Why I, and thousands like me, can't make up the European Year of Workers Mobility Citizen's Panel

 by Martin Belam, 17 October 2006

A little while ago I wrote about the European Workers' Mobility questionnaire and hotline from ECAS, dealing with the question of how easy it was to move between EU members states for work. Having done work in 3 members states so far this year I was interested in taking part.

Last week I got a follow up email, asking me whether I might be willing to participate in the European Year of Workers Mobility Citizen's Panel.

It is a "centre-piece" of the ECAS project, and promises to take the form of:

a direct meeting and discussion between the MEPs, the EU Institutions’ officials, Social Partners, NGO representatives, journalists and the citizens who themselves have lived the experience of moving in the enlarged European Union while working aboard.

The briefing notes supplied to me go on to say:

Thanks to this panel, the EU officials will have an opportunity to hear the first-hand and real-life experiences of migrating workers – their testimonies and opinions, which often get lost when the message is filtered by interest groups or academic researchers. This is a unique opportunity for policy-makers to see in detail how their decisions can affect the "average man on the street".

At the same time the Panel is about giving individual citizens the chance to speak directly to policy-makers about their experiences of free movement. This is an example of the way the general feeling of citizens’ isolation from the decision-making process in Brussels can be tackled.

The event takes place in Brussels, and they are offering to pay expenses plus €250, and to give some sort of entertainment programme around the city.

Which all sounds fantastic except for one thing - the event is taking place on a Tuesday and Wednesday, which, when I last checked, are both working days throughout the EU.

They are claiming there will be a mix of job seekers and highly and lowly "skilled" workers, but which lowly paid immigrant worker will be able to afford four days off work (with travelling) to take part? And which highly paid worker will be happy to take four days off for €250 plus expenses?

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