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13 Feb, 2014

FREE Download: Report shows social-economic gains from free movement of EU citizens


Brussels, 11 February 2014, European Commission Press release – EU citizens go to other EU countries mainly for job opportunities and are on average younger and more likely to be working. This is confirmed by a new, independent study on the impact of the right to move freely within the EU which was published today.

The study focuses on six European cities, chosen for the multinational composition of their population (see Annex 1-2): Barcelona, Dublin, Hamburg, Lille, Prague and Turin. It shows that for all six cities the inflow of younger, working age EU citizens has had a positive economic impact. For example in Turin, a local evaluation shows that tax revenues from foreigners on the whole brought a net benefit of 1.5 billion € to national public finances.

The study also shows that newcomers have helped fill gaps in local labour markets, contributed to growth in new sectors and have helped balance out ageing populations. It finds that mobile citizens are often overqualified for the jobs they take up, may be paid less and at the same time do not always benefit from the same access to housing and education.

“Free movement is a benefit for Europe, its citizens and its economies. There can indeed be challenges in some cities which need to be addressed. It would, however, be the wrong response to question the right to free movement. I believe we need to work together – at European, national and local level – to turn challenges into opportunities. These examples from the cities of Barcelona, Dublin, Hamburg, Lille, Prague and Turin show that it can be done,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship when speaking at a mayors’ conference on free movement taking place today (IP/14/98).

“You can count on the Commission to continue assisting Member States in confronting any challenges linked to free movement. Today’s meeting with mayors will help local authorities from around Europe draw on the best examples of successful policies of integrating EU citizens into cities, to everyone’s benefit. I look forward to seeing such good practices being rolled out Europe-wide.”

The main findings of the study are:

  • EU citizens move mainly because of job opportunities and are, on average, younger and more economically active than the local population in the cities examined;
  • The inflow of younger, working age EU citizens in the selected cities is helping to address the demographic challenges of an ageing population and a shrinking labour force;
  • They are also helping to fill gaps in the labour market, either taking up mainly low-skilled jobs (Turin and Hamburg), contributing to growth of new sectors (such as ICT in Dublin), or helping create new business ventures (as in Turin and Hamburg).

The study also outlines the following challenges:

  • Mobile citizens are more likely to be overqualified than nationals (taking up jobs below their qualification) which could imply a wasting of skills, mitigating the potential benefits of intra-EU mobility;
  • Wage differentials emerged in some cases between nationals and mobile EU citizens (who most often earn less), although evidence is quite limited;
  • Mobile citizens do not always benefit from the same opportunities in terms of housing and inclusion of children in schools, although they work and pay taxes.

The success of the integration programmes in place in the six cities is evidenced by the fact that attitudes towards mobility are gradually improving. All the cities examined are promoting an inclusive environment and a welcoming culture, through policies such as accessible information (one-stop shop information services for example); support for language learning; and intercultural dialogue and interaction among citizens.

Finally, the study identifies a series of best practices from the cities examined.


The study was presented at a meeting today with more than 100 mayors and representatives of local authorities from around Europe who met to discuss current challenges and opportunities to do with the free movement of EU citizens in the European Union. The Conference of mayors is designed to help local authorities share best practices in implementing free movement rules and tackling social inclusion challenges. The meeting is one of five actions presented by the Commission to strengthen the right to free movement in the EU, while helping Member States to reap the positive benefits it brings (IP/13/1151).

The study analyses policies aimed at economic and social inclusion of EU mobile citizens, and at promoting a welcome culture and a positive attitude towards foreign nationals. It considered policies in the field of employment, entrepreneurship, housing, education, inter-cultural dialogue, attitudes towards migration and participation in city life.

For more information

Study: Evaluation of the impact of the free movement of EU citizens at local level: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/files/dg_just_eva_free_mov_final_report_27.01.14.pdf

Annex to the Study: Good practices from six cities: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/files/best_practices.pdf

Frequently Asked questions – Free Movement explained: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-9_en.htm

European Commission – Free movement website: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/move-live/index_en.htm