Why was freedom of movement one of the founding principles of the EU?
November 21, 2017 1:35 AM   Subscribe

Why was freedom of movement one of the founding principles of the European Union? I can find lots of articles that take this as a given, but none that talk about the motivations that led to it being regarded as a fundamental principle. Does anyone have any pointers to such an exegesis?

After the whole Brexit thing went nuts, I found myself asking where the idea that 'freedom of movement' was an inviolate founding principle actually came from. I knew it was part of the original European Coal + Steel Community treaties back in 1951, but I haven’t been able to find any explanation of why it was regarded as being foundational.

What was freedom of movement expected to achieve or prevent? How was it expected to achieve those aims? Who was responsible for making it part of the original treaties? Was it controversial at the time? These are the kind of questions I’d like to see explored.

Any pointers gratefully appreciated. If the answer is as simple as 'the goal was a single European State & states have internal freedom of movement' then that’s fine, but I’d like actual documentary evidence of that, not mere assertion. Thanks everyone!
posted by pharm to Law & Government (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The idea has changed since the 1950s and today it's linked to

- the principle of being an EU citizen as well as a citizen of your home country, and
- the effective dissolution of internal borders, recognising the principle that the EU is a larger entity in its own right

EU citizens have the right to move and reside freely within the EU border and both of these ideas sort of sit on top of national citizenship and borders. It's linked to the EU's evolution from a trading bloc towards a political entity.

But I'm no expert and This EU leaflet explains better than I can.
posted by dowcrag at 2:07 AM on November 21, 2017

I believe it started out as free movement of 'labour' before turning into a 'citizen's right'. Free movement of labour follows on from free movement of goods. The original idea was to bind countries together with trade (buying & selling goods), so tightly that war would be impossible. Hence the creation of the Single Market, an enormous free trade area.

However it follows that if you lower trade barriers e.g. between France & Germany, France might lose jobs due to being out-competed in one sector or another by Germany, where tariffs would normally protect local jobs. (The UK is about to rediscover tariffs the hard way.) The idea of free movement of labour is that if you lose your job in Spain you can go to Portual or Italy, and so things naturally 'even out' as the economy fluctuates regionally.

Long story short, if you have free trade but not free movement of labour, workers can get stuck in their country with no jobs, but they will still need healthcare, social services etc. while not paying income tax.
posted by ianso at 2:33 AM on November 21, 2017 [18 favorites]

Freedom of goods and services without freedom of movement can mean that a country may lose benefit of EU investment (goods now produced somewhere else because it’s cheaper), and its citizens are stuck there.

An hypothetical example: Due to the freedom of goods and services, all banks (Spanish, Italian, Chinese, German) choose to base their EU headquarters in London, due to their excellent infrastructure. As a result, London flourishes due to all the extra investment. Low unemployment, thriving economy.

However, due to the lack of freedom of movement, only Londoners are able to participate in this thriving London economy. Their wages rise, they can find jobs easily. Yay for Londoners!

But on the flip side, Spanish, Italian, German people find that their own national banks have created jobs in London, and taken it away from them. And the Spanish, Italian and Germany people cannot move to London to participate in this thriving economy due to the no freedom in movement.

Apply this example to any country, any economy, any industry.

You can see how freedom of goods and services without freedom of movement is not sustainable in the long run. In this example, there is no way that Germany or Italy or Spain voters will vote for a policy that creates jobs in London, and takes jobs away in their home country. There will be riots.
posted by moiraine at 3:24 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just to be re-iterate: I am not interested in any “quick take” personal justifications about why freedom of movement matters. Nor do I care about EU documents that talk about the "what" of freedom of movement but not the "why". I’ve found plenty of the former already!

