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A pro- free movement counterfactual should be developed to refute anti-migrant rhetoric

The combination of enlargement of the EU, the ongoing financial crisis and disenchantment with mainstream politics has led to populist politicians making false claims about the free movement of persons in the EU and calling for withdrawal from the EU in order to re-assert control over migration policy. Regrettably, this vitriolic rhetoric has resonated with parts of the electorate in certain EU countries, as evidenced by the sizeable number of Eurosceptic politicians elected to the European Parliament. The worrying result – at least in the UK – is that mainstream politicians have started to echo the anti-migration policies advocated by these populist politicians. To ensure this does not become an EU-wide trend, it is necessary for our politicians who believe in the benefits of European integration to be able to present the benefits of free movement using the same rhetorical tactics deployed by populist politicians. It is not good enough for our politicians to simply highlight the benefits which EU membership has had on the economy or jobs as a whole. Read the Seventh...

Member states should deepen their collaboration on the free movement of persons

Transparent cooperation between Member States is the key. Such cooperation should be guided by independent expert advice and coordinated by the Commission. It is preferable to a situation where each Member States goes its own way by taking unilateral action that results in a clamp down on legitimate forms of free movement in a blind attempt to curb abuses. While the Commission has established a group of Member States’ experts on the practical implementation of Directive 2004/38/EC, there is no legal instrument that provides a framework of its operation. As a result, the minutes of its meetings are not made available to the public and nor are its recommendations or other documents which it produces. Moreover, there is no involvement of civil society organisations that could participate as members or observers. It is only through cooperation that is guided by independent expertise that Member States will be able to develop appropriate and effective methods to respond to challenges that might be generated by the free movement of persons. Read Strategy...

Judgments of the EU Court of Justice prior to 2004 should be translated into all languages

The sixth strategy calls on a translation of all EU Court of Justice jurisprudence related to free movement prior to 2004 in all the EU languages. When citizens face obstacles to free movement in the EU, this can often be the result of a lack of awareness of public authorities. In order to surmount this obstacle, citizens who seek to exercise their EU rights – and their advisers – will want to cite the relevant provisions of Directive 2004/38 and possibly also the national provisions that give it effect as well as other official sources of information. This becomes more difficult when citizen are faced by an implementation gap, namely a situation where there is a significant difference between the EU legal framework and the way it is implemented and applied in practice by the Member States. This is particularly the case of rights, which are not contained in Directive 2004/38 but result from case law of the EU Court of Justice. Important cases such as Case 26/62 Van Gend & Loos relating to the direct effect of EU law and Joined Case C-6/90 and 9/90 Francovic on the liability of Member States for breaches of EU law, are not currently available in the official languages of these newer Member States. Under EU law, the principle of legal certainty requires that the effect of EU law must clear and predictable for those who are subject to it, which presupposes that EU law should first be made public.   Given the central role which the EU Court of Justice plays in the interpretation of EU law, it is implicit in this principle...

Press-release: Members of The European Parliament Support the Creation of a Task Force to Monitor Free Movement in the EU

Cross-party MEPs have called for a working group to be set up in order to monitor the enforcement of free movement rules in different Member states in light of the recent and unprecedented calls from several governments to impose further restrictions on the free movement of persons. These MEPs attended the lunch-seminar in the European Parliament on “Free Movement in the EU Today: Challenges and Opportunities”, organised by Ms Jean Lambert, MEP, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS). During the meeting, the main findings of the ECAS study on the fiscal impact of EU migration in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and UK were unveiled. This report showed that EU migrants are in general younger, have fewer children and are more educated than the average citizen of the hosting country. Ms. Jean Lambert, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, commented that “This report unequivocally shows that EU migrants make a net positive contribution to the economy of the host Member State.” Some of the statements made by the MEPs during the event: “Migration became our “daily bread” nowadays, our everyday reality , but it hasn’t become part of our education.”– Ms. Danuta Jazlowiecka, MEP, Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats). “Freedom of movement is a fundamental part of the European Union and actually labour migrants contribute more to the economical system of the new country, than the amount of benefits that they claim.”- Ms. Cecilia Wikstrom, MEP, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. “Migrants are an opportunity and not a threat. Let’s have a discussion based on...

Member States should collate better statistics on free movement

In April 2013, the Ministers of four EU Member States – the UK, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands – wrote to the Irish Presidency of the European Council on the matter of free movement of persons within the Union. The letter specifically concerned the issue of “benefits tourism”, namely the abuse of national welfare systems, and fraud, such as marriages of convenience. The measures proposed by the quartet include curtailing the right of newly arrived migrants to claim benefits and introducing bans on re-entry for those found to be abusing or defrauding the system. The letter offered no concrete evidence to back up the claims of systemic abuse and fraud that would justify the specific measures advocated. While the letter decried the systemic abuse of free movement through marriages of convenience, only one of its Member State authors, namely the UK, systematically collates statistics on suspected sham marriages. Aside from this sole exception, none of these countries collates any kind of reliable data on other forms of abuse of free movement rules. The Commission’s open challenge to the quartet to produce evidence of the extent and scale of benefits tourism has been met with silence. The UK’s attempt to generate such evidence through its Balance of Competences Review ended in ignominy amid allegations that the Government was withholding the final report because it was too “pro-European. While ad hoc studies have been published to show the impact that EU migration has had on welfare benefits in the EU as a whole and public finances in some Member States as well as at the local level, data needs to be...

