CUPRINS nr. 119


Uniunea Europeana

Eastern Europe, new partner for the management of immigration policies



East Enlargement and Immigration

Over the history of the European Union, numerous steps have been taken to increase the foundation of adhering countries: from the first six to nine in 1973, up to the enlargement to twenty-five, which increased the population by approximately one-fifth, creating a market of more than 455 million people. In terms of territory and population size and the socio-economic characteristics of the new countries, this enlargement is not comparable to the four previous ones.

Integration with countries where pro capita income is less than half of the EU average (with fifteen Member States), will increase the difference in the degree of development of the various territories, with an income gap that is three times greater than the current situation. The margin between less developed areas and the Community average is approximately twenty points, but it is estimated that in 2007, with the admission of Romania and Bulgaria, the gap could reach sixty points. The Community needs a new and incisive definition of structural policies to reach a difficult balance between two needs: 1) the maintenance of interventions that promote developmentally delayed areas in the fifteen Member States and 2) the concentration of financial resources (through structural funds and the cohesion fund) in areas that are economically weaker than the new adhering States (Girardi, 2004).

The range of problems to be resolved is significant. The service sectors (financial and commercial) are still underdeveloped in many of the CEEC’s, and the public administrations are highly bureaucratic and corrupt. Industry is facing a difficult phase of system restructuring and privatization. In some countries, agriculture predominates excessively and is absolutely over-represented (the extreme case is Romania, where this sector provides for 45% of jobs against the 4% average for the EU) and is fragmented into a myriad of small farms that use the products they grow for personal consumption in many cases.

With enlargement, the economic and social importance of the agricultural sector will grow significantly within the Union: the agricultural surface area will increase by a little less than a third and, even more importantly, another three million agricultural workers from the new Member States will be added to the current six million laborers in the EU. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the negotiations for the enlargement agriculture was one of the most demanding and complex chapters of the whole process, especially in terms of its effect on the Union’s budget.

According to estimates by the European Commission, over the next decade in the CEEC’s (excluding Romania and Bulgaria) between 800,000 and 1.7 million workers will leave agriculture (the large majority of whom will be Polish), which will increase unemployment. Only a small part of these workers will immigrate due to the fact that they are older and that immigration will primarily affect more skilled workers.

The EU is involved in orienting the reforms created by candidate and new members to make the legislative framework, administrative structure, and economic and social set-up coherent with a single market, guaranteeing financial resources, coordinating technical assistance initiatives and monitoring the progress and difficulties of candidate countries, with reference to the criteria of Copenhagen.

By meeting the standards set by the Schengen Treaty the new and candidate Member States have modified their immigration laws (in terms of entrance visas, residence permits, controls at the borders and re-admission agreements) in a restrictive sense so that these countries already act as a barrier to uncontrolled immigration flows and are becoming destination countries themselves, with undeniable benefits for Western countries.

It has been a veritable “overturning of the borders” that has caused these countries to adopt control mechanisms at incoming borders to replace the obsolete Soviet emigration control mechanisms. Since the PHARE funds were no longer adequate to support this complex effort at adjustment economically, two ad hoc funds have been created since the end of 2002: the “Schengen Facility” and the “Transition Facility”, which will provide 900 and 380 million euros respectively between 2004 and 2006.

In 2007 – following the likely admission of Bulgaria and Romania – the enlarged EU will have incredibly extensive external frontiers: the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, the Caucasus, the Western Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East will form the ring of bordering countries. Whereas for now the prospects for EU adhesion only involve the Balkan countries, this ample assortment of new and future partners will make it necessary for the EU to create a systematic cooperation policy, which the former President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, has succinctly defined as a “good neighborhood” (European Commission, 2003).

The importance of making contacts with Eastern countries to create a more effective immigration policy is evident. Take the Ukraine, for example. Due to the lack of re-admission agreements and repatriation funds, the majority of illegal immigrants not only pass through the Ukraine but they remain in this country, transforming it into an increasingly important immigration pole and even as a crossroads for trade. It is estimated that 60-70% of illegal immigrants in the EU came through the Ukraine and that a large share are illegal Ukrainian workers headed towards the EU and the CEEC’s: in the classic scenario the immigrants enter with a tourist visa and then join the hidden economy in the destination country.

Brusels will continue along the road to political, economic and institutional reforms based on a platform of common values that acknowledge the consolidated traditions of the Union (the so-called acquis communautaire) and allow for economic integration and political cooperation within a context of common growth without stopping for border controls.

There are plans to go beyond the existing partnership and cooperation agreements with the other Eastern countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Russia), since they do not assist with the development of trade relations and communication and transportation systems but rather provide financial and technical-political aid.

