The new millennium has brought unprecedented changes to society. Technology allows us to travel faster, we can communicate easily with someone on a different continent, and the possibilities to expand our activities internationally are more accessible through study or work abroad programs. The fact that the planet’s population has been growing along with the ease of mobility has resulted in a migration rate that is higher than ever before. One could say that the world has grown smaller in our times.
Regardless, there are many obstacles in the way of those who want to explore the possibility of living, studying, and working in another country. In the EU, the right to free movement – which is a basic right of every EU citizen – is considered as the most valued freedom afforded to citizens. Unfortunately, this right is being challenged by some Member States.
It is perhaps a drastic reaction to the refugee crisis, where people are risking their lives to escape horrendous conditions in their war-struck countries and seeking asylum in Europe. The EU, which proudly upholds democratic values and the protection of human rights, is suddenly building fences and closing its borders to desperate fellow human beings. EU development aid and initiatives such as the European Year for Development may contribute to address some of the root causes of the current crisis but they are not an immediate response.
It is widely noticed that Member States are trying to “protect themselves” from any kind of immigration, not distinguishing between third country nationals and EU citizens. In many countries, the political rhetoric refers to “stealing of jobs” by the migrant workers or the mistaken view that the migrants misuse their social welfare system. Such approaches have been refuted by the ECAS 2014 publication Fiscal Impact of EU Migrants in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, which showed that EU migration is economically beneficial for the host Member State and should be further supported. However, citizens are still facing many obstacles.
Your Europe Advice (YEA), a service that ECAS runs on behalf of the European Commission, gives advice to EU citizens and their family members on issues they encounter while exercising their free movement rights. Enquiries cover various issues in the field of social security, taxation, study, work, and other single market areas. In the past, most of the cases YEA has dealt with were regarding social security, then about access to work, followed by residence and entry. However, lately there has been a shift in these figures towards more cases regarding residence and entry. It reflects a large increase in non-EU migration, as well as the subsequent change in the European demography.
Changes in demography are also caused by the fact that increased mobility includes, in many cases, meeting a partner, getting married, or starting a family. Marriages between an EU citizen and a third country citizen are increasingly common. YEA encounters cases when a marriage of an EU citizen and a third country national is unfairly considered a ‘marriage of convenience’ by a Member State’s authorities. Especially worrying is the fact that authorities seem to systematically investigate marriages between EU citizens and non-EU citizens from “high-risk” countries. There are also cases reported when citizens and their family members are exposed to threats and even to humiliating treatment from authorities during interviews which are aimed at finding out if the love and cohabitation are genuine.
So the question is: Where do we go from here? How can we defend the fundamental principles of the Union – most importantly the freedom of movement – in the context of a rapidly changing world and the political pressures this creates?
See the original post here: http://europeanmovement.eu/news/new-horizons-in-eu-migration-and-demography/