E.g., 09/23/2023
E.g., 09/23/2023
How Free Is Free Movement? Dynamics and Drivers of Mobility within the European Union

While free movement is at the heart of the European project, the merits and impacts of intra-EU mobility have come under significant scrutiny recently amid public anxiety about competition for jobs and exploitation of welfare systems. This MPI Europe report provides a detailed assessment of free movement, motivations for migration, and challenges countries may need to address as intra-EU mobility enters its next phase.

Although much academic research and public rhetoric has focused on the large-scale movements from east to west, the report finds that these movements represent only a small share of a longer-term phenomenon that continues to evolve. The report distinguishes three main eras of free movement in the EU: pre-enlargement; post-2004 enlargement; and the migration arising in the aftermath of the economic crisis. While noting that most EU citizens continue to mention work as a primary motivator for moving, the report finds that a significant share of EU citizens move for other reasons that include family, education, and even retirement.

Although the economic impact of migration within the European Union has been largely positive, the report highlights a handful of circumstances in which EU mobility has had perverse consequences. Among these, are the economic impacts on low-skilled workers, public services, and local communities.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Trends in Intra-EU Mobility

III. Reasons for Migration

IV. Impact

V. Summary and Conclusions