EU Labor Migration Policy by Other Means?

Written by | Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Yves Pascouau (European Policy Centre)

Although the EU wanted to address the issue of migration to a greater extent after the adoption of the Treaty of Amsterdam, its capacity and capabilities in this area are still substantially limited. In the sphere of labor migration, the Member States give up their rights only reluctantly and thus a transfer of such rights to the Union level is rather complicated. In addition, the current circumstances do not indicate any imminent change of the situation. However, the question arises as to whether the transfer could be caused indirectly, with the influence of different policies, which seemingly do not have any impact on the labor migration policy?

The still-resonating economic crisis has gradually evolved into political and social crises. In politics, many protest voices emerged, often strengthening the role of the right-wing parties. In this respect, migration has become a scapegoat, which made a serious and fruitful discussion even more complicated. The expectations increased last year when significant changes in EU leadership took place. However, while these expectations were largely not met as the labor migration issue was merely discussed by some EU institutions, some hope was pinned to the development of policies, which have an indirect impact on this area, i.e. social and economic policy, or the policy of employment. Due to the impact of the economic crisis, the EU now possesses instruments in all three areas, which support the desirable cooperation among Member States. An exemplary case of such instrument is the concept of European Semester, which enhances fiscal and economic oversight of the Member States. This could theoretically accelerate the coordination of the labor migration policy at the EU level, though, in reality, it will have to prove its strength and effectiveness.

The orientation of the policies towards immigration and labor migration has proven sensitive, due to the economic crisis. These issues were put aside and weren’t developed further. Nonetheless, in reaction to the crisis, new priorities, strategies, and instruments were developed that paradoxically helped to widen the cooperation on the European level to the area of labor migration. Now it will be up to the European Commission to seize the opportunity and find the much-needed political will for a fundamental attitude change in this area.

(The study can be downloaded here)

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