Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Free Movement of Persons in the European Union

EU FlagA couple of interesting pieces of news came out of the European Union (EU) this week relating to the free movement of people, one of the "four freedoms" that forms the basis of the internal market in the EU.

First, Swiss voters narrowly approved a referendum that would limit the number of persons who would be allowed to migrate to Switzerland.  The referendum would require the Swiss government to negotiate with the EU over the next three years regarding this cap, which would apply to EU citizens, foreign workers and students and refugees.  This new law directly contradicts the concept of free movement of persons and has drawn expressions of regret from many EU leaders.  EU Commissioner Oliver Balily has called the issue non-negotiable because free movement of persons is so fundamental to the EU system.  It is thought that the Swiss vote reflects concerns of some of the wealthier EU states regarding immigration from some of the poorer EU countries.

Second, Britain released figures showing that just as many Brits live in the EU as EU citizens live in Britain. Popular opinion suggested that Britain was a net receiving state for immigration for the EU, and some political rhetoric suggested that persons from poorer countries in the EU come to Britain to take advantage of its public benefits.  Whether these figures change the debate remains to be seen.

These debates regarding immigration policy are heating up in advance of the next European elections, which are scheduled to take place in May.



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