Critical political economy and the free movement of people in the EU

Authored by: Owen Parker

The Routledge Handbook of Critical European Studies

Print publication date:  December  2020
Online publication date:  December  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138589919
eBook ISBN: 9780429491306
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers orthodox and critical political economy (CPE) approaches to the free movement of people in the EU. In a first step, it argues that an orthodox EU studies has, in accordance with a mainstream integration theory, tended to regard the free movement of people as part of the progressive cosmopolitan unfolding of the European project. The free movement of workers was, from this perspective, a foundational pillar of the European market-making endeavour, but just as economic integration begot political integration, so the mobility of the individual European ‘worker’ precipitated the emergence of a more substantive transnational or cosmopolitan ‘EU citizen’. While during the early years of integration workers moved and resided in other states largely at their own peril, they and other categories of person were increasingly granted rights (guaranteed in EU law, particularly via the principle of non-discrimination), including access to a social safety net. Since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty all ‘EU citizens', by virtue of their nationality of a member state, are granted rights when they move to a state other than their own. Such mobility has also facilitated societal interaction and social integration.

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