Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

When the East Goes West: Romanian Migrants in Italy or How to Deal with Mobility Issues in the EU 27

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

When the East Goes West: Romanian Migrants in Italy or How to Deal with Mobility Issues in the EU 27

Article excerpt


Central as it is to the common market, as one of the four fundamental freedoms of the Union, the free movement of persons has proved somewhat more problematic than the others (Postelnicu, 2007). This may be in part because 'people raise security and welfare implications in a way that goods do not' (Barnard 2007: 252).The Eastern enlargement has brought wide concerns related to the potential economic and social effects in the older EU states. Recent legislation in Italy has gravely obstructed the implementation of EU rights concerning free movement and residence, while bringing to the surface some of the wider problems connected to the management of migration and mobility in the EU 27 context.

The violent murder of Giovanna Reggiani in November 2007 by a Romanian citizen of Roma origin sent Italian public opinion into flames and highlighted the widely believed connection between immigration and crime. From that moment on the topic received intensive coverage, leading to a general criminalization of immigrants and in particular those of Romanian and especially of Roma origin. A 'Romania emergency' was installed, as it was called by Walter Veltroni, the mayor of Rome at that time (Wagner 2009: 11). The theme was also picked up by the right-wing coalition in the elections of spring 2008, which is said to owe its victory particularly to its strong anti-immigrant discourse. Immediately after coming to power the new government resolved to fulfil its promises and approved the 'security package', a set of legislative decrees meant to deal with the increased number of migrants and especially with those (mostly irregular) migrants living in settlements around Italian cities. De facto, the package targeted the Romanian community in Italy (and within it, the Roma), which is currently the largest foreign group in the country and which is generally believed to be responsible for the increase in crime rates.

The package seems to be one of the strictest policy reactions to migration since Italy has become a receiving country. In addition, its measures cover several categories of migrants, including internal EU movers and in fact contradicting EU Directive 2004/38 on the right of EU citizens to move and reside freely within the Union. In this context, the question of migration management goes beyond the bilateral relation between Romania and Italy and becomes a matter of European relevance.

The following paper will analyze the Italian 'security package' within the framework of EU mobility and it will look in particular at its implications for Romanian individuals in Italy in their capacity as EU citizens. The paper is based on a mixed qualitative and quantitative approach. Starting from an analysis of official data regarding migration flows into Italy and various accounts of migration management in the country it will continue with a review of internal and EU legislation to determine the fit of the 'security package' with the European framework. In addition, semi-structured interviews with migration experts and policy makers acquainted with the crisis have helped the author paint a more vivid picture of the implications of this national crisis on the wider European scene.


1. The EU Legislative Framework for the Freedom of Movement

Much of the debate on modern migration has been built around a state-centred perspective, which deems the migrant as a 'threat' to the status-quo (Joppke 1998). From here stem two distinct views on migration: one concerned with immigration and the policies that regulate the entry and stay of migrants; and the second focusing on the immigrants, or rather their integration in host societies once they are within the borders of the polity (in Lahav and Guiraudon 2006: 203). Or, as Sasse and Thielemann frame it, there is a tension between a security-based and a rights-based approach (2005). Recently, new perspectives are challenging the traditional stance, by invoking 'transnational' (Faist 2000) and 'post-national' trends and identities (Soysal 1994) as a result of globalization and accompanying phenomena (see also Sassen 1996). …

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