Ed Miliband’s Croatia Immigration Policy
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Britain’s opposition Labour leader, Ed Miliband has signalled that in the event of a Labour government, immigration controls will be toughened against new EU members. Whilst Miliband is not directly quoted on Croatia, the newspaper makes it clear that the policy will immediately apply to Zagreb. Croatian citizens would be subject to immigration restrictions to the UK for seven years upon joining the EU.
Whilst some may interpret this is an anti-Croat move, in fact it is to do with domestic UK politics. Mass immigration is none too popular, and Miliband is responding to this. Many of course will find his comments a bit much; it was the Labour party in 1997 that instituted a mass immigration policy without consulting the electorate.
Many Central and East Europeans – notably from Poland – came to the UK to do the jobs that many British were unwilling or incapable of doing, although most immigration is in fact from non-EU countries. The seven-year restriction simply brings the UK in line with much of the EU. And the current coalition government will likely impose those restrictions themselves as we pointed out last year.
This won’t affect Croats too much; the UK is not their top destination. Indeed, Croats are one of the smallest nationalities in London. They are often simply students or professional people. Furthermore, the quality of life is not as high as in Croatia – a point made by many Croats and Britons familiar with both countries. It is ironic that not only does the UK not face any flood of Croats, but may in fact miss out on highly qualified people who may now not bother looking at London as a destination.
Croats, however, should learn from the British experience. Zagreb should not consider similar mass immigration policies in order to bring in cheap labour. In the UK, whilst this has ensured some businesses have good staff, there are social costs connected with welfare, housing, infrastructure, crime and so on. These costs are not borne by those who advocate such policies, such advocates are usually those who can easily afford to avoid the associated social problems.
If there are labour vacancies in Croatia due to skills shortages, then Zagreb should learn the lessons of the UK as Miliband now suggests he has. Zagreb should focus on ensuring that its unemployed citizens are properly trained – and paid – to do the work that needs doing.