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Coffee House

Germany realises the limits of the EU project

7 March 2013

12:01 PM

7 March 2013

12:01 PM

Britain isn’t the only country whose politicians are getting just a little bit jittery about an increase in Bulgarian and Romanian migrants. In this week’s Spectator, Rod Liddle examines the German and Dutch response to the lifting of transitional controls.

We were enjoined by the Romanians to believe that our fears of being ‘flooded’ or ‘swamped’, or whatever emotive term you wish to use, were greatly overstated, and that the citizens of Romania would prefer to travel to places with which the home country had historic links. Such as, for example, Germany.

But that simply isn’t going to happen, is it? The Germans won’t let it happen. This week the new German minister of the interior, Hans-Peter Friedrich, said that his country would veto attempts by either Romania or Bulgaria to join the Schengen Agreement, which polices who can travel into and out of that large tranche of the EU which is signed up to the treaty. We are famously not part of Schengen. ‘Those who come only to receive welfare benefits and to abuse freedom of movement, they must be effectively prevented from doing so,’ Hans-Peter said upon taking office. This abuse of freedom of movement seems to be nothing more than the suspicion that they might indeed be tempted to, er, move — north and west, to where the money is, as soon as the invisible barriers come down ten months from now.

And so the Germans have once again decided that this isn’t on, and will stop the Romanians from flooding in, or swamping in, much as they stopped the Poles before. So, too, will the Dutch, who these days have lost a little of their lovable liberality when it comes to the subject of foreigners.

This sounds all too familiar, as though German and Dutch politicians were taking tips from Westminster parliamentarians. Rod spots a problem here with this sort of rhetoric:

I don’t blame the Germans and the Dutch for their hardline or post-liberal approach — but it does seem at odds with the philosophy of the European Union, doesn’t it? The EU is about free movement of labour within its boundaries and protectionist trade agreements designed to punish the developing world. All well and good, etc. There doesn’t seem to be much of a point in an EU which treats some of its members as sort of honorary sub-Saharan Africans and consequently deprives them of the benefits of freedom of movement which are enjoyed by the nice countries which are full of people who are properly white. If you wish Romania and Bulgaria to be members of the EU, then afford them precisely the same treatment you would mete out to, say, Denmark or Luxembourg. But there does not seem to be much of an appetite in Berlin or Amsterdam for this expansive and inclusive approach any more. There was once, but not now — not with the way things are.

And what happens to parties that do raise concerns about immigration? You can read Rod’s full column here. Click here to subscribe to the Spectator.

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