Toward a European Migration and Mobility Union

Written by | Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
European Values

Jacob Funk Kirkegaard (The Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Although it is a major source of Europe’s economic growth, it has at worst a neutral impact on government finances, it significantly contributes to the accumulation of human capital and it is also an important safeguard of countries’ future economic prosperity, the current levels of immigration raise considerable concerns in the minds of Europeans. Its uncontrolled and precipitous course therefore earned it the label of a migration crisis. This development can, however, also bring certain positives because it is in the times of a crisis that politicians can find the courage to take decisive steps to solve problems that would otherwise have remained neglected.

The quotas for the relocation of refugees will not solve the crisis. Even if the intended transfers took place, it is highly likely that at least some of the relocated immigrants will be returning back. Therefore, it is necessary to opt for a new, more sophisticated approach. One of the feasible alternatives is, for example, the following three-step plan. First, it is necessary to ensure the protection of the external borders of the Schengen area, in particular by deepening cooperation with key neighboring countries (especially with Turkey), personnel reinforcement of the border surveillance and a faster return of the unsuccessful asylum seekers.

This will obviously require significant financial resources. The second step therefore is to find them, which should be achieved by combining several elements, such as national contributions and customs duties levied at the Schengen border. Third, it is necessary to at least partially harmonize the asylum policies of individual countries, whereby asylum policies of some EU Member States look so much more attractive for refugees than those of other Member States. Certain improvements could be achieved by introducing a system of two regimes of immigration, which would consist of a common minimum part and a higher-level national part. In the latter one, individual countries could choose immigrants themselves, which would reduce the concerns of a loss of national sovereignty and also allow for a more effective placement according to the preferences of the given state.

These reforms, which would probably have to be led by the French-German alliance, would probably require these countries to implement the reforms first among themselves. Other Schengen countries could then gradually join in. The countries outside the Schengen area would have to be, at least initially, omitted because it would thus be easier to find political support for the realization of this project.

(The study can be downloaded here: https://www.piie.com/publications/pb/pb15-23.pdf)

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