Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday, 5 February 2004

EU immigration in the wake of this year's expansion

There have been 'scare' stories running in the British media (this 'Guardian article is just one example) in the last few days that there is a danger of an influx later this year of 'benefit cheats' entering the UK from some of the 10 countries scheduled to join the EU in May. The subject was even addressed in the House of Commons during PMQs this week when the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, responded to a question from Michael Howard. Amazingly his response was reasonably clear and straightforward and signalled a general agreement with what Mr Howard was suggesting - this is not often the case in these two gentlemen's exchanges.

However, a worrying aspect of this matter is that it refers to 'Roma' from Slovakia and elsewhere (see at the very end of the 'Guardian' article). There is damning evidence that the human rights of 'Roma' in Slovakia have been routinely violated over many years and allegations that this has continued until very recently. See also here. It is crucial to Slovakia's plans to join the EU that its human rights record be 'clean' enough to satisfy EU standards in democracy and human rights, etc - whether this is genuinely the case is, in my view, still open to some considerable doubt.

The peculiarity of this particular debate, within the UK, is that the UK has chosen to permit immigration from accession countries immediately they join the EU whereas the other likely potential target countries for significant immigration (Germany, France, Holland) have taken advantage of clauses in the accession treaties for the joining countries which permit them to delay 'free movement of labour' rights for some years. I admit to some ambiguity of views myself about this matter, but I am troubled that a blind eye appears to be being turned toward the potential human rights abuses which may still be occurring in at least one of the accession countries in order not to slow down the EU expansion process, a process of which I am otherwise hugely in favour. But human rights are not trifling matters and the EU, if it is to remain true to its founding principles, must not gloss over such matters.

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