Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Britain and the Other: Moral Perceptions of the Right to Free Movement in the European Commission and in the UK

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Britain and the Other: Moral Perceptions of the Right to Free Movement in the European Commission and in the UK

Article excerpt

Free movement is currently a hot topic in Europe, the justification of which has been strongly questioned by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron. This article will analyze moral perceptions of the right to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU and was already prescribed in the Treaty of Rome in 1957. As a core freedom of EU citizens, the attitude toward the right to free movement will also reveal perceptions of "otherness" and of the new European minorities resulting from free movement. The aim of this article is to examine how the moral dimensions of contractization, communitarization, solidaritization and utilitarization are employed in political statements for and against the right to free movement in the European Commission and in the UK. Each of these dimensions will be introduced, its manifestation in the discourse will be illustrated, and conclusions will be drawn on the observed moral perplexity.

Contrary to the argumentation of the European Commission, the UK provides an illustrative example of a country with a Prime Minister employing versatile argumentation. Free movement has been harshly criticized by David Cameron. In the most extreme case, the UK may even withdraw from the EU if the referendum envisaged for 2017 is realized. The UK is one of the largest EU Member States and one that has created much controversy in Europe with comments against free movement, especially after the transitional provisions for Romania and Bulgaria expired in 2014. The UK also allows for a comparison between the argumentation of Labour and Conservative politicians in the period between 2007 and 2014.

Free movement in the EU presents a post-national dilemma, where open borders in the EU has resulted in increasingly nationalist stances in different parts of Europe (Tonkiss, 2013c: 500). David Cameron has been especially vocal about his willingness to limit free movement in the EU, despite migration's positive effect on the UK's economy as evidenced in recent studies; the employment rate of EU immigrants is higher, they pay more taxes and take less benefits than UK nationals (for example Dustmann and Frattini, 2014; Springford, 2013). Nevertheless, the "Europhobia" reflected in the rhetoric of politicians, particularly those of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), supports the argument that the British see Europe, and particularly new Eastern European migrants, as their "Other" (Favell, 2014: 284287; Tonkiss, 2013c: 500). Studies on the media image of EU migrants, for instance the study conducted by the Migration Observatory, suggest that Bulgarians and Romanians are often depicted as criminals in the British press (Migration Observatory, 2014). On the other end of the political spectrum, UK for Immigrants Party representative Egaraf Legin has ironically exploited the recent economic study by Dustmann and Frattini to argue 'that the burden of the native population on this country is simply insupportable' (The Economist, November 6, 2014).

Other European countries have also employed discriminatory practices pertaining to free movement (Ram, 2014: 26-27). For example, France and Italy have questionable reputations particularly regarding Roma issues, Italy with its 2007 "security package" and Roma fingerprinting, and France with its deportations of Roma people. Both matters were addressed by the European Commission but not very effectively, as no actions were taken and expulsions continued in France even after Sarkozy's presidency (Gehring, 2013; Mäkinen, 2013: 209-210). Bulgarian and Romanian Roma have been especially mobile after the two countries entered the European Union in 2007, though at that time, only 10 out of 25 Member States provided free access for Bulgarians and Romanians. In 2014, the UK and other countries were forced to lift the transitional restrictions.

In addition to Roma, it has been argued that there is discrimination in the application of the right free movement with regard to same-sex partners in certain countries (Roberts and Sakslin, 2009). …

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