Sunday, May 09, 2010

Day of Europe, and immigration in the EU


Robert Schuman (1886-1963)

Today's is the official Day of Europe, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of May 9, 1950: La 'declaración germinal' de la Europa comunitaria cumple 60 años El Mundo 09.05.2010. The EU Archive provides the following summary of that event:

On 9 May 1950, the Schuman Declaration proposed the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which became reality with the Treaty of Paris of 18 April 1951. This put in place a common market in coal and steel between the six founding countries (Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The aim, in the aftermath of World War Two, was to secure peace between Europe’s victorious and vanquished nations and bring them together as equals, cooperating within shared institutions.
Robert Schuman (1886-1963) was the French Foreign Minister in 1950.

The ECSC was the first formal agreement in the long chain of events leading to the formation of today's European Union.

The current Great Recession has confronted the EU with the urgent need to strengthen its governance and central economic policies. This May 8 report, Project Europe 2030: Challenges and Opportunities from the the Reflection Group on the Future of the EU 2030, discusses the current state of the EU.


With our current political battles in the US over immigration policy, I found the section of this report on immigration particularly interesting. What our American xenophobes conveniently ignore is that it is only the current level of immigration that means the US projects a growing population over the coming decades, as opposed to projected declines in the EU. With our current economic models, a growing population is still necessary to provide continuing economic growth and maintain any kind of decent social security network for the populations. (I use "social security" here in the broad sense, which includes the social insurance we call the Social Security program in the US). The report states:

The combination of ageing populations and a contracting domestic labour force is set to have drastic consequences for Europe. Left unchecked, it will translate into unsustainable pressure on pension, health and welfare systems, and into negative outcomes for economic growth and taxation. If Europe is serious about moving towards a knowledge society, efforts to enhance economic efficiency and upgrade the skills of the existing population must be complemented with active measures to address this demographic challenge. Not least, it must include a concerted effort to make the EU an attractive destination for immigrants. Without migration, the EU will not be able to meet future labour and skills shortages. [my emphasis]
In other words, Europe has a pressing need to attract more immigrants. The US has partially solved that problem for ourselves by the current, astonishingly cynical system of illegal immigration that has become an essential element of our economy. The report elaborates:

Even if internal measures aimed at boosting labour market participation could be fully realised, they will not be sufficient to compensate fully for the consequences of demographic change on future labour supply. The reality is that by 2050, in the unlikely absence of immigration, and at constant labour force participation, the EU labour force would decline by around 68 million workers. Since not all immigrants become economically active, a net gain of some 100 million people would eventually be needed to fill the gap. Realistically such a large net intake over the next 40 years is neither likely nor necessarily desirable. Nevertheless, migrant labour will be part of the solution to Europe’s future labour and skills shortages and the EU will need to develop a pro-active approach to immigration.

In general there is a need in Europe for a shift in attitudes. Too often, immigration is perceived as a burden to be shouldered rather than an opportunity to be seized. Europe has much to learn in this regard from Australia, Canada and the United States, with which it is in direct competition for talented and skilled immigrants. Drawing on the experience of these countries, the EU needs to develop a common immigration policy with the aim of attracting the most qualified, talented and motivated immigrants while taking measures to prevent the loss of human capital in sending countries. [my emphasis]
It also states what is obvious, and what the United States should also establish in practice for most of our currently "illegal" immigrants:

Once established legally in the EU, immigrants should enjoy the same social rights as EU nationals. The potential within existing immigrant populations to boost labour force participation should be tapped through investment in language, vocational training and general education, combined with determined anti-discrimination strategies. All forms of discrimination against immigrant workers and their families should be removed. [my emphasis]
I like the term this report uses for undocumented immigrants, "irregular immigrants", better than the term "illegal immigrants" that our xenophobes prefer.

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