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June 2002, Volume 9, Number 6

EU: Illegal Immigration, Labor

Spain and the UK plan to present a series of proposals at the June 20-21, 2002 EU summit in Seville to step up the fight against illegal migration. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said that the EU needs "to tackle what is one of the most pressing issues of our time, which is the issue of immigration and asylum," wants to make combating illegal immigration the top item at the Seville summit.

Blair continued: "We have to make legal immigration a positive factor of integration for our societies, and we must act much more decisively and efficiently in terms of controlling the EU's external borders [because] illegal immigration and criminal trafficking in asylum seekers are preoccupying our citizens." One of Blair's aides said: "You flex your economic muscle to tap into a particular country that is causing you problems. We already do it for terrorism; why not for immigration?"

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "Across Europe the forces of reaction and intolerance are on the march. It would be extraordinarily complacent to believe that it could not happen in this country too. Parties of the center-left must never shirk from addressing issues of immigration, law and order and race relations."

The European Union outlined plans on May 7, 2002 to reinforce its external borders and thereby reduce human trafficking and crime, thus reassuring citizens. The EU Commission has recommended that EU-member nations create a joint force of border guards to patrol the EU's outer perimeter. Not all EU-member nations are comfortable with nationals of another nation patrolling their borders. The proposed measures include tightening border controls, campaigns against people-traffickers, and withholding aid from countries that do not cooperate against illegal migration.

Labor. EU leaders met in Barcelona in March 2002 to explore ways to improve the functioning of labor markets: their goal is to add 20 million jobs in the EU by 2010. Many economists argue that the labor laws of many European countries make it slow, difficult and expensive to lay off workers, and thus make employers reluctant to hire new workers, especially if there is any uncertainty about the future need for them.

The head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development warned EU leaders that, if they did not promote economic and job growth, anti-immigrant sentiments could rise. Jean Lemierre said: "There are fears today. The best way to make them increase is by not acting… It is by promoting growth that we will address these fears."

Roman Prodi, president of the European Commission, said the EU's goal in restructuring its labor market is to create "a superpower on the European continent that stands equal to the United States."

Marlise Simons, "Britain and Spain Backing for European Policy on Migrants," New York Times, May 22, 2002. "Spain to table immigration proposals at EU summit," Agence France Presse, May 20, 2002. "EU Submits Border Plan to curb Terror, Illegal Immigration," Associated Press, May 7, 2002. "Justice and Home Affairs: Family unity dominates talks on asylum responsibility," European Report, March 20, 2002.