"No massive inflow of labour migrants from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova"
Interview With Marta Jaroszewicz, The Polish Centre For Eastern Studies (OSW)
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Moldova obtained visa free regime for short term travel with the EU on 28 April 2014. Ukraine moved to the second phase of visa dialogue in May 2014, while Belarus and the EU launched the negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission agreements in January 2014. Those three countries are members of the EU initiated Eastern Partnership (alongside with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia), whose one of the objectives is to enhance mobility of citizens between the EU and the signatory countries. The abovementioned recent developments trigger among others the following questions: What are the possible future migration patterns from Eastern Europe to the EU? What would be the effects of lifting visas for stays up to 90 days for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine? What are the worries of the EU member states regarding the Eastern Europe migration and are they justified? How to fight a negative attitude towards Eastern European migration in the EU?
These issues are elaborated in a report “Forecasting migration between the EU, V4, and Eastern Europe: Impact of visa abolition”, published by the Polish Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) in cooperation with seven other research institutions from Central and Eastern Europe in June 2014. Ivana Jakovljevic from Bridging Europe discussed some of the main findings of the report with Marta Jaroszewicz, analyst and migration project coordinator from the Centre for Eastern Studies.
1. To begin with, could you please briefly explain the main criteria used for choosing Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine as a proxy for migration from Eastern Europe to the EU?
In the world many meanings of Eastern Europe function. Dealing with migration policy, EU and Poland have certain migration patterns, whereas Eastern European, namely Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, have their own. These countries are members of the EU Eastern Partnership initiative and share different migration patterns. Obviously Russia is also in a sense located in Eastern Europe but due to its size, location at the crosswords between Europe and Asia, and specific migration patterns, we intentionally left that state behind our research.
2. According to the report, what would be the short term effects of visa liberalization for short term stays (so-called Schengen visas) with the three Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine?
According to the results of our investigation, no massive inflow of labour migrants from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova should be expected. Instead, we presume that a moderate growth in inflows of labour migrants from these states may occur alongside with more long-term settlement migration, family reunification, and educational migration.
3. What would be the most positive effect of the visa free regime with these three countries?
It depends for whom. For migrants themselves, possibility to better regularize their stay in the EU; however if particular EU member-states decide to toughen rules of stay for foreigners, it will not be the case. For EU states – possible higher incomes deriving from growing number of tourists from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
4. Are certain worries expressed by some EU member-states justified, such as a possible rise in irregular employment or a burden for the welfare system?
Undoubtedly they are. Current anti-immigration moods in the EU influence the way EU member-states perceive possible visa relaxation for Eastern Europe. Besides, it seems that many EU politicians strongly believe that there is direct link between lifting the visa regime and growth in irregular employment and / or welfare system abuses. But the paradox lies in the fact that there are no practical evidences to confirm that position. A migrant when deciding to migrate needs to make a great logistical effort. Obtaining a visa is certainly the least cumbersome activity she/he needs to do, as it is much more difficult to obtain labour permit for instance.
5. According to the report, when it could be expected that visa free regime becomes a reality for Ukraine and Belarus in particular, taking into account the very long rapprochement between the EU and this country?
The experts we surveyed pointed out that it might possibly take 2-3 or 4-6 years for Ukraine, and 7-10 years for Belarus.
6. What is a typical profile of a migrant coming from the Eastern Europe to the EU?
Man in the middle age or young; however the female migration is getting more and more important, particularly in Southern Europe. Migrants from Eastern Europe are mainly working in the secondary sectors of EU labour market, such as agriculture, construction and household services.
7. What are the main push and pull factors that determine migration from Eastern Europe to the EU?
So far both push and pull factors determining migration from Eastern Europe to the EU were mainly of economic character. Our panel research showed that expected higher wages and general economic performance were considered as the most strong incentives for Eastern European inhabitants to migrate. The current economic situation in the country of origin was less important. In other words, migrants tend to go abroad because they believe there are decent work opportunities in the EU, and not due to their weak income or due to fewer labour opportunities in their home countries. However, if the armed conflict in Ukraine continues, it is getting more possible that security and political push factors may force people to leave.
8. The report suggests that there will be a modest number of Eastern European migrants in the EU in the upcoming period. Could you elaborate on this?
We predict that in the medium-term perspective, a rather moderate rise in the number of Eastern European nationals in the EU may occur. Only in the case of Ukraine may a higher increase be expected. In the short-term perspective, if we theoretically assume that EU decides to introduce free movement of people we can expect a rise of around 200,000-300,000 in the number of Ukrainian nationals and much smaller and in the case of Moldova and Belarus.
9. The report mentions that public perception about the Eastern European migration represents one of the major political challenges. In your opinion, what should the EU and its member-states do to diminish negative perception towards Eastern European in media and the public opinion?
It is not easy to fight with xenophobia and fears of the ‘other’ which are rather natural biological instincts of human kind. But if the same fears are felt at the higher political level, it is obvious that public perception on migration is rather negative. To sum up, EU elites should start from themselves and try to shape, at least, a more accommodating image.