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By Philippe Legrain 3 COMMENTS

Ian Buruma writes in today’s FT about the elusive quest for a European soul. He remarks:

The most inspiring thing about the EU is the mobility of its
citizens, the way Europeans can live and work anywhere they want in
Europe. Let there be more Polish builders in Paris, British designers
in Berlin, French entrepreneurs in London.

One of the great
ironies of the past few decades is the way that London, the capital of
a nation that rejected so many European dreams, has become the great
European metropolis. People are coming from all over Europe because
London offers them freedom to pursue their dreams. These are frequently
materialistic and sometimes even base, but altogether they make up
something that, for want of a better word, might be called a European
soul.

Quite right too. It’s a pity that most European leaders see this new mobility as a threat rather than the fantastic opportunity that it is.

Posted 02 Apr 2007 in Blog
  1. RichB says:

    Is the fact that 1/2 of all children in inner London live in poverty an indication of where the European soul is headed?

  2. Niels Andeweg says:

    @RichB: Poverty is never a good thing. Poor children in London are a reality, but how poor exactly are they since they grow up in one of the richest cities in the world? Are they as poor as children who grow up in Bucharest, Tirana or Kiev? Or as poor as kids who live in cities in Africa? Not to mention children who grow up in agricultural communities in poor countries around the world. Not being as rich as kids from affluent families does not make them poor, they are less affluent. Being less affluent in London is still a lot better than being outright poor in the cities and countries I mentioned. Why do you think migration exists in the first place?

  3. Jose says:

    European mobility
    Although on paper it should be easy for a person holding an EU passport to move across Europe, in practice this remains a very difficult thing to do. I have lived in the US and in France, Spain and the UK.
    Continental European countries remain very closed societies, grudgingly accepting migrants only as long as they choose ‘to wait tables and shine shoes’. The most open societies towards immigrants are definitely the UK and the US.
    That issue aside, there remain a myriad of logistical barriers, that raise the cost of moving within the EU (which don’t exist within the US for example). For example I have lived in France for three years as an expatriate and do not have access to credit in France. Why? You need a ‘Document National d’Identité’, but if you are an EU citizen this is no longer necessary you just get your passport stamped with a ‘carte de séjour’ in short a typical catch 22. In the US as a non-resident student I had credit within 6 weeks of arrival. A pan-European banking system or at least credit scoring database would be a good solution to this problem.
    I find that mobility within the EU is possible/profitable for three types of people only:
    1. Freelancers / Independent entrepeneurs
    2. Unskilled labour
    3. People on expatriation assignments
    If you are a blue or white collar worker (i.e. nurse, doctor, engineer) you will find that moving to a different EU country to work is completely different from moving within your own country to look for work, in practice if the EU project worked as it is supposed to, there should be no difference.

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