The goal, obviously, is to prevent the creation of a new curtain, founded on the strict Schengen rules. Moreover, the aforementioned Report from March 2003 makes it possible to move towards a controlled immigration option, which could satisfy the EU’s need for specialized labor. The visa system at the EU borders will be completely liberalized through the signing of re-admission treaties for citizens from third party countries with each bordering country. It should be added, however, that ne­gotiations with Belarus and Russia are not moving forward.

West-migration, infra-regional migration poles and new immigration countries
The wave of flows that began in 1989 were caused by the following factors of attraction and expulsion primarily:
– economic reasons: on one hand the high standards of living and salaries, the extensive demand for work, and opportunities for temporary work and, on the other, the economic crisis and the decrease in consumption;
– political reasons: on one hand, liberal immigration policies (which quickly tightened) and the high levels of social protection and, on the other, the violation of human rights and political uncertainty;
– cultural reasons: on one hand the traditional spirit of the hospitality in some European countries and, on the other, the resurgence of xenophobia and the attitude to migrate.

At the end of 2002, Eastern European immigrants in the EU summed 3.4 million, which is an un­derestimated figure since we have neither the data for Ireland nor updated information for important destination countries, such as France, Greece, Luxembourg and Great Britain (Forti; Pittau; Ricci, 2004).

Geographic contiguity has promoted the formation of historic-cultural connections and a tradition of reciprocal exchange. The main destination countries are those with land borders, but there are countries with sea borders as well: in fact, there are almost 2 million Eastern immigrants in Germany (58%), followed by Italy (13%, this percentage doubled in 2002 following the regularization of 400,000 Eas­tern European immigrants) and Austria (11%). To­gether these three countries make up more than 80% of the total.

In addition to the consistent repatriation of national minorities, the collapse of the Communist regimes produced an extensive flow of applicants asking for permanent or temporary protection in the 1990’s. They were directed primarily towards Western Europe. A large number of these applicants used asylum as an alternative form of immigration following the tightening of admission norms in EU countries.

During the years between 1989-2002, therefore, 2.6 million applications were presented, of which half were made in the first four years, or rather one-third of the total asylum seekers in the world (8 million). More than 1-4 million asylum seekers were from the Balkans, which is 18% of the total global figure, followed by the CEEC’s with 770,000 applicants, which is 10% of the global total, and Eastern Europe (400,000, or rather 5%). At the level of the individual countries, the ranking was lead by Yugoslavia with 1.1 million (13.6% of asylum seekers in the world), Romania, with 456,000 (5.7%), Bosnia-Herzegovina, with almost 200,000 (2.5%), the Russian Federation, with 150,000 (2%) and Bulgaria with 140,000 (1.7%).

The transit flows resulted from the impossibility of using the direct, legal route to enter the Western world and, at the same time, by the unwavering desire of the immigrants to reach the West at all costs, as they were no longer sure whether they could stay or return to their own countries. Despite the closed borders, the immigrants chose or were forced to choose the gradual approach to their destinations of choice by stopping in third party countries for periods of varying lengths, sometimes even significantly prolonging their itineraries. It is, obviously, difficult to quantify the number of these immigrants, but existing estimates seem to lean towards higher figures.

The connection between transit flows through the CEEC’s and human traffickers, who organize illegal transfers and the hidden exploitation of immigrants once they arrive in the destination country, is also worthy of discussion. This trafficking, conducted by international crime organizations, promotes the penetration of foreign mafias in other countries, causes the weakening of national asylum systems, feeds the corruption of officials and law forces, and increases the diffusion of micro-criminality and the violation of human rights, especially the right to asylum. We should also not forget that the costs for fighting this battle are inordinate.

Information on the traffic routes of human beings is incomplete, but beyond the North-African route towards Italy and Spain and the Middle-Eastern route, Eastern Europe is marked by considerable trafficking, with the main land routes running through Russia-the Baltic countries-Poland, the Balkans or the Ukraine-the Czech Republic-Slovakia, Bulgaria-Romania-the Balkans (IOM, 2000).

The trafficking of prostitutes, minors or other weaker persons who are forced by consequences to enter into criminal activities create frequent security problems for the fifteen countries of the EU, often influencing public opinion in a negative manner and provoking fear with regard to the consequences of letting Eastern workers circulate freely.

In the 1990’s intense infra-regional flows emerged or re-emerged for ethnic-political reasons or economic reasons (i.e., work). The former group included population shifts determined by the reorgani­zation of borders and the repatriation of minorities abroad, which mostly involved the countries that succeeded the USSR. Amongst them, we should recall the pacific, relatively contained flows pro­duced in 1993 by the dissolution of Czechoslovakia: 20,000 people moved within the Czech Republic and 8,000 within Slovakia over the next six years (Sopemi, 2003).

Infra-regional flows for economic reasons are predominantly temporary, even though we must not forget about the emergence of international flows of autonomous workers from developing countries (small entrepreneurs, especially merchants) and of highly qualified workers from the West (managers or executives sent by their companies or young people with university degrees seeking their first job). Even in the case of illegal flows of workers the period of stay was limited in close connection with the needs of the labor market.

