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Editor’s blog: Belgium’s shameful expulsion of EU citizens, and the European Commission’s timid response

Belgium – host to two of the three main European Union institutions – threw out close to 3,000 EU citizens last year, writes Justin Stares

Yes, that’s EU citizens: not illegal immigrants from Asia and north Africa.

Amid all the talk of the need for European solidarity, for a European army, for a debt pooling, the Belgian federal government is blatantly violating the principle of free movement of workers.

Slackers and spongers are not supposed to benefit from free movement, those familiar with the EU Treaty will no doubt point out. Indeed, the EU guarantees free movement of workers, not people; those seeking state support are not allowed to relocate in search of a more generous benefits system. If you exercise your right to free movement you must not be an “unreasonable burden” to your new home state, at least not until you’ve worked for a while.

But many of those ordered to leave the country by the Belgian authorities were not only EU citizens, they were in employment.

“Last year 2 712 EU nationals in Belgium were ordered to leave the country. Those concerned included salaried workers employed full-time in subsidised posts under the job placement scheme,” wrote Isabelle Durant, a Belgian Euro MP, in a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. “Nearly half the people in posts of this kind then go on to find long-term jobs on the labour market,” she continued. “However despite that, the Office des étrangers issued orders through local municipalities for people in these posts to leave the country”.  By extension, she pointed out, all those who hold jobs in both the private and public sector that benefit from lower employers’ contributions or tax incentives – a large proportion – could be deemed to be an unreasonable burden.

Federalists – fear not! László Andor, the Commission’s very low profile head of employment, social affairs and inclusion, is on the case! He has been publicly slamming Belgium’s unacceptable expulsions and insisting they stop immediately!

Sadly, he has done none of the above. Rather, he has written to the Belgian authorities asking them to “clarify the matter”. If necessary, he hinted in his newly published reply, he will recommend the Commission kick off a “infringement procedure” against Belgium. That no doubt has prime minister Elio di Rupo quaking in his boots! An infringement procedure – another piece of paper in the large pile on some poor official’s desk in Brussels.

Belgium’s shameful expulsion regime – under a Socialist-led coalition – and the Commission’s timid response, is a good example of what ails Europe. While politicians will stay up all night to save the Euro and the banking system, they won’t lift a finger to help common people facing daily abuse of their fundamental rights.

Those losing faith in the EU have ever reason to point their collective finger at the self-serving, myopic Brussels elite.

 

Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinStares

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