The European Union is founded on the principle of the “four freedoms": goods, people, services and capital over the borders of the member states. Recently, in the EU and worldwide, some events have threatened to infringe on these freedoms.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May wants to enact legislature banning EU citizens from living in the UK after she triggers Article 50, which would start Brexit. This policy illustrates Britain’s future course of isolationism. According to the Independent, a UK news outlet, May gave the green light for the legislature out of fear that “half of Bulgaria and Romania” would come to the UK. The credibility of the source is questionable. However, May’s rhetoric has been divisive towards the two countries in the past so the claim cannot be dismissed entirely. Such a way of talking emphasizes the way the current British government views the two Eastern European countries, primarily as a source of problems which hinders the prosperity of Britain.
Classifying people from Eastern European countries as low-qualified job stealers, in order to push a political agenda, is derisive and should not be condoned. Most immigrants go abroad for economic reasons because the country they were born in does not provide sufficient opportunities for their development. People mostly immigrate because of necessity. They should not be judged by privileged groups for seeking better opportunities. Although currently most Eastern Europeans go to the UK in order to work low-qualified and low-paid jobs, a lot of young Eastern Europeans attend universities in the United Kingdom. Data from the UK Council of International Student Affairs shows that for the academic year 2015-2016, 7200 Romanian and 6195 Bulgarian students studied at institutions of higher learning in Britain. The fact that these people were admitted to UK universities shows that their human capital was at least on par with that of their British peers. Even if the UK leaves the EU and a visa system is implemented, which would probably reduce the amount of immigrants entering the country, the UK’s problems would not be solved. Placing the blame of a failing system solely on immigration is not a plausible claim.
Another event of the week which illustrates the isolationist trend is the European Parliament’s decision to introduce visas for Americans who wish to travel to Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania. The vote was a response to the US still requiring people from these European countries to have visas in order to enter the States, whereas American citizens do not need special documents when going to Eastern Europe. The EU Parliament’s vote is an act of solidarity towards the Union’s member states who are disadvantaged because of the visa situation. This action of the European Union also sends a powerful message to both allied nations within the Union and to countries outside of it. The EU’s actions show that the EU has the interests of member states at hand and it would not cave into external pressures. On the one hand, the vote is also an act of closing borders and thus limiting the freedom of movement within the European Union.
Closing off borders feels like a step backwards both within the EU and internationally. A country should naturally seek to uphold its own interests first. However, hostility and inclusiveness should not be the means of achieving these goals, since such an approach can cause more problems than it can solve.