Free Movement in the EU Conference – Media Invitation

Press Invitation How much do EU citizens living abroad contribute and how much do they receive from the host country?     A wide spectrum of political parties will discuss European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) Study on the Fiscal Impact of EU Migration in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria at the European Parliament on 12 November 2014. This study was launched in response to threats by certain member states to restrict the right to free movement of people in the EU. It identifies whether EU migrants are a burden to the social security systems of the four member states, based on available data. Assya Kavrakova, ECAS’ Director, stated, “The EU should call on the Member States to collect harmonized data on the impact of free movement in their respective countries if we are to have an evidence-based debate on this issue.”  You are welcome to come and join the debate at the European Parliament on 12 from 13.00 – 15.00, room ASP 5E1 to provide your input to the discussion. Media Invitation...

Civil society organisations should be empowered to help citizens overcome obstacles

Today, ECAS and the EU Rights Clinic are launching the third of Seven Strategies to improve the free movement of persons as part of the Right to Move campaign. The third strategy calls on the civil society organisations to be empowered to help citizens overcome obstacles. Empowering civil society will assist in meeting the legal needs of EU citizens. Despite a significant majority of EU citizens being aware that they have a right to move within the EU, almost two-thirds of them feel they do not have a sufficient awareness of their EU rights. Less than a quarter of citizens feel sufficiently well informed about what to do if their EU rights are not respected and about a fifth of the problems were the result of citizens’ own lack of awareness of their rights. EU citizens who make use of their right to free movement continue to face significant obstacles in the exercise of their EU rights with more than 25% of citizens reporting that they encountered problems in moving within the EU. Empowering civil society groups to inform and assist mobile citizens will ensure that citizens can make effective use of their fundamental right of free movement and overcome obstacles that may come their way. Read the Third...

The muddy waters of self-sufficiency in Directive 2004/38 – A Citizen’s Story

A Citizen’s Story  In all the rhetoric surrounding free movement, it is easy to forget that the issue affects real people. Mr. L has kindly offered to share his story with us. He has been living in the UK for 9 years and is married to a non-EEA citizen. In those 9, neither Mr. L nor Mrs. L has claimed benefits. In addition, he has been denied a UK residence card, on the basis that he does not have private health insurance. I moved to Britain 9 years ago, soon after my home country joined the EU. I came in order to improve my English, explore new horizons and possibly start a new life in an exciting, multicultural land. I began working two days after my arrival, first as a manual labourer at a ladder factory, and later behind the bar at a club. There I met my future wife, who worked alongside me. She is originally from Kenya and when we met she had already been living in Britain for a few years as a student. She was about to finish her BA degree and she inspired me to also take up studying. We started working at a country hotel together, her as a receptionist and me as a night porter, and got married less than a year later; I commenced my studies soon afterwards. I continued working as a night porter during the first year of university. Managing both my work and my studies was very difficult, and so I really welcomed the opportunity to receive a student loan and a grant from the second year onwards....

The European Commission’s powers to enforce the EU’s free movement rules should be strengthened

Today, ECAS and the EU Rights Clinic are launching the second of Seven Strategies to improve the free movement of persons as part of the Right to Move campaign. The second strategy calls on the European Commission to be given enhanced powers of investigation to enforce the EU rules on the free movement of persons. Presently, the Commission’s powers to enforce the free movement rules are limited to launching formal infringement proceedings against Member States. These proceedings are cumbersome and can take several years to result in court action. The European Commission also retains a discretion as to which complaints to pursue as it is under no obligation to launch infringement actions. Several recent cases – namely, the expulsion of Roma from France, the short-lived reintroduction of border controls in Denmark and delays at the Gibraltar/Spain border – have shown that the Commission’s powers of investigation are limited. The Commission currently lacks the power to undertake unannounced inspections to investigate suspected infringements of the free movement rules. It cannot interview citizens or compel officials to provide testimony or to take other forms of evidence.  These are serious limitations on the Commission’s powers to investigate breaches of the EU’s free movement rules. Given that the free movement of persons is one of the cornerstones of the Single Market, the Commission needs to have stronger powers to investigate infringements. There is no justifiable reason why the free movement rules should remain the poorer cousin of the EU rules relating to the Schengen area or even the competition or air transport rules for that matter. Citizens deserve no less than a Commission...