Barroso scolds ‘chauvinistic’ British attitude on immigration


The European Commission accused countries that want to limit the free movement of people in the European Union of indulging in chauvinism and stereotypes, an apparent reference to Britain's increasingly staunch views on migration.

Barroso: We don't want first and second class citizens in Europe

In a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday (15 January), Commission President José Manuel Barroso did not refer to Britain or other countries by name, but made his target clear.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly called for curbs on free movement and stoked concerns about migrants from Romania and Bulgaria heading to Britain in search of work or social handouts, despite little evidence of it happening.

"Let's not use stereotypes and myths," said Barroso, warning against "narrow, chauvinistic" attitudes and populism as he addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"Let us not give in to scaremongering and obfuscation."

Britain not alone

Asked about the comments, Cameron's spokesman said Britain was not the only country raising concerns, saying Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy shared Britain's point of view and wanted the issue of free movement and social security addressed.

>> Read: Germany readies response to ‘poverty immigration’

Worried about rising support for Britain's anti-migration UKIP party ahead of European Parliament elections in May, Cameron wants to cap the number of EU immigrants and stop low-skilled ones relocating unless there is a compelling reason.

His views have caused friction with Nick Clegg, the pro-European deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, who are in coalition with Cameron's Conservatives.

Clegg, a former member of the European Parliament, has said Cameron's ideas risk cutting Britain off from Europe and damaging the economy, which benefited substantially from earlier flows of cheaper labour from Poland.

Britain is working on a report examining the impact of EU migration, but differences between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on the issue have delayed its publication.

Four freedoms

EU officials have repeatedly criticised Britain for its tough attitude on migration, which has compounded already tense relations between Brussels and London over Britain's desire to renegotiate its 40-year-old relationship with the EU.

British finance minister George Osborne said on Wednesday the legal treaties that dictate how the EU is run were not "fit for purpose" and should be changed, saying he was determined his country would reshape its EU ties.

One of the biggest frustrations among EU officials is Britain's frequent reference to "benefit tourism" and the suggestion migrants from poorer EU member states are moving to the UK to claim unemployment benefits and other social assistance, despite no clear evidence that this is the case.

"Let's have a rational and reasonable debate," Barroso said. If there was any evidence of abuse of free movement rules, he added, countries had an obligation to crack down on it and were at liberty to do so under existing legislation.

The free movement of citizens is one of four "fundamental freedoms" enshrined in EU law, alongside the free movement of goods, services and capital.

It has long been a cherished component of EU membership, allowing students to move easily to any of the 28 member states to study and workers to seek opportunities abroad.

But after years of economic hardship across Europe, far-right, populist or anti-migration parties have made advances in several countries, including Britain, the Netherlands, France and Denmark, pushing migration up the agenda.

It is expected to be a central part of the debate in the run-up to European Parliament elections on May 22-25, with some polls suggesting anti-EU or protest parties on both the right and the left could win up to a quarter of seats.

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Charles_M's picture

Yet again may I point out that in the last EU enlargement, only the UK, Sweden and Ireland allowed unrestricted immigration. There were no sanctions against France, Germany etc who flagrantly breached EU rules - but then that's different, isn't it?

Lothar Schulz's picture

As usually the comments of Mr. Barroso are quite arrogant and obviously are not focused on the real situation in various member states. Not only Great Britain but also Spain,Italy,Netherlands, Austria and notably Germany.
The attitude of the EU Commission will certainly fuel increasing right wing party interests. It is the people of the member states that have to bear the burden of uncontrolled inflow of non-skilled and illiterate immigrants who seek a social shelter.
Don´t go around bashing England and other European Countries for their understandable and responsible demands to cap unrestricted immigration.

international foundation for research and innovation  's picture

We will present you how EU can get billions of Euro using migrant trend From that moment all those debates about this kind of issues will be avoided because any country will like to have enough number of migrants so they can take profit from some advantages we will present

Barry Davies's picture

So an unelected political failure pontificates and we should all agree with him right when he is collecting his huge welfare payouts in the form of his eussr pension perhaps he will go and live in eastern europe where it will go much further. The unfettered flow of human traffic from the east to the west will lead to mass civil unrest in the near future and plunkers like barosso will still be saying it is a good thing.

Richard's picture

Do we have a freedom of services, such as financial services? And there was I thinking a Single Market on such had been blocked for years because of protectionist forces in countries worried about opening their markets up to an area where the UK has the overwhelming advantage?

Why doesn't Mr Barroso start chiding those countries for blocking up completion of the single market in areas such as energy and financial services, by name?

Also as far as I am aware, students have been studying and workers working in other countries for centuries before the EU even existed. Except that back then, it was accepted that they were guests in a country thast was not their own and therefore accepted their hosts set the rules and conditions.