Tag Archive: Cecilia Malmstrom

Tragedy Leads to Reform of Immigration Policy in European Union

 A shipwreck last week near the Italian island of Lampedusa  that killed almost 300 African  migrants has ignited a political debate to further protect the borders of the European Union.  The shipwreck was caused by water that flooded the ship which mixed with the fuel and caused it to igniteThe public response to the  tragedy has forced the European Union to adopt a new surveillance system that will help alleviate the European Union’s growing problem with illegal immigrants. 

The citizens of Lampedusa have previously complained to the European Union about the thousands of migrants who illegally cross their borders every year from Africa and the Middle East. While trying to mourn the tragedy, the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, was heckled by the islanders protesting the current immigration policy.

In response to the rising concerns and protests about the current immigration policy, European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed expanding the role of the agency that patrols the sea for migrant ships. Currently the agency, Frontex, only can patrol off the coast of Italy using equipment loaned from the EU member states but the proposal suggests requesting the EU governments to give cash and to provide the boats and aircrafts that will protect the Mediterranean Sea.

The surveillance system that the EU has adopted is predicted to improve information gathering and information sharing throughout the member states while using satellites to help deter another tragedy such as this one from happening again.  In the interim, President Jose Barroso has promised Italy 30 million euro to provide assistance to care for the migrants.

EU Visa Liberalization – Unequal Outsiders in the Eyes of the EU

Article 18 of the TFEU states that, “Any discrimination on the grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.”  A look at the EU’s recent decisions regarding visa restrictions for third-country nationals makes it clear, however, that this policy can be superseded by Article 77 of the TFEU which vests the European Parliament and the Council with decision-making power regarding the granting of visas to third country nationals. An example of this can be seen in the European Commission’s recent proposal to the European Parliament and Council to add sixteen island nations to the visa-free list, five countries from the Caribbean and eleven from the Pacific islands (see also).  This proposal would allow citizens with a valid passport from these nations to travel within the EU for a period of up to ninety days without the need for a visa.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and leader for this proposal articulated the rationale behind such measures: “To facilitate travelling for tourists willing to visit Europe, and to spend their time and money, is crucial for our economy, and this is particularly important in a time of crisis, like the one that we are experiencing now.”  A look at the numbers (see IP/12/1177) indicates just how important tourism is to the European Union economy – in 2011, tourism amounted to foreign visitor spending of over €330 billion in 2011 and is estimated to exceed €427 billion by 2022 under the current visa regulations.  Facilitation of tourism through liberalized visa regulations could potentially boost spending by as much as €60 billion.

While this proposal probably came as welcome news to the citizens on the visa-free list, one cannot imagine that all other countries would necessarily share the enthusiasm.  Citizens of Turkey have in the past felt particularly discriminated against by the EU’s visa regulations towards them and have previously petitioned the Commission to adopt a long-term plan to liberalize the EU-Turkey visa requirements. Currently, the visa regulations between the two countries are notably lopsided, with Turkey allowing entry to EU citizens through the simple purchase of a low-cost visa at the border but the EU requiring significantly more extensive documentation, such as airline reservations, proof of insurance and proof of income, and even then, does not ensure entry.  Given the size of the Turkish economy as compared to that of any of the newly proposed island states, it is apparent that economic stimulus was not the only factor at play in the Commission’s proposal.  The EU Commission’s silence with regard to Turkey in this most recent proposal speaks louder than words ever could – that equality and economy must at times yield more immediate concerns.

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