EU-Russia migratory trends


Speaking of migrants’ crisis, it is to be considered the Middle Eastern refugees and migrants that are transiting through the Balkans, Central Europe, and then to the Western Europe. However, the neglected group of labour migrants is huge. This analysis presents report of the OECD on the EU-Russia migration trends and models.

The OECD`s report “The Future of International Migration to OECD Countries Regional Note Russia and South East Europe” claims that Russia, the largest country on earth, is by far the most important state to the East of the EU, politically, strategically, and economically.

Thus, it has to be discussed here first and foremost. Russia lost millions of people; many of them qualified academics, to Western countries. Germany, Israel, Greece, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Korea and the United States invited special migrant categories, selected upon ethnicity or qualification. These waves of migration have now largely come to a halt. Parallel to these substantial out-migrations, Russia became an immigration magnet. A distinct Russia-centered migration system came into being during and after the dissolution of the Soviet empire.

Russia’s drastic loss of 800,000 people per year by falling birth rates and rising death rates and the out-migration to the West was compensated by large-scale immigrations of ethnic Russians and other ethnic groups from the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and from Transcaucasia, Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltic states. Although Russia’s population figures were stable on balance, the country went through a far-reaching exchange of populations. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, this process has come to a standstill, since its sources are largely exhausted.

Most of the ethnic Russian population from Central Asia and Transcaucasia have moved to the Russian Federation. The Russians in Ukraine are not likely to move to Russia for good, even if many commutes for work. Moslems from Central Asia and from the Caucasus, often labelled “blacks” in Russia, are not welcomed by large parts of the population, and non-Russian migrants work and live in rather precarious situations in many Russian cities and towns.

On the other hand, the Jewish and German emigration to Israel and Germany has largely petered out. The net result is that Russia’s population is dramatically shrinking since the beginning of the century, by about 800.000 a year. Forecasts predict that around the year 2043 Russia will no longer be the most populous country in Europe, despite its immense territory, and Turkey will have more inhabitants (figure 1). Neither the Russian nor the Western public has yet consummated this revolutionary change. It is traced back four hundred years to the glorious times of the Ottoman Empire to find a comparable balance of population between the two countries.

With respect to a human-rights immigration regime, EU countries (with some deficiencies) today are a positive exception in a world of exploitation, commodification of human beings, human rights abuse and the construction of walls and fences. In spite of all difficulties, deficiencies, and pockets of unlawful treatment, the EU countries basically uphold the principle of equal treatment of immigrants and indigenous people in the economy and in the welfare systems, and the possibility to naturalize and become full and equal citizens. The construction of the EU as an open space combining 27 nations of different character, tradition, political style, and affluence is a singular achievement.

All the nationals of the member countries enjoy equality and equal rights, and they are protected by a powerful European Court which also deals with third country nationals, particularly under the association agreements. Without civil society, however, the courts would not help. Public opinion has again and again spoken out against misuse and ill-treatment. Even if the immigration regimes differ widely in the EU, between the orderly planned Scandinavian welfare state (Hammar 2003) and the informal mechanisms in the Mediterranean countries (Sciortino 2004), time and again corrected by amnesties, a rather high level of inclusion and rights are assured.

Exploitation and misuse are scandalized, nationally and EU-wide. If the European Union wants a stable migration regime in Russia, too, it must work on creating conditions of openness, rights, and an atmosphere of decency and equality there too. The judicial basis largely exists, as Russia is a member of the Council of Europe and has signed most of the European human rights conventions. Russia is prone to sanctions of the European Court of Human Rights as well as other European countries. What is missing, and needs to be developed, is the strengthening of the rule of law and an atmosphere of decency and equality for migrants and foreigners as well as citizens. The opening of the borders and the reality of a greater open European space is the easiest and best precondition to achieve that, without endangering Russian statehood.

After the chaotic Yelzin years, and the reconstruction of a dominant state in Russia, there seems to be a longing for the rule of law and consolidation, as long as stability is preserved (Remington 2008, 215). Moreover, the legitimate Russian need and interest for a more orderly immigration administration, registration and integration policy can be coordinated with the needs and wishes of the EU.

Related Articles

Back to Top