Carlo De Benedetti: Migration pressures can best be solved by Europe

From a speech by the Italian industrialist to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London

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I deeply believe that immigration is set to be one of the most - if not the most - controversial topics of the 21st century. My view is that closing the door to the citizens of the 10 new member countries is economically wrong.

I deeply believe that immigration is set to be one of the most - if not the most - controversial topics of the 21st century. My view is that closing the door to the citizens of the 10 new member countries is economically wrong.

From the allocative standpoint, the new restrictions will alter the geographical orientation of migration, preventing migrants from the new member countries going to the countries where they can be most productive. But the growth problem is mainly a southern and continental European problem, and fortunately less of a British problem.

Let's consider the effects of restricting immigrants' access to welfare services. My view is that the solution to this European problem should be a European solution. What we need is to reform EU's redistributive policies so as to help curb migration pressures and discourage "welfare shopping" by citizens of the poorest nations.

Even so, there is a risk that governments may be induced by public opinion to adopt policies reducing social protection offered to workers moving within the EU. This would be a bad outcome for Europe, a continent whose citizens are much less keen to change residence than in the United States. Indeed, Europe needs a more mobile workforce to correct its large labour market imbalances.

As often seems to be the case, the European Union does too much in the wrong fields, and too little in the right fields. Immigration seems obviously to be a case where too little is done at the European level.

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