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March 1996, Volume 3, Number 3

EU: Schengen and Asylum

A summit aimed at getting France to implement the Schengen agreement's open borders clause scheduled for March 7, 1996 was postponed after a French-Dutch dispute over drugs--the French opposed the Dutch policy of allowing up to 30 grams of marijuana to be sold in 300 coffee shops.

In another blow to Schengen, Spain suspended its participation in the extradition treaty after Belgium freed two alleged Basque terrorists. The Schengen agreement came into force among six EU nations in March 1995. Currently, only Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are operating a full open borders policy with other Schengen nations.

The number of requests for asylum in Europe in 1995 declined. The decrease has been gradual since 1992, when there was a record 674,000 requests, compared to only 305,000 in 1994.

Britain in the only country in Europe where the number of asylum applications is still rising. There were 44,000 asylum applications in Britain in 1995, up 12,000 from 1994.

The EU in February 1996 postponed plans to make occupational pensions portable, citing interference with member nations' pension programs. Government-run pension programs are already coordinated, but not employer-provided supplements, which often exceed government pensions.

Germany is considered the major obstacle to EU-wide employer pensions. To promote loyalty to a firm, Germany "vests" or makes portable pension benefits only after 10 years of employment. This discourages worker mobility.

Germany argues that there is no need to reduce the vesting period to five years because only two percent of the EU's workers are nationals of one country employed in another. Critics counter that it is precisely because of pension rules such as Germany's that there are so few intra-EU migrant workers.

"Schengen states move to heal splits," Reuters, February 22, 1996; Emma Tucker, "Pension regimes handicap worker mobility within EU," Financial Times, February 18, 1996; "EU open borders pact dealt new blow," Financial Times, February 14, 1996; "Immigration: Fewer Requests for Asylum in the EU," European Report, February 6, 1996. "EU: Number of Asylum Seekers Down in Most Member States," Agence Europe, February 3, 1996. Andrew Sparrow, The Honeypot: Proof that while EU partners slam door, illegal immigrants continue to pour into Britain," Daily Mail, February 3, 1996.