Finally, to a lesser extent, the CEEC’s are encouraging the return of their immigrants, looking upon their repatriation as a strategic resource for the country, or rather a type of investment in accumulated currency and know-how to be used to create new business at home. During the 1990’s the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland consolidated themselves as immigration countries as did Russia and Lithuania (the latter since 1999). Amongst these, the Czech Republic and Russia have registered a positive yet contained balance between incoming flows of Western workers and outgoing flows of national workers. The incidence of foreigners is still very contained and varies between 0.1% in Poland and 2% in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, in the capitals and in some big cities, the incidence of foreigners is elevated. For example, 10% of residents in Prague are foreign; 5-6% in Budapest; while in Moscow, according to official Russians sources, foreigners have surpassed the one million mark (with a large Asian community) and have found fa­vorable conditions in the growing development of the hidden economy of the Eastern countries.

With regard to origins, these immigrants are divided into four groups:
– former Soviet countries: especially Belarus and Ukraine, which also lead the way in terms of illegal workers; this group, which is already considerable, is destined to increase after the enlargement produces a progressive decline in reciprocal trade and economic relations;
– the CEEC’s: primarily Romanians and Bulgarians, followed by the Baltic countries;
– the countries of the EU and highly developed countries in general: mostly managers, executives and entrepreneurs;
– developing countries: even before the 1990’s in the Czech Republic and in Poland there were considerable numbers of immigrants from Vietnam; after 1990, the communities from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq increased: for example, they reached 18% in Romania (12,500 in 2000) and 10% in Bulgaria (10,000 in 1999). Often they were small entrepreneurs and merchants.

A very unique type of infra-regional immigration for economic reasons of a semi-legal nature is what Marek Okólski has defined as “incomplete” immigration, which includes the predominantly hidden, flexible, commuting flows that are created between two bordering countries in order to take full advantage of economic differences with an incredible variety of activities, especially small trade – for example, cigarettes and vodka – and occasional contracted work (Okólski, 1998). These “peripheral” movements stem from the need to survive or they are an alternative source of income for the family of immigrants, who repeatedly spend a few days or weeks in the bordering country until they are spending a considerable portion of the year outside their own country. In general these flows merge with seasonal, illegal labor or small commercial activities, but the economic motivation of the transfer remains hidden behind visas provided for tourism, studying, and family reunion (and when the permits expire they overstay).

Eastern Europe and the number of workers involved in free circulation
The one issue that worries the West most is that the re-conversion processes of the East will feed unsustainable immigration pressures. This fear is a renewal of the climate that existed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which predicted an invasion from the East that never came: out of approximately 20 million immigrants in the Union, 3.4 million are from Eastern Europe, of which 1.1 million are from the CEEC’s. These numbers indicate a considerable but not exorbitant foreign presence. According to the most precise forecasts made by the main studies on the immigration potential of the CEEC’s, there will not be a new danger of invasion, even though numbers from these countries will increase after enlargement. Following an initial moment of pressure, the flows will tend to diminish thanks to the effect of socio-economic convergence, the harmonization of the labor market and the im­provement of living standards in the countries in question. In the first phase of EU 25, the flows will not differ greatly from those registered pre-enlargement and will primarily involve Germany, Austria and Italy.

According to estimates by C. Dustmann, there will be 1.1 million permanent immigrants and 2.2 million temporary ones, assuming that only 15% of those who intend to emigrate really carry through with their plan (Dustmann, 2003). In an in-depth qualitative study conducted along the lines of the Eurobarometer model, which involved 13 Eastern countries (including Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey), H. Krieger concluded that less than 1.0% of the CEEC population is “firmly intentioned” to emigrate, or rather 1.1 million people in five years. This percentage climbs to 4.5% if we include those people who expressed a “general inclination” (Krieger, 2004). In both cases, two-thirds of potential immigrants clearly expressed the temporary nature of their immigration plans.

Nevertheless, restrictions to the free circulation of company workers have been announced, even for the first two years of transition. Subsequently, Member States have the opportunity to maintain norms created at the national level in objection with the Community regulations with regard to the new partners. Some Member States have not excluded the possibility of maintaining this restriction agreement for the next five years: in this scenario, free circulation would coincide with the expected demographic decline of the CEEC’s (around 2010) and, consequently, with the substantial reduction of the surplus national work force. However, it does not seem that postponing free circulation will halt migratory pressures from the East, which are expected to be contained. Neither will the simple abolition of legal obstacles act as a stimulus that makes it possible to overcome the individual obstacles to immigration (of an economic, social and cultural nature).

