Melting Pot or Economic Meltdown

Worried about an invasion of migrant workers from the new member states of Central and Eastern Europe, the old EU members have erected high barriers in order to prevent the flow. Despite the open market rhetoric of the EU, for most citizens of the new member states free labor mobility will not be a reality for the next seven years at least.

This is a politically understandable but flawed policy. One of the key achievements of the European Union is mobility of goods and inputs. Without this, what kind of a union would the EU be? Otherwise, what, precisely, do the new countries get out of membership other than the nagging intrusions of the Brussels bureaucracy?

Given the high hopes that preceded ascension to the EU, and the stingy attitude of the Union to its new members, it should not surprise anyone if an anti-European reaction soon starts to brew in these countries. So the cure is as bad as the disease: discrimination against the new members creates political problems of its own for the Union.

The real question is whether there is a disease at all. Should Western Europe really be worried about an enormous flow of new immigrants? In fact, estimates of potential migration flows from East to West are relatively small. According to An agenda for a growing Europe , a report published by Oxford University Press in 2004 for the European Commission, 250,000 to 450,000 workers will go West during the first one to two years, followed by around 100,000 to 200,000 annually thereafter.