Brussels hopes to control EU immigration
02 September 2005
For concise and recent immigration information watch our news.Immigrants to Britain and other EU member states will have to swear an oath of allegiance to EU laws and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, rather than the Queen, under a proposal announced by Brussels. The European Commission also announced measures to counter illegal immigration across Europe and others to promote integration of legal immigrants.
Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for justice and security, proposed an "oath of faithfulness" requiring all immigrants to the EU to swear allegiance to the union.
The charter is seen by its supporters as representing the basic values of the EU. It goes further than the old European Convention on Human Rights, offering, for example, the right to parental leave if you adopt a child, the right to continuous training, the right to social security benefits and the right to strike. It has no legal force because it was part of the European constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters.
The UK Government recently started requiring immigrants to swear allegiance to the Queen and British democracy. The oath of allegiance to the EU — which could be in addition to or in place of the oath to the Queen — would be subject to negotiation, but the UK Government cannot veto it because it gave up its national veto on EU immigration law last year. Britain does have an opt-out, but it would have to reject the entire package of immigration measures.
A government spokesman said: "Questions of citizenship should be organised by member states nationally." An EU diplomat said of the proposal: "It's loony."
Timothy Kirkhope, the leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, and former immigration minister, said: "I am amazed. You can laugh, but it worryingly shows the views of people who should know better. I swore an oath of allegiance to the Queen. I am not going to take kindly to an Italian gentleman telling me to swear allegiance to unelected people, or to swear allegiance to something I don't agree with — a unified European state."
Mike Nattrass, deputy leader of the UK Independence Party, said: "An allegiance to something with no single culture, no agreed history, no common language and packed with fraud and corruption? The EU must be joking."
Brussels regards building up a sense of European identity, including such measures as harmonising passports and funding pan-European political parties, as one of its most important tasks.
The European Commission has been greatly expanding its powers over immigration and asylum policy since the surrender of national vetos last year.The latest package is aimed at increasing the rate of deportation of illegal immigrants, while promoting their rights.
Last year 650,000 illegal immigrants were ordered to leave the EU, but only 212,000 did so. According to EU figures, Britain told 70,000 to leave, but only 18,000 went.
The proposal of "common standards on return" for illegal immigrants could hamper attempts by the Government to curb illegal immigration. It would ban governments from detaining people for more than six months before deportation.
The commission also proposed that illegal immigrants deported from one country would be automatically barred from entering any other in the union. At present some immigrants deported from one country can simply take up residence in a neighbouring state.