Asking for the Moon: The Political
Participation of Immigrants in
The European Union
Patrick R. Ireland
With the Treaty on European Union having now won passage in all fifteen member states, the European Union (EU) is trying to implement its ambitious plan to achieve economic and political unity. The treaty, drafted by the European Council at Maastricht in December 1991, reconfirms the Union's commitment to remove remaining restrictions on the free movement of goods, services, capital, and persons. As the EU heads of government and the EU Commission and the European Parliament have acknowledged, this project cannot succeed unless they develop a coordinated approach toward both regulating immigration and the influx of refugees and integrating the over eight million foreign workers and their families from outside the EU ("third-country nationals") who reside in the Union. 1
The construction of Europe, therefore, has direct consequences for foreign‐ origin populations. Given the high stakes, one might expect the EU to serve as an active stimulus and focus of immigrant political mobilization. Have immigrants responded to institutional developments in the Union, fashioning European-level modes of political participation? And especially, how have the children of the foreign workers that Europe recruited after World War II reacted? Second-generation immigrants belong to Europe perhaps more than to the "homelands," and their political responses to European integration can indicate its nature, depth, and limits.
I argue here that European integration has indeed had a political "spillover" effect on immigrant communities. 2 They are generating new, European-level forms of organization and lines of solidarity. However, even more than indigenous Europeans, foreign-origin populations have run into barriers when trying to gain a say in the EU policy-making process. The distance separating