Right now the question of immigration and migration is one which may well develop into a major EU election issue. There is the ever present issue of illegal immigrants who seek entry to and a better life in the EU. In recent weeks, we have heard of the dreadful loss of life of many of these unfortunate people. The governments of Greece Malta and Italy are becoming alarmed at the numbers entering their countries. The Greek PM states that this is “a real threat that could destabilise the nations.”
These immigrants are in addition to migration of EU citizens and those covered by the provisions of the Schengan Treaty, who have free movement around Europe. In recent weeks the French Interior Minister has threatened to withhold consent from extending the Schengan Treaty’s provisions to include Romania and Bulgaria. He cited his concern that, under the treaty, criminal elements from these countries could move freely across Europe.
Those promoting free movement say that it will deliver a wider pool of talent and create employment opportunities. Those opposed say that it will cause reduced wage levels and that the general standard of living will fall. They also argue that additional demand will be placed on public services, infrastructure and the welfare systems of some countries.
I recall attending Convention of EU citizens in Brussels a few years ago. Each country had held their own convention, with 100 randomly selected citizens attending a number of National Conventions at which they considered the most important things which Europe should give priority to. These national groups then send delegates to report at this central Convention to further filter the list. The message which came across to me was how disunited Europe was on the question of immigration. It seemed the Mediterranean countries understood that a major problem existed. But as you moved away from the Med, comprehension reduced with some delegates asking “what it has got to do with us?”
Will those elected next year to the EU Parliament be politicians capable of responding to these problems? Can they give leadership to the electorate while gaining a mandate to develop an acceptable EU plan to deal with these issues? Or will of those seeking election use these issues for their own ends, having little or no regard for the human suffering the current situation creates? An expanding EU will place many demands to find solutions on the new wave of MEPs. Those seeking leadership must tell the electorate of their plans. The electorate need to be well briefed as they will have a lot to decide when they vote next May for their representatives in the EU.