Freedom of movement (looking back on my thesis)

09 Feb 2006 | 543 words | EU-policy migration europe labor

It is almost four years ago that i finally finished my thesis (‘The freedom of movement of workers in the context of the Eastern enlargement of the European Union’ – download the pdf here) and concluded my studies in comparative political science at the University of Amsterdam. After finishing the thesis and getting my diploma a quickly turned my attention to other projects and never really looked back at what i had written. however given the fact that in my thesis i set out to draw up…

… a clear picture of what can be expected in terms of intra-EU migration when the European Union of 15 is enlarged towards the East and Southeast. The aim of this paper is not to make a prediction about the exact amounts of migrants that are to be expected in a given constellation of events, but to give a theoretically funded assessment of the possible impacts of a change in political structure on migration from the Eastern European Candidate Countries (EECC) to the European Union of 15 (EU15) as it exists today….

… it would have been natural to look back on a couple of occasions to see if my ‘theoretically funded (sic!) assessment’ (which of course is bloated language for ‘my interpretation of the current situation beefed up with as many graphs, pie-charts and quotes as i can come up with’) did indeed turn out to be true. until today i have never really done this for whatever reasons.

Now today the European Commission published a report on the effects of workers mobility between the 10 new member states and the EU15 since the Eastern Enlargement on the 1st of may 2004 (FAQs here). The accession treaty required the Commission to come up with such a report in order to give the member states which opted to impose restrictions on the freedom of movement of workers from the EU10 (that is all old member except britain, sweden & ireland) an empirical basis for the reassessment of their position after 2 years (due on 30 april). now i have not had time to read the full report but if one can believe the media it pretty much confirms the concluding predictions of my thesis:

according to various news reports published today, the report that claims that ‘There was no evidence of a surge in either numbers of workers or welfare expenditure following enlargement, compared to the previous two years. New Member State (EU10) nationals represented less than 1% of the working age population in all countries except Austria (1,4% in 2005) and Ireland (3,8% in 2005)’ (EU comission) it further notes ‘… that East European workers sought out employment and did not abuse social security payments when they moved to Western countries’. (IHT) and that ‘…the barriers put in place when the EU had 12 members did not stop workers moving into these countries. But many workers had disappeared into the underground economy’ (idem.)

Anyway it is nice to know that I have not completely missed the mark while spending so much time on writing my thesis. I will try to re-read my paper and compare it to the report over the weekend and if there are more interesting findings I will report them back here…