European migration statistics: Britons move to Spain, Romanians not to the UK

Bildschirmfoto 2014-02-10 um 17.01.27Only a comparatively small number of Romanians lived in the UK in 2011 when the Office of National Statistics last conducted a nation-wide migration census.

Find the interactive graphic here.

According to data from ten national statistics offices, only 80,000 had emigrated to the United Kingdom, compared to more than two million Romanians living in other EU member states.

Lifting all work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians on 1 January 2014 has caused fears that citizens of these countries might move to the UK to claim benefits, with David Cameron calling for limits to the freedom of movement.

Britons themselves make widespread use of their right to live and work in EU countries: Spain’s Costa del Sol and the Balearics attract the biggest number of UK expatriates (400,000), followed by 150,000 living in France and 100,000 in Germany.

In the UK: Germans and French outnumbered by Poles

On the other hand, roughly the same number of German and French citizens leave their home countries to settle in the United Kingdom in company of more than 100,000 Italians and Portuguese.

However, those four nations’ emigrants combined are outnumbered by more than half a million Poles living in the UK.

The most recent ONS figures also show that in 2011, three years before the freedom of movement was extended, just below 50,000 Bulgarians and 80,000 Romanians were granted permission from the government to legally live in the UK.

A far greater number of citizens from these two countries moved to other European countries, with around one million Romanians choosing Italy and more than 800,000 emigrating to Spain.

Bulgarians’ most popular destinations were Spain, Germany and Greece – countries that had lifted restrictions on the freedom of movement, which has come under critic from David Cameron, earlier than the UK.

Possibility of EU referendums arises in German coalition talks

Referendums reduce policies to "Yes or No" (CC Nils via Flickr)

Referendums reduce policies to “Yes or No”
(CC Nils via Flickr)

Negotiators in the German coalition talks have suggested to give German citizens the possibility to vote on major EU issues in referendums, a move aimed at restoring trust in the EU’s democratic legitimacy.

According to media reports, referendums could be hold when new countries join the EU, when Germany bails out other member states or powers are transferred from Berlin to the European Union.

Similar referendums exist in other EU member states, with Britons voting on transferring powers to the European authorities.

In contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy abolished the necessity of French citizens voting on new countries joining the EU.

Members from both negotiating parties seem to support the suggestion: Conservative interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) and Thomas Oppermann from the Social Democrats (SPD) put forward a paper saying Germans “should be asked directly on European policy decisions of special importance”, the Financial Times reported.

But outside the coalition talks many members of chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU oppose referendums on EU issues. “The proposal won’t see the light of day. We would be reducing ourselves to the level of British policymakers”, MEP Elmar Brok from the CDU told Reuters.

Are EU referendums the way to go?

Many Europeans feel disconnected from the European institutions and complain about a lack of democracy.

Direct democracy would certainly give citizens of EU member states a say about key issues such as new countries joining the European Union or powers being transferred.

However, it cannot replace the mechanism of finding compromises in political institutions in my opinion. I doubt that complicated policies can often not be reduced to a simple “Yes or No” question, but referendums require such questions.

The perceived lack of democratic legitimacy has to be on the agenda of EU institutions, but referendums in single member states should not be the way to solve a European issue. Instead, the discussions should move towards making the existing EU authorities and mechanism more democratic.

Same toilet flush across Europe – “money down the pan”?

Not even toilets are safe from EU standards

Not even toilets are safe from EU standards

A limit of five litres for a toilet flush will be introduced for the European Union’s Ecolabel next week. Half-flushes will be limited to three litres and urinals to one litre, according to a draft for the bog standard.

Toilets in EU member states must meet the criteria in order to be awarded the Ecolabel. The European Commission gives the label to a range of environmentally friendly products.

The Commission said that the label was no standardisation for toilet flushes, as it would not force anyone to limit the water used on the loo.

“Ecolabels are NOT compulsory. This is not a Regulation, nobody will be asked or forced to install new toilets. The eco-label is entirely voluntary”, Joe Hennon, European Commission Spokesperson for Environment said.

A 63-page EU report (PDF version) suggests that the new limits could help to save up to 50% of the water depending on the type of toilet.

“Ecolabel criteria are beneficial both for the environment and our wallets. Ecolabel toilets will bring about water efficiency, lower water pollution and eutrophication, as well as cost savings to businesses and consumers in the form of lower water bills”, Hennon said.

UKIP politician: "

UKIP politician: Bog report is “money down the pan”

Euro-sceptics criticised the report on Europe’s toilets, which reportedly cost €84.000 (£72,000). Paul Nuttall from UK Independence Party (UKIP), called the study a ‘preposterous waster of money’.

‘Surely what goes on behind the bathroom door should be left to the people who are behind it. It is money down the pan’, he told the Daily Mail.

According to the EU report, people in the UK (1,125 million cubic metres of water in home toilets in 2010), Italy (1,074 cubic metres) and Germany (1,021 cubic metres) use the most water for flushing the toilet.

The „euro-flush“ controversy comes one week after European Commission President José Manuel Barroso promised to cut back on red tape and to avoid excessive EU bureaucracy.

Student video journalist competition about UK and the EU

Young journalists can take part in the EP's competition

Young journalists can take part in the EP’s competition

The European Parliament hosts a video competition for students on broadcast journalism courses in the UK. On the occasion of the UK’s 40th anniversary in the European Union the students are asked to take a look at how the European Union has influenced the Britons’ lives.

On its website, the organisers of the competition suggest a list of possible topics: “Examine attitudes to the EU among the general public; look at how the UK’s commitment to the EU has changed the way in which our democracy works, or highlight how a particular part of the country has benefited from the EU’s structural, cohesion, and social funds.”

A look at topics like those could be quite boring in countries that have greatly profited from the European Union and are overwhelmingly in favour of it.

But Britain is different: It keeps a distance towards the continental countries. David Cameron achieved special regulations on several occasions in the past and promised a referendum about EU membership if he wins a majority at the next general election.

It could be interesting to see what young journalists think about the UK’s current situation. But what is in for the students? Unfortunately, they cannot win any money. However, the winner’s work will be show cased at Europe House in London and the winner (or winning team) will get an expenses paid trip to the European Parliament.

The finalists’ video will also be broadcast on local TV stations across the UK, which might be a chance for the students to make some valuable contacts in the media industry.

Got interested? Students have time till the end of January 2014 to submit their short videos (3-5 minutes). The judges for the competition are three experienced journalists: Anna Averkiou, Tim Crook and Michael Green.

‘Ever closer union’? – No, says Mario Draghi

The European Union is not on the way to become a federal ‘super state’, says the Director of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi.

Draghi claimed that the phrase ‘ever closer union’ did not adequately capture the development of the EU, the Telegraph reported on its website.

The term ‘ever closer union’ is used by Euro-sceptics who fear that measures proposed by Brussels may lead to a loss of national sovereignty. The British Conservative Party, for instance, renegotiated several EU decisions it considered as reducing its national scope of decision-making.

Moreover, the Conservatives have announced to hold a referendum on the UK’s further EU membership in 2017 if they win the general election 2015.

It seems unlikely that Draghi’s speech at the Harvard Kennedy School will convince Euro-sceptics that measures like banking union do not lead to less national sovereignty.

With regard to this, Draghi said that it would make the monetary union “more robust” if the European Commission had the right to inspect national budgets.

“These changes do to some extent represent a transfer of power to the European level. But as with banking union, I do not view it as a loss of sovereignty”, Draghi admitted.

The Director of the European Central Bank might not consider this as an ‘ever closer union’. Euro-sceptics all over Europe, however, do.