Immigration Policies in the European Union: European Policy towards Immigration from Third Countries Is Subject to Certain Restrictions Which Must Be Removed to Provide a Fair Working Environment for All Immigrants to Europe

By Spidla, Vladimir | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Immigration Policies in the European Union: European Policy towards Immigration from Third Countries Is Subject to Certain Restrictions Which Must Be Removed to Provide a Fair Working Environment for All Immigrants to Europe


Spidla, Vladimir, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


Since the second half of the nineteenth century, nationalist mythology has created the notion that immigrants are marginal or even disruptive components of a homogenous society. Among some individuals, this primitive argument still prevails today. History reveals, however, the important role immigrants have played in creating the collective cultural heritage of Europe.

Free Movement of People vs. Immigration

In the present era of European integration, we do not label immigration between individual European states as "immigration," but rather as the "free movement of people" within a common European area. The European Commission recognizes that some member states, however, classify citizens from other EU countries as "immigrants," i.e., the same category as those who emigrate from outside Europe.

Historical examples related to immigration within Europe influence our contemporary views about immigration from third countries. Through technological advances, distances have "shrunk;" immigration between continents today is similar to immigration between European countries in the past. But it will be a long time before inter-European continental immigration truly means the "free movement of EU citizens."

This is because several states on the European continent--the west Balkans, Ukraine, Russia, the Caucasus--remain outside of the European Union. In addition, while North African and Middle Eastern countries share the common Mediterranean region with certain European states, these non-European states are, indeed, extremely far from EU membership. Emigration from these regions to Europe is, however, embedded in its history; Saint Paul was an immigrant from today's Israel and Saint Augustine from Tunisia.

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While the EU is attempting to eliminate all restrictions on the free movement of EU citizens, we have kept in place restrictions for immigration from countries outside of the European Union. It is necessary, however, to recall that policies related to immigration from non-EU countries have obvious parallels to past immigration between European states.

Why do we Need the European Dimension?

The European Union must create a common EU-wide policy for immigration from third countries. To insist that the EU's member-states create their own policies towards non-EU immigration is hypothetically possible, but unfeasible in practice. So too, it is ethically unacceptable for immigrants to be protected against exploitation in one member-state and not in another. On EU territory, basic rights should be guaranteed. Core European values do not uphold slave-like living and working conditions for immigrants.

Some may believe that relegating immigrants to the lowest levels of society and exploiting them for marginal wages brings economic advantages. This perspective is extremely shortsighted. As history has shown us, it is advantageous for states to encourage immigrants to immediately integrate. …

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Immigration Policies in the European Union: European Policy towards Immigration from Third Countries Is Subject to Certain Restrictions Which Must Be Removed to Provide a Fair Working Environment for All Immigrants to Europe
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