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Smart Immigration for Europe

The immigration issue has long been a thorn in the EU’s side, not least because of the fear-mongering and emotional manipulation that have impeded constructive debate. But a new social contract for economic migrants – which protects their rights, while restricting their social privileges – could finally remove the thorn.

PARIS – Immigration-related headlines have become a staple in Europe, whether the story is of an illegal Malian immigrant scaling a Paris building to rescue a toddler or the formation of a populist government in Italy that aims to deport a half-million migrants. And yet, despite the constant coverage of the issue – or, more likely, precisely because of it – the immigration policy debate remains beset by misconceptions and politicization.

In the United Kingdom, the Brexit vote was fueled partly by false and distorted claims, such as that unrestrained migration from the rest of Europe was driving down wages. Since the vote, however, the anti-Brexit camp has engaged in similar distortions, warning that, once it has left the European Union, the UK will face a skills shortage. But plenty of countries – such as Australia, Canada, and Singapore – do just fine without agreements guaranteeing freedom of movement from other countries, by issuing skills-matching visas.

Such distortions, by both pro- and anti- immigration forces across Europe, have consistently thwarted sober debate on the topic. Even when parties seem to be carrying out a reasonable cost-benefit analysis of immigration’s economic impact, they tend to cite only the studies and data that back their own viewpoint. This precludes agreement on creative and effective solutions.

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