Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Romania, Part of the European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (Migration, Asylum, Borders)

Simina, Ovidiu Laurian (2005): Romania, Part of the European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (Migration, Asylum, Borders).

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At present, cross-border movement is a top priority issue on government agendas and in intergovernmental discussions. ‘Migration is as old as humanity, and it is a vital part of our future. And while migration policy is made at the national level, it has obvious international impact’ (UN, 2003). Over the past 15 years, the number of people crossing borders in search of a better life has been rising steadily. At the start of the 21st Century, one in every 35 people is an international migrant. If they all lived in the same place, it would be the world’s fifth-largest country (BBC, 2004). In Europe, as elsewhere, international migration has become a topical issue in public, political and academic debates. Most European countries are experiencing increased flows of immigration. Already millions of immigrants have come to stay, first in North-western Europe but increasingly also in other regions, and the odds are that many more immigrants will follow in the coming decades. The immigration flows have been triggered by several causes, including family reunification, political persecution, ecological disasters, or disparities in economic opportunity, and so forth. These flows show a tremendous variation in size and spatial distribution. Whatever the causes of international migration or the kind of selection at the border, old and new immigrations have obviously produced all sorts of social, cultural, political and economic changes, and impacted on general trends in specific ways.

Immigrants have contributed to population growth, filled labour shortages and contributed to growth and competitiveness. In sectors in which foreign and domestic labour can easily be substituted for each other, employment of immigrants has also increased unemployment among native-born workers. Labour rigidities in almost all European countries mean that, paradoxically, new immigrant flows coexist with low force-force participation rates, labour shortages and unemployment. Migration policies need to take into account not only the commonalities but also the differences among European labour markets. Distinct migration regimes in northern and southern Europe require differentiated policy approaches. More importantly, migration policies cannot substitute for required domestic economic and social policies. The complexities involved and the need for coordination across various policy domains require new institutional mechanisms to design policy with the active participation by all stakeholders. In light of European integration and enlargement, migration-migration policies should become an integral component of the EU policy agenda (Katseli, 2003). It is a known fact that economic policies implemented in order to liberalise the new markets are likely to, as a secondary effect, curb the number of migrants. For example, free trade policies pursued by the West are likely to lead to a greater convergence of consumer prices and eventually of factor prices. Also, direct foreign investment is helping to improve the economic climate in Central and East European countries, providing for a higher standard of living (Radeva, 2004).

A “frontier-free” Europe cannot be attained by mere ‘deregulation’, but presupposes a network of other controls. Typically, of course, frontiers controls simply moves to another place, perhaps in the form of more regular and random internal checks of forms of identity, or requirements to register a domicile (Shaw (2000), pag.380). Fears and scepticism in the West and hopefulness and optimism in the East are some of the factors which have prompted research done on the potential outcomes of liberalised migration. Two of the most relevant indicators for determining the quantity of migrants are implementation of the Schengen Acquis and economic support for higher growth. The new EU legislation would inevitably cause conflicts with previous bilateral agreements between accession and non-accession countries. Moreover, the differences between GDPs of old and of new EU member states establish a strong argument in favour of migration. A report by the WTO secretariat said temporary labour liberalisation could generate annual gains of 150 billion to 200 billion dollars. 'Gains are estimated to accrue to both developed and developing countries, and would come mainly from the movement of low-skilled workers rather than high skilled workers,' it added (WTO's 2004 World Trade Report, as quoted in AFP (2004)).

The increased labour migration has economic effects. Labour movements were now ungovernable because of the interdependence of markets and economies. What was needed was an open labour movement. National policies were still designed for an autonomous, closed system. Countries were no longer self-sufficient in capital, trade and labour and while this had never fully been the case, the level of interdependence reached required countries to address migratory flows with greater urgency.

Migrant remittances are a vital factor in development. The sums transferred to developing countries are large – and they are growing fast. And in developed countries, migrant labour is increasingly important, particularly in view of current demographic trends (UN, 2003).

The migratory flows Europe would largely be transitory and circulatory. Immigration implied settlement, but as people became more aware of the potential for short-term labour migration, they would no longer aim at full settlement. Compensation for demographic factors, reduction in life-long work time through extended education and greater overall wealth, leading to an early withdrawal from the workforce through retirement could increasingly come from migratory flows. Many people were retiring earlier, but living longer lives. Nurses and care staff from third countries, which had, to some extent been purposely recruited outside the EU, were currently providing care for many of Europe’s elderly and sick. This sporadic recruitment of workers, despite the high percentage of unemployment in most European countries, was emblematic of current trends in the underutilisation of the labour force. While Member States were building their policies around recruiting the ‘best and brightest’ from third countries, what was really necessary to ease the apparent gap were low- to mid-skilled workers. The European public would have to learn to understand the co-dependence of low-skilled and high-skilled labour.

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