| Migration processes towards Europe comprise a wide range of trends going beyond the migration of refugees from the Near East which has been dominating the EU public debate. In this context, Poland is an interesting case in point. In 2016, the country issued 17.5% of all first residence permits issued in the EC – mainly to Ukrainian nationals, 83% of whom have entered the country for work. Thus, Poland is second following the UK in number of newcomer third-country nationals. This was the topic discussed at the Polish-Bulgarian debate on the Migration Processes within and towards Europe and Their Political Consequences for the Old Continent in the Context of the Eastern Neighbourhood Policy co-organised by the Polish Cultural Institute in Sofia and the Center for the Study of Democracy on 28 November 2017 at the House of Europe in Sofia.|
In his opening remarks, the Polish Ambassador Mr. Krzysztof Krajewski underlined the importance of migration for the EU and pointed out the challenges Poland faces having received over 1 million Ukrainian nationals. Albeit livening up the country’s labour market, the latter are also locally believed to provoke social dumping.
The first session of the debate was devoted to the effects of economic migration. The moderator Dr. Mila Mancheva, Director of CSD’s Sociological Program, presented the latest Eurostat data in this respect. She summarised the two main opposing views concerning these effects: that economic migration livens up the local economy and markets, and that alien workers take away the jobs of local ones, which leads to higher unemployment. Dr. Mancheva gave the floor to Polish experts to elaborate on the economic effects of the new wave of labour migrants in Poland, which has greatly intensified since 2014. Ms. Anna Pilat, analyst at the Polish Institute of Public Affairs, emphasised the lack of reliable statistics on the numbers and profile of new labour migrants against a fairly uncomplicated system for granting work permits and the 1 million plus applications to hire Ukrainian nationals submitted by Polish employers. Ms. Pilat commented that the inflow of labour migrants from Ukraine is due to Poland’s fast economic growth and high labour demand and underscored the need to develop a specific program for social integration of this sizeable migrant group.
The second session was dedicated to the political dimension of migration processes within and toward Europe. The moderator Ms. Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow at CSD’s Law Program, reviewed the push and pull factors for the free movement of youth in the EU. She asked the Polish experts how much of the political debate in Poland is devoted to migrants and how institutions and the civil sector are opening up to them. Dr. Jolanta Szymańska, European issues analyst at the Polish Institute of Public Affairs, discussed the Union dimension of internal EU migration, the growing protectionist trends and the pull to limit freedom of movement based on presumptions of social dumping. The latter is particularly manifest in the recent reform concerning the status of commissioned workers. Dr. Szymańska stated that in her opinion social dumping is more a political than an economic issue which creates a divide between old and new EU Member States, rather between employers and employees. Dr. Mateusz Gniazdowski, Deputy Director of the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW), stressed the key role of applying a complex approach to migrant inflows, as they consist neither solely of refugees and asylum seekers, nor of economic migrants. He explained that Poland has managed to adopt a pragmatic migration policy in the face of the growing migrant inflow due to which Polish citizens are not generally concerned about their work places despite certain surfacing nationalist and chauvinist tendencies. Dr. Gniazdowski and Dr. Szymańska went on to describe the pending shift in the Polish work permit system intended to structure Ukrainian nationals’ participation on the labour market and to develop a comprehensive institutional response after its further liberalization. They noted that economic migrants in Poland are hired in one of three ways: through job agencies, by international corporations employing numerous third-country nationals, and under trade union agreements.
A number of Bulgarian historian, ethnologists and political scientists took part in the discussion following the presentations. It raised issues such as the treatment of skilled and unskilled migrants, Poland’s policy towards the refugee crisis and the historical dimensions of migration from Ukraine to Poland.