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July 2004, Volume 11, Number 3

EU: Enlargement, Muslims

On May 1, 2004, 10 countries and 75 million people, half in Poland, joined the EU, bringing it to 25 countries and 455 million residents. About 35 million of these EU-25 residents, eight percent, are migrants, defined as being outside their country of birth or citizenship for 12 months or more. Some 19 to 20 million were legal foreign residents in the EU-15 in 2000-01, including six million who were EURO nationals living in another EU country, according to population registers. However, labor force surveys that record place of birth report 23 to 26 million persons born outside the country in which they are living, so that the foreign-born and foreign population of the EU-15 was about 35 million in 2000-01.

Nationals of the "new" EU-10 accession countries can travel freely to the "old" EU-15 countries, but do not have the right to work in them. Former Polish president Lech Walesa, founder of Poland's Solidarity trade union, accused European Union countries of thinking like communists for imposing restrictions on workers from new EU countries like his own. The European Commission announced that Romania and Bulgaria are expected to join the EU in 2007, followed by the Balkan countries of Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. In October 2004, the commission will decide whether Turkey is ready to join.

Under the New Neighborhood or the Wider Europe policy outlined in May 2004, countries bordering the EU such as Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Ukraine and Russia could become full members of the single market, with open borders for trade and investment. Wider Europe governments could not join EU decision-making institutions, but could enjoy the economic benefits of the single market, including freedom of movement.

The European database that checks the fingerprints of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants found that after a year of operation, seven percent or 17,287 foreigners had made applications in two or more countries. The system was established to prevent "asylum shopping."

In 2007, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Croatia will join the EU. Many say that the EU should stop there, complaining that will cost tens of billions of dollars in annual subsidies to the newly admitted countries. One reason Ukraine was not included in the expansion was because it would become the fifth biggest member, yet its democratic institutions are weak.

Labor. The EU-15 had 250 million residents aged 16 to 64 in 2002, with 161 million employed and 14 million unemployed. Employment rates of EU nationals are 64 percent and unemployment rates are eight percent. Employment rates are low (50 percent) and unemployment rates high (16 percent) for non-EU immigrants from Turkey and the Middle East and Africa, while North Americans in the EU-15 had an employment rate of 86 percent and an unemployment rate of four percent. The differences for non-EU women are more dramatic, as women from Turkey and the Middle East and Africa have an employment rate of 33 percent and an unemployment rate of 17 percent. Naturalization tends to increase employment and reduce unemployment.

A 2004 Eurobarometer poll found that 56 percent of Europeans agree that immigrants are needed to maintain labor forces, but 80 percent want more efforts made to prevent illegal migration. Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain had regularization programs, and Germany and the UK allowed some foreigners to stay in processes that regularized 3.5 million foreigners since the 1970s, including 2.5 million since 1995.

A May 2004 AP-Ipsos poll found that over two-thirds of the residents of Canada, Europe and the US agreed that immigrants take jobs citizens do not want, but half said that immigrants nonetheless had a "bad influence" on their country. In every country except Canada, more residents said that immigrants had a bad than a good influence on "the way things are going in the country." For instance, 46 percent of Americans said immigration was a bad influence and 42 percent a good influence; 57 percent of Germans rated immigration bad and 39 percent good in Germany; but only 21 percent of Canadians rated immigration bad, while 73 percent thought it was good. http://www.ipsos-na.com/news/pressrelease.cfm?id=603)

Some European firms and countries are considering longer hours of work. In Germany, Siemens got workers to agree to work 40 hours instead of 35 for the same pay to preserve jobs, and the French government is considering repealing or softening a law that limits most workers to 35 hours a week. There is also pressure to reduce the number of paid holidays, currently an average 30 in Germany, 25 in France, and 12 in the US.

Immigration to the EU is dominated by family unification. In most countries, non-EU foreigners can unify their families if they have residence permits valid for at least one year. There were 455,000 asylum applicants in 2002. Italy and Portugal are the only two EU countries in which at least half of annual admissions fall under economic criteria. Most European countries report foreigners, not foreign-born residents, so those with high naturalization rates such as Sweden have more foreign-born residents than foreigners. For example, Sweden had one million foreign-born residents and 500,000 foreigners in 2001.

There may be "welfare migration" from Eastern to Western Europe. The draft EU constitutional treaty and the April 29, 2004 EU directive on freedom of movement, to be implemented into national law within two years, gives EU nationals the right to move to any other EU country and receive a five-year residence permit if they have health insurance and the "resources" required to live. After five years, EU nationals have permanent residence rights with full rights to welfare and other benefits.

Some Germans fear that Eastern Europeans, where wages average a seventh of German levels, may migrate west for welfare because they cannot migrate for employment. German social assistance for a family of four is _1,550 ($1,924) a month, two to three times wages in Eastern Europe, and with the freedom of movement directive, nonworkers have an easier time migrating west than workers.

Parliament/Muslims. The 350 million EU voters in the EU-25 countries elected members to the 732-seat European Parliament on June 13, 2004; only 45 percent voted for the almost 15,000 candidates. Those elected serve five-year terms, and their duties include approving the EU's $120 billion budget. In Germany, the opposition CDU-CSU campaigned against the admission of Turkey to the EU, and won 46 percent of the vote, compared to 23 percent for the Social Democrats, the main party in the governing coalition.

There are about 12 million Muslims in the EU, including 4.5 million in France, three million in Germany, and 1.5 million in the UK. Many Muslims feel that EU enlargement will allow some employers to offer jobs to Eastern Europeans, reducing the Muslims' chances of employment.

Teresa Hayter in the book "Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls," argues that immigration controls do not, will not, and should not work; she calls for the free movement of people and the abolition of border controls.

Marc Champion, "As Europe Expands, tensions Build Up Along New Borders," Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2004. "Database assists crackdown on asylum shopping," Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2004. Hayter, Teresa. 2004. Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls. Pluto Press.