Speaking out for the rights of European Expatriates
TOWARDS A COORDINATION OF EUROPEAN EXPATRIATES POLICIES – SUPPORTING THE MOBILITY OF EUROPEAN CITIZENS
More than 60 million European citizens are living in a country other than their own. More than 15 million of them are living in one of the other 27 EU member states.
And mobility is expected to grow quite significantly in the foreseeable future. This is an inregrated part of how the world is developing. People living abroad can, and do, bring huge economic gains to both receiving and sending countries. Especially if well-tailored policies are put in place to tackle the challenges to free movement of people across borders. In recent years these challenges have become ever more serious. They are no longer mainly administrative obstacles. They have taken the form of aggressive political animosity to the very idea of free movement. This was demonstrated in the Brexit referendum in the UK in 2016 and by the considerable support to nationalistic and xenophobic political movements in several European countries. ETTW will do its utmost to engage expatriates in the fight against these tendencies.
It is still a major problem that European citizens are losing some of their most important democratic rights when they move to another country. Another problem is related to the accumulation of economic costs in certain geographical areas, notably preripheral regions and islands, because of brain-drain, brain-waste and loss of young people. Besides democratic and economic issues, access to the culture from back home, including native language training, is yet another major source of concern. Finally, access to social security and medical services for those on the move, especially if they have lived for a long time outside the EU and want to return, is a challenge too.
There is today no coherent diaspora policy to assist all these European citizens, which represent more than 12 % of the total population of the EU. Europeans deserve coherent policies that are addressing not only employment, but also other challenges of mobility.
Europeans Throughout the World (ETTW) is of the opinion that measures adressing the needs of European expatriates should be mainstreamed in legislation and programmes of the European Union and coordinated with member states, since evidently such policies would invole national as well as European competences.
Our objectives are:
- To ensure democratic rights for all European Union citizens wherever they live (voting for all levels of government and being candidates in all elections).
- To work towards mobile European citizens having the same rights as full time resident citizens of receiving countries, wherever they live in the European Union
- To improve assistance to European citizens everywhere (such as efficient consular assistance, easy access to news from Europe, schools including European Schools, native language training, mutual recognition of diplomas, equal business opportunities everywhere and the right to receive their pensions wherever they decide to live, etc.)
- To promote the European values enshrined in the EU treaties in the diaspora communities worldwide
- To promote successful integration in the countries of residence (through exchange of best practices and agreements with the countries concerned)
- To work for an efficient and well-functioning home-coming policy for those diasporas who return, possibly requiring each member state to create a ‘welcome back home office’ to assist returnees settle with much more ease (employment opportunities, placement of children and youth in schools, universities and institutes, portability of pensions, identity cards and driving licences etc.)
- Developing European academic institutions targeted at retention of talented people on the European continent.
- To have full political representation in their countries of origin by elected overseas MPs as is the case for example in Finland, Croatia, France, Italy & Portugal.
What means should be put in place to implement these objectives :
- A member of the next European Commission must have this area in the list of tasks, and responsible ministers from Member States’ governments should meet regularly on these issues.
- The European Parliament’s committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs should explicitly include this competence too.
- The European Economic and Social Committee should be invited to integrate this policy in its work plan.
- Regular “Expatriate Parliaments” with an advisory role should be promoted in all European countries – and also at European level. The French, Finnish, Swedish and Swiss Expatriate Parliaments could be a very good inspiration for these initiatives.
- ‘i-voting’ (voting via the internet) should be introduced in all EU member states
- Feasibility studies on the economic importance of expatriates should be carried out by the EU and the Council of Europe.
- The EU should seek to include clauses about the rights of European expatriates in future trade agreements with other countries from around the world on a basis of reciprocity.
- A Goodwill Ambassador Corps for Europe of European expats around the world could become useful tool to promote these goals in an informal and non-bureaucratic way.
- The coming EU-2030 Strategy should include aspects on how to benefit most from intra-European and extra-European mobility of people.
- Opportunities should be created for EU funding of measures targeted at promoting cultural diversity in the member states and access should be given for European diaspora NGOs to the EU projects.
- The European Commission should continue to address the concerns of European citizens living abroad in its reports on the European citizenship.
Raymond C. Xerri
President of ETTW