Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A boring-sounding intra-EU migration and presentation post (that's actually moderately interesting, in places, but also a bit confused in others)

Interesting survey results that I'd missed via Brian J Phillips suggest that only 1.5% of EU citizens have migrated to another member state to live. Stuck me as rather low and, predictably, has been used by our Eurosceptic friends as yet more "proof" that no one wants or needs the EU.

I don't deny for a moment that cross-border mobility is likely to be fairly low - after all, people generally tend to continue living relatively close to where they grew up, bar the occasional shunt to a big city to find work, and the percentage of people in the EU with a strong enough grasp of a second language to enable them to work in another country is (I'd imagine) still well under 50% of the population even on the mainland.

But still, if the survey was of people from all 25 member states, the figures would be heavily skewed by the 10 new members - especially the ex-Communist ones. They've not even had two years to start migrating, after all... A breakdown showing the figures for individual countries would (I'd guess) show a much higher incidence of cross-border migration in the 15 older members.

A bit more digging brings up more figures (though despite ten minutes trawling the Commission's website, no sign of the survey itself...), and it soon becomes fairly clear that the movement figures are deliberately being presented as low - why else would they have asked so many detailed questions about why people AREN'T moving?

Yep - it's all intended as initial publicity for the European Year of Worker Mobility, the press release for which provides yet more statistics (from the same survey, it would seem). By showing that few people have yet taken up the opportunity to migrate across borders, it's easier to promote it as an innovative new approach to finding work. (Even if the Commission singularly failed to present the thing in this way, thus utterly buggering up the message...)

But after all that messing about with demographics, the thing that most struck me was utterly unrelated. What I'm intrigued by is why it took the Telegraph two weeks to report on this survey (it was published back on the 14th February, from what I can tell).

What the hell is wrong with the Commission's PR department? A big new initiative to show the potential benefits of EU membership to individuals and promote economic growth in the process, and bugger all press coverage.

If there's one thing the EU should have learned from last year, it's that it hasn't got its communication strategy sorted. It failed to sell the constitution, and failed to present a coherent message in the aftermath. It has begun to look increasingly uncertain and confused about its direction, which is hardly going to inspire confidence. But it is a prime opportunity to have a major re-think and overhaul of old strategies, as I argued the other day.

Presentation has always been the EU's biggest problem. The terminology is dull, the legislation boring, the initiatives frequently bland, and there is the constant danger of appearing a little too much like the less than pleasant prior continent-spanning organisations - be they Roman, Catholic, Napoleonic or Fascist - for comfort. But come on, they surely must be able to do a better job than that? Two measly articles that only appear online, not in print, for what should be a major campaign?

It's time for a re-vamp of the Commission's entire PR strategy - starting with the awful-looking Commission website (perhaps along the lines of the European Parliament's?). A more accessible (searchable would help) news service, a few RSS feeds, and a little bit of a human face beyond dear Margot's rather unfortunate attempts on her tedious blog would on their own help make the task of finding out just what it is that the most hated EU institution does just that little bit easier. That's all that's needed - for inaccessibility breeds distrust. If you can't find out what the Commission's up to, you're more likely to assume it's up to no good.

I mean, hell - I'm no PR expert, but I could come up with a better strategy for promoting the EU and Commission in five minutes. Accessibility is the key, and then just a little bit of self-awareness - another thing the EU as a whole has struggled with throughout its existence.

Yes, it's hard to make something as interminably dull as the European Union seem interesting and exciting - but the sheer blandness and lack of imagination of the presentation at the moment is like nothing more than adding tapioca to your rice pudding for flavour. You don't want more blandness - you need to spice it up with some jam. As with rice pudding, a large number of people will still find the end product revolting, but a good number will be able to stomach it rather better.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Katherine said...

I'm surprised our Eurosceptic friends aren't happy about this - you'd think they'd be jumping up and down with glee that Western Europe isn't being flooded with people from Eastern Europe. I believe that was a doomsday prediction made at the time of enlargement.

