Written by | Friday, August 15th, 2014

The Free Movement of People in European Union : Principle, Stakes and Challenges
Philippe Delivet (Robert Schuman Foundation)

Free movement of people is one of the key features of European integration and of the single internal market. The path towards a single market was begun with the Treaty of Rome of 1957, which recognised the four fundamental freedoms of movement: of goods, people, services, and capital. Later, the Single European Act accelerated European integration, as did the Schengen Agreements which removed internal borders between signatory States following their accession to the European acquis via the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997. Polls show that free movement of people remains one of the most recognised successes of the European Union.

Nevertheless, the dynamic of this right is beset by several problems. First, in his May 2010 report on the Single Market Strategy, Mario Monti pointed to the undermining of political and social support to the integration of the markets of Europe. According to this report, the legal framework of the right to free movement was defective. Second, the effects of the economic and financial crisis were reflected in rising unemployment in some Member States, leading to economic divergence. Third, some Member States are becoming increasingly worried about migration flows, especially from North Africa and the Middle East after the events of the Arab Spring fully unfolded. Fourth, there is considerable concern about the logic of ‘social dumping’ of migrant workers, as expressed in the different costs of labour, which ranged in 2011 from 3.5€ in Bulgaria to 39.30€ in Belgium. Workers and working conditions are those of the host country. However, social contributions are made by the home country. An employer may therefore enjoy reduced labour costs by employing workers from countries where social contributions are low.

The above problems must be tackled in ways which will also boost economic growth, restore public trust in European integration and promote social convergence. This is the very essence of the Single Market Act which the European Commission adopted in October 2010. The Commission further recommends that bureaucratic formalities required by Member States to grant permanent residence rights be reduced. In the context of internal migratory flows, one must distinguish those who travel for work and those who seek access to social assistance. As for external migratory flows, the study supports the formation of a European coast guard corps, and highlights the need for the European migratory policy to try and promote legal, controlled migration in partnership with immigration countries of origin. Social dumping is already in the spotlight: in March 2012 the European Commission put forward a draft directive that was the focus of a compromise agreement between the Parliament and Council on 27th February 2014. This text provides several clarifications concerning how to prevent abuse and ensure the respect of posted workers’ rights.
(The study can be downloaded here:

The European Parliament’s New Role in Trade Policy : Turning Power to Impact
Lore Van den Putte, Ferdi De Ville and Jan Orbie (Centre for European Policy Studies)

The politicisation of trade policy at the beginning of the millennium paved the way for more parliamentary involvement. The White Paper on Governance in 2001 and the European Convention (2001-03) were the first steps in this direction. Their ideas were codified in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. The EP is now required to give its consent to any trade agreement negotiated. With regard to EU trade legislation, it is now on an equal footing with the Council under the Ordinary Legislative Procedure. Traditionally, EU trade policy has been dominated by only two actors: the European Commission and the Council. Although the EP has gradually become better informed on trade issues since the 1960s, it was not until the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon that its role was also formally enhanced.

The negotiation of international agreements basically advances in three phases. Until the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission had the right of initiative in the opening phase of negotiations. In the second phase, the Commission functioned as the EU negotiator on the basis of the Council mandate. These negotiating guidelines were not formally binding but were, of course, of political significance. The third phase – ratification – involved the approval by the Council of the negotiated agreement. The new treaty provisions still do not provide a formal role for the Parliament in the initial phase of the mandate. However, its influence is more tangible, particularly when the Council is internally divided. In the negotiation phase, the new Treaty for the first time explicitly states that the Commission has to ‘report regularly’ to the EP. There are indications that in practice the EP has become more effective in influencing trade negotiations. With regard to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States, the EP has managed to convince the European Commission to inform the Committee on International Trade (INTA) before and after each round of negotiation. In the ratification phase, trade agreements will henceforth be ratified by the EP and in principle no longer by national parliaments.

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the EP’s influence in international trade has increased. Since Lisbon, the EP has rather smoothly approved trade agreements, except for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was not really focused on trade liberalisation per se. However, on specific issues – like the protection of the European automotive industry in the context of the EU-South Korea agreement – the EP has sometimes sided with the most conservative members of the Council. Overall, concerns that the EP would limit international trade were unfounded, although it is further transforming its legal and political power into real substantial influence. The only aspect which could harm the EU’s trade relations is the left-right division in the EP. The Commission cannot rely on the EP to rubber-stamp its decisions regarding trade negotiations. In fact, the new EP might change its mind on certain aspects, thereby undermining the EU’s trustworthiness with its negotiating partners.
(The study can be downloaded here:

Immigration and Free Movement in an Unusual Electoral Race: What Implications for the Next Political Cycle?
Andreia Ghimis (European Policy Centre)

For the first time, the President of the European Commission has been elected by the European Parliament (EP) on a proposal made by the European Council taking into account the outcome of the EP elections. In this context, European political parties chose to put forward ‘top candidates’ at EU level to campaign for this job. Throughout the campaigns at national and EU level, migration was among the main issues addressed. This study focuses on how EU immigration policy and free movement of EU citizens are discussed in the three biggest EU Member States where these issues have fuelled high tensions in recent years: France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Regarding the EU level, the paper examines how these policies were debated between the four contenders for the Commission’s Presidency who have participated in several debates: Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP), Ska Keller (Greens), Martin Schulz (PES) and Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE).

Immigration and freedom of movement are two fundamentally different policies. The freedom of movement is a fundamental right granted to EU citizens whereas the immigration policy defines rules regarding entry, residence and movement of third country nationals to and within the EU. Nevertheless, immigration and freedom of movement are – with some exceptions (ex: British Lib Dems, French Socialists, German SPD) – debated together. Considering that free movement is perceived by EU citizens as one of the biggest EU achievements, this distortion and its possible consequences are particularly dangerous for the future of the European project.

For the four ‘top candidates’, immigration and free movement were less controversial and were less arduously and extensively debated than subjects like youth unemployment, austerity or the crisis in Ukraine and energy dependence on Russia. Immigration was not the topic which distinguished the four agendas although it received different attention from candidate to candidate. Verhofstadt spoke of the need for “a legal common immigration policy” without detailing it. Keller mentioned a switch from a “Europe which sees migrants as a security threat” to “an open Europe that cares for people in need”. Juncker presented a five-point plan on immigration: implementing the Common European Asylum System, boosting the role of the European Asylum System Office, cooperating with third countries, encouraging legal migration and tightening the control of EU borders. Schulz talked about temporary protection, intra-EU solidarity, cooperation with transit and origin countries and a system of legal migration.

The four candidates agreed on one point: legal migration can be a factor contributing to economic growth in the EU by addressing the labour market shortages which cannot be fulfilled by the labour force inside the EU. However, no candidate brought up the ‘need for innovation’ argument even though the ‘innovation union’ is one of the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives and academics (Venturini and Sinha) have shown that migrants play a positive role in promoting innovation.
(The study can be downloaded here:

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