References please! Because I’ve come up blank.
posted by pharm at 3:42 AM on November 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

This 2 part history of the European Commission can be downloaded for free and includes some information on freedom of movement in both parts. They are more heavy on the whats than the whys but also include extensive bibliographies that might point you towards further reading.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:46 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might also find some articulation of the underlying rationale in related ECJ decisions.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:50 AM on November 21, 2017

Because a viable single Internal Market could not exist without the free movement of people. There's a good overview here.
posted by pendrift at 4:21 AM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not a historian but totally get your actual question, I'd suspect it'd take getting to minutes of actual discussion at the EU archives or looking for autobiographies of second level politicians but it may be early for those to be written. But a lot of discussion may be in the "but obviously" throwaway lines. Perhaps searching through old Foreign Affairs.

A term to look for may be "schengen", not for that specific issue but the topic of border transit may be included around those discussions.
posted by sammyo at 7:30 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Historian of European integration here--the 1957 Treaty of Rome is generally seen as the document that establishes "freedom of movement," although only movement of labor, the right to move as a non-working person comes much later.

Italy had long used labor emigration as a strategy for economic development, and pushed for the clause from 1946 forward in hopes that it would be able to re-direct emigration to Europe rather than across the Atlantic. The other founding countries agreed to it in 1957 because the ongoing economic boom meant that it no longer seemed threatening--the idea that people could only move if they already had a job also allowed other countries to maintain some control over their national migration policies, since they could make decisions about work permits (i.e., no work permits for Italians unless a German can't fill the job). The guarantee to freedom of movement has evolved significantly since then, largely through liberal jurisprudence and through a re-orientation that saw European migration as less of a threat than extra-European migration, but that's where it comes from originally: Italy's desire to export labor power and the other five founding members' willingness to absorb Italian labor power on their own terms.

(Federico Romero is the key historian on this--I'm mostly referring to his article "Migration as an issue in European interdependence and integration," which I can't find online, alas.)

Ironically from the perspective of the present, when Britain first joined the EEC in 1973, there was a lot of anxiety among officials in Germany and elsewhere that unemployed Britons--particularly non-white Britons--would take advantage of "freedom of movement" to leave Britain and find jobs on the continent.
posted by besonders at 7:36 AM on November 21, 2017 [18 favorites]

That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m after besonders. I’ll see if I can extract a copy from the Bodleian :)
posted by pharm at 12:42 PM on November 21, 2017

There is additional interesting information in this article ("From International Migration to Freedom of Movement and Back? Southern Europeans Moving North in the Era of Retrenchment of Freedom of Movement Rights"), particularly in section 2.3 on the history of European freedom of movement. A key paragraph:

The freedom of movement of people was established at early stages of European integration. In its original definition in the Treaty of Rome (1957) it established under Article 3 ‘the abolition, as between the member states, of obstacles to freedom of movement of persons, services and capital’ and took more than 10 years until it was implemented in 1968 with the Regulation 1612/1968. The policy was the result of convergence of interests between the Italy and the North-Western European countries, notes Moravcsik (1998: 149): “Italy sought to export labour and the other [Northern European], especially Germany, sought to import it, so it was easy to agree in principle on freedom of movement”. Italy in particular argues Romero (1993: 52), was keen in signing off the policy because of the emerging European employment market provided with a solution to the chronic unemployment and poverty that led to Italians’ mass emigration the turn of twentieth century (see Chap. 5, this volume). Paradoxically, the promise of freedom of movement for people announced in the Treaty of Rome that implied it would apply to all nationals was materialised into a labour mobility for workers in 1968. Peo Hansen and Stefan Jonsson (2014: 227–30) show that the change of wording from freedom of movement for nationals to workers was determined in the negotiation leading to what we now know as the Treaty of Rome. France requested to integrate Algeria, who at the time was part pf Metropolitan France, to the European Community. In this case, Italy was amongst the opponents. Algeria’s integration to the common market would have meant that its agriculture and especially Algerian workers who had French citizenship would now have competed with the Italian products and Italian workers. Algeria became an independent state before the implementation of freedom of movement but the early negotiations surrounding the Algerian case helped the member states understand that by replacing nationality with workers, they gained some leeway in deciding who qualifies for the worker status and under which conditions could they enjoy free mobility.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:23 PM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

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