3/07/2006 02:34:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Ah, but that would necessitate some kind of consistency in argument, which when you're coming from a position where your take on a given subject is always going to be negative is rather hard to maintain as realities shift.

A similar thing seems to be happening in some eurosceptic circles when it comes to the constitution - when France and the Netherlands originally rejected the thing, they were all demanding that the UK referendum still go ahead so that they could have the pleasure of rejecting it too. Now that moves are afoot to try and revive the ratification process, they're moaning again, even though it means they may finally get their wish...

Either way, there's more on the impact of migration from the new member states here:

"workers' mobility from the EU Member States in Central and Eastern Europe to EU15 has had mostly positive effects and has been in most countries quantitatively less important than foreseen. Workers from EU10 helped to relieve labour market shortages and contributed to better economic performance in Europe. Countries that have not applied restrictions after May 2004 (UK, Ireland and Sweden) have experienced high economic growth, a drop of unemployment and a rise of employment. As to the 12 EU countries using transitional arrangements, where workers managed to obtain access legally, this has contributed to a smooth integration into the labour market."

3/07/2006 02:44:00 pm  
Blogger BondWoman said...

Don't think these figures really take into account the post 2004 situation. The level of intra-EU migration has been fairly much stuck at 1.5 per cent for a very long time, and was overtaken by migration into the EU very quickly in the 1960s. I don't think the euro-sceptics really have a position on intra-EU migration.

3/07/2006 04:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Armin said...

I don't know if those numbers exist (and haven't had the time to look), but I've got the funny feeling that the intra UK/Germany/France/takeyourpick numbers don't look that much higher.

So why do we need the UK? Shouldn't it be split into its member states. Or Germany, shouldn't that be split into all its Laender?

3/07/2006 06:31:00 pm  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

Hmmm, only 1.5% seems like a low figure to the nosemonky. ok, lets think about that.

That figure represents more than the number of Jew executed by the Nazi's in WWII

or put another way the total population of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania combined.

Seems large scale to me
.

3/07/2006 07:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Jim said...

>
> you'd think they'd be jumping up
> and down with glee that Western
> Europe isn't being flooded with
> people from Eastern Europe
>
Give it time. The issue is becoming rather big in Ireland. The number of East European service staff in Dublin is very noticeable indeed. And there are rumblings of disquiet amongst the native population.

I've lived and worked in five EU countries, and am entirely in favour of 'The European Project' (to use a broad and undefinable term), but allowing free worker migration between the new member states and the wealthier west is clearly going to produce numerous unexpected social, political and economic consequences. And not all of them are going to be good.

I believe that the process will be positive in the long term, but I also believe that there could be numerous serious problems along the way. Unless those problems are addressed openly and effectively by pro-Europeans (and not swept under the carpet in a flurry of denial and obfuscation), they'll do a lot of needless - perhaps even fatal - damage to Europe.

Earlier this year the company Irish Ferries laid off the entire Irish workforce and hired Latvian crews at minimum wage. The Irish crews all took a generous "voluntary" redundancy package. But as a precedent, it has quite rightly disturbed many in Ireland - not least the unions.

3/07/2006 11:18:00 pm  
Blogger MatGB said...

I work for a German company that does business around the EU. Lots of business. If we couldn't port our staff where needed when needed (and translators are especially needed), we couldn't function.

My replacement in the job Iw as promoted from is German, she moved here for one job, loved it, and we gave her another; we need a multi-ligual team. Free movement without visa restrictions is pretty much essential.

If the numbers are low, so what? It's not how many that matters, it's that you can.

3/08/2006 12:44:00 am  
Blogger BondWoman said...

Following on from MatGB - "it matters that you can" - the value added of "European citizenship", whether you like it or not, is free movement - the power to migrate without a job offer in pocket, in particular to look for work. In that context, the nationals of 8 of the 10 new Member States are "second class citizens", and that has knock on effects there as well as in the UK and Ireland where there is some evidence of disquiet regarding numbers of Poles and Lithuanians, etc.

3/08/2006 04:38:00 pm  

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