European political parties that support immigration reduction are gaining ground over concerns the European Union’s open-borders policies are costing jobs, USA Today reports. The voter backlash in one country, Switzerland, will force the government to implement reductions contrary to European Union (EU) policies.
On Feb. 9, Swiss voters backed an initiative to impose limits on immigration. Instead of specifying quota reductions, the measure gives the Swiss government three years to set new levels for workers from inside and outside the EU. The initiative violates the EU treaty agreement, which allows citizens of EU member states to work and get welfare benefits anywhere they want.
On March 30, France's National Front Party, a strong proponent of immigration reduction, won in 11 cities and towns, and National Front-leaning candidates gained control in three more. Socialist party losses were so bad that it prompted Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to resign. As he appointed a new prime minister, French President Francois Hollande said, "I have understood your message, it is clear. Not enough change and too much slowness. Not enough jobs and too much unemployment. I say it once again: we have to get our country back on the right track."
National Front leader Marine Le Pen has been responsible for honing her Party’s immigration message. During her 2012 presidential campaign Le Penne supported reducing France’s legal immigration limits from 200,000 people per year to 10,000. In a recent interview, she said, “We have five million unemployed people — why do we allow in more immigrants?”
After counting Party victories on election day, Le Pen spoke at a rally and discussed the voters’ high immigration concerns. Noting that government policy can change, she said, “We are free to welcome, or not welcome, those who want to come. Le Pen’s message appears to be resonating in other European countries.
European leaders say people are increasingly concerned about the European Union’s open borders policy. Some blame Brussels, the center of the EU, for forcing immigration and other unpopular policies on them. Immigration-reduction candidates are expected to do well in EU parliamentary elections in May.
MigrationWatch UK, which campaigns for lower immigration levels, published a study that suggests the economic crisis in southern Europe will continue to drive a huge influx to the United Kingdom. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch, said “The government are successfully bringing down immigration from outside the EU but we now face a situation where the numbers from inside the EU could form the majority of foreign migrants…It was crazy to have opened up our labour market and our benefit system to 100 million people from countries with a standard of living less than a quarter of our own. There must now be a determined renegotiation [with the EU].”
Some leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel are taking action to reduce the economic impact of EU immigration policies. Her government is searching for ways to reduce “benefit tourism" in cities experiencing an influx of unemployed east Europeans that are taking advantage of the country's health care, schools and welfare.
Business leaders in Western Europe argue that immigration concerns are unfounded. They have implored their governments to keep the doors open to skilled labor, in particular. Not doing so would hurt competitiveness, they claim. But the recent elections may be a harbinger of change in more European countries, if not in the EU itself.
Read more in USA Today.
Updated: Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 4:26pm EDT