Conclusions - Enlargement to the East: a non-banal event full of prospects
It is said that a United Europe made sense during the period of ideological contrast with the Soviet Bloc and that now, despite the economic advantages, there is less reason for unity in terms of values and that the managing of the Community is too bureaucratic.

If we think back on the past and remember the ruins of W.W. II, we can see that despite the fact that the birth of the unified market was based on pragmatic objectives, it embodied a message full of ideals that put an end to conflict and strengthened the links between Europeans. Intrinsic to this idea of Europe was the free circulation of workers within the framework of a unified labor market that welcomed citizens from each Member State on the basis of equal opportunity.

Immigrants from the East, who have been in a precarious position up to now, can fully enjoy these guarantees as Community citizens, and workers will enjoy the same sense of satisfaction and will feel more European. It should not be forgotten that immigration, even illegal immigration, has allowed the labor market of the various Western countries to reach a healthy level of work mobility, to take full advantage of production potential and to satisfy the needs of some sectors. The cross-border mobility of the European work force is, in fact, two or three times inferior to the needed level; according to the estimates of the European Commission, only 0.1% of the EU population changed residence in 2000, moving to another Community country, compared to the 2.5% annual mobility found in the USA (MKW GMBH, 2001).

In Italy, the first results of the 2002 regularization, which was the largest since 1986 in terms of the number of people involved, have been revealed. With respect to Eastern Europe this regularization anticipated the date of adhesion and forecasted the continuity and increase of flows, so that immigration to the Italian peninsula is and increasingly will become Eastern European just as it was once primarily from the Southern Hemisphere. This unplanned and unassisted immigration is beginning to be appreciated by Italians and, under various forms, it offers support to the countries of origin: money transfers, cultural-professional exchanges, return entrepreneurship, special terms, offers to fellow countrymen and women to search for employment (Caritas-Migrantes, 2004).

It would be a mistake to underestimate how the road to Europe is often burdensome, slow and wearying. It would, however, be even more wrong to not recog­nize the progress that has been made in less than a half century to unite countries with ancient cultures. It would also be interesting to ask the harshest cri­tics what they would propose as an alternative and what mediations they would take upon themselves in such a complex context.

Reservations of an ideological nature, which make us forget how much these populations suffered as a result of the Marxist regimes, cause us to reflect on the ideal dimension of the enlargement operation, avoiding any possible exploitation. The reference to the Marxist past must not become a pretext for indulging in operations that impede significant investment in solidarity with the new Member States and the recreation of intermediate entities that embody this principle and verify its implementation at the legislative and practical, governmental level: from political parties to trade unions and from associations and NGO’s to all other forms of association. The great values that Europe has promoted over its history are human and social rights and their protection and the balanced distribution of wealth. Enlargement is a non-banal event because it spurs reflections on these values of coexistence on the Old Continent (Biagini, 2004).


BIAGINI, Antonello (2004) “Introduzione”, in Faccioli Pintozzi, Liliana (Ed.) Europa il Nuovo Continente, Roma: RelazionInternazionali, pp. 7-15.
CARITAS-MIGRANTES (2004) Dossier Statistico Immigrazione 2004, Roma: IDOS.
DUSTMANN, Christian (2003) The impact of EU enlargement on migration flows, London: Home Office.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION (2003) Wider Europe-Neighbourhoods: a New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours, Brussels: European Commission.
FORTI, Oliviero; PITTAU, Franco; RICCI, Antonio (2004) Europa: Allargamento a Est e Immigrazione, Roma: IDOS
GIRARDI, Ugo (2004) “Le prospettive dell’allargamento e le imprese”, in Forti, Oliviero; Pittau, Franco; Ricci, Antonio (Eds) Europa: Allargamento a Est e Immigrazione, Roma: IDOS, pp. 51-64.
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION (2000) Migrant trafficking and smuggling in Europe, Geneva: IOM.
KRIEGER, Hubert (2004) Migration trends in an enlarged Europe, Dublin: European foundation for the improvement of living and working.
MKW GMBH (2001) Exploitation and development of the job potential in the cultural sector in the age of digitalisation. Obstacles to mobility for workers in the digital culture in the EU, Bruxelles: European Commission.
OKÓLSKI, Marek (1998) “Regional dimensions of international migration in Central and Eastern Europe”, in Genus, anul LIV, nr. 1-2, pp. 11-36
SOPEMI (2003) Trends in International Migration 2004, Paris: OECD.

- is currently a Ph.D candidate in “European History: cultural roots and international relations” at the Political Science faculty of “La Sapienza” University in Rome. Staff member and editor of “Dossier Statistico Immigrazione” an outstanding publication focused on the migratory phenomenon in Italy, published by the ONG Caritas. He’s co-author of the handbook “Europa. Allargamento a Est e Immigrazione” (IDOS, Rome, 2004) and “Diritti Rifugiati in Europa” (RelazionInternazionali, Rome, 2005).




Sfera Politicii