Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Visa restrictions: US vs. EU

There is considerable disquiet in many EU Member States - notably the ten post-2004 Member States minus Slovenia, but plus Greece - that their citizens cannot travel on the visa waiver programme to the US (applicable to short tourist or business visits), but US citizens can travel visa-free to all twenty-five EU Member States. Speaking in the market square in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, last year, George Bush promised progress in this area. However, since it seems likely that concessions might only be forthcoming for Poland, and these are related to Poland's continuing commitment of a certain number of military personnel to the occupation effort in Iraq, it would appear that progress is based on something other than a generalised commitment towards liberalising the movement of persons across the allegedly 'free' world. Now, it is mooted that the EU could engage in 'sanctions' against the EU, exercising muscle on a collective basis. The opportunity to raise this point is the US-EU summit this week. See here, here and here. Relatedly, it has been suggested that similar steps could be taken against Canada to bring about an equalisation of treatment of citizens of Canada in the EU Member States, and citizens of the EU Member States in Canada.

Now quite apart from the effectiveness of such 'sanctions', which apparently might only extend to US diplomatic personnel, who are already subject to visa requirements in a number of Member States including France and which would definitely not include the UK and Ireland, unless they unilaterally opted in, as this is a Schengen matter on which they have an opt-out, it is none the less interesting to see the EU trying, tentitatively, to exercise muscle in relation to the external dimension (i.e. visa relations with a third state) of one of its fastest developing but still very contentious internal policies (justice and home affairs, and specifically here visa policy).

I doubt if it will have any effect this time round, but it is perhaps a sign of things to come in the future.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Polish Migration to Scotland

Polish migration to Scotland is very, very obvious if you go out on the streets. Or on the buses. Or in the parks. Or you seek to have any form of handiwork done around the house. Here's a quick update on the figures, but the beginnings of a comment about the human effects:

But the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Scotland said on Monday (12 June) that an increasing numbers of the migrant workers are complaining of low pay, long hours and substandard accommodation.

"Bureaux across Scotland are hearing reports of exploitative employers and employment agencies paying below the national minimum wage and making illegal deductions," said a statement by the CAB.

The bureau also said that workers are living in overcrowded caravans, being expected to sleep two to a bed or on the floor, and facing excessive charges for accommodation and utility costs.

"Workers have told bureaux of being given false expectations or wrong information about their employment prospects while still in their countries of origin," said chief executive Citizens Advice Scotland, Kaliani Lyle

"Once in the UK, however, their options for complaining are few, as losing their job means having to return to their own country unless further work becomes available," she added.

A map of Europe

Found via Sam. A joy for an EU law and politics blog which needs pepping up. A map of where I've been. There are a few obvious gaps, but at least it means that I have seen a decent cross section of the continent over my four decades plus.

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or check out our Barcelona travel guide