and that work would really be carried out on a self-employed basis.

Host countries do, however, have the right to check on the authenticity and plausibility of self-employment projects: "An evaluation of adequate financial resources and reasonable chances of success through detailed investigation is thus compatible with the Association Agreements."

Suzanne Daley, "Europe Wary of Wider Doors for Immigrants," New York Times, October 20, 2001. Peter Gumbel And Philip Shishkin, "European Muslim Communities Struggle With Western Values," Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2001. Peter Ford, "Amnesty International says government curbs on immigration are adding to the anti-Arab backlash," Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 2001. Geoff Winestock, "Europe Suspends Plan To Relax Immigration Rules," Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2001.