EU Constitution's new immigration law

17th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

17 February 2005, BRUSSELS-The EU Constitution being put to a referendum in Spain this weekend seeks to establish a Europe-wide policy for handling immigrants.

17 February 2005

BRUSSELS-The EU Constitution being put to a referendum in Spain this weekend seeks to establish a Europe-wide policy for handling immigrants.

Commentators believe Spain needs a workforce to fill jobs because of  low birth rates and retirees who are making up an ever-bigger part of society.

In recent weeks, the Socialist government introduced a new programme for the mass "legalization" of hundreds of thousands of undocumented foreigners living in Spain.

In the new constitution, issues regarding asylum and undocumented immigrants will be decided by a majority vote of the member states rather than by unanimity, as is the case now.

But the change will not apply to legal immigration, which the member states consider an extremely sensitive question.

The document stipulates that the EU will develop a common immigration policy geared to ensuring effective management of migration flow and preventing illegal immigration and human trafficking.

Nevertheless, individual nations will retain the right to "decide the volume of admissions into its territory of third-country nationals seeking work."

The EU's 25 members know they will increasingly rely on an immigrant workforce to compensate for the rapid aging of Europe's population - due mostly to sharply declining birth rates for the past two decades.

The European Commission has warned that in most EU countries the long-term viability of public finances is by no means assured.

So new measures are needed to cope with the economic consequences of an ageing population, like the admission of foreign workers.

Nevertheless, legal immigration remains one of the thorniest issues in the "Justice, Freedom and Security" area of the Constitution, and when one nation adopts a relevant measures, dissident voices are soon heard.

The latest example is Spain's plan to legalize employed undocumented immigrants, one that has been criticized by Germany and the Netherlands, which believe that EU partners should always be consulted about such measures, because they affect the entire bloc.

Spain's legalization plan, described by many as an amnesty, is expected to provide residency and work papers this year to some 800,000 undocumented foreigners.

Since travel between European Union nations is unencumbered by passage through customs or immigration posts, an immigrant in one country can pass relatively easily into another of his or her choosing.

The new Constitution will codify the rights of immigrants and the steps that may be taken to battle both illegal entry, including repatriation and expulsion, and traffic in human beings, women and children in particular.

In cases where one or more states "face an emergency situation characterized by a sudden influx of third-country nationals," the EU may make "rules or decisions that introduce temporary measures to the benefit of the states involved," the Constitution says.

The treaty also establishes a common asylum policy through a "uniform statute" and a system of temporary protection of displaced persons in the case of a massive influx.

In the charter, the EU is charged with coming up with a policy regarding the management of "exterior" borders, ones bordering non-EU nations.

Much of the policy will be implemented by a unified border-control agency scheduled to start up on 1 May.

Its duties include coordinating the work of local land, air and sea border services and cooperating in the repatriation of immigrants who enter EU territory illegally from other nations.

The EU Constitution clearly says that all immigration, asylum and border-control policies "will be governed by the principle of solidarity and equitable distribution of responsibility among the member states, as well as of the financial aspect."

That sharing of the financial burden was one of the top demands of the countries most afflicted with problems linked to illegal immigration, including Spain and Italy, which are popular destinations for immigrants arriving clandestinely by boat, mostly from North Africa.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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