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Is the concept of the European Union seen as an act of privileging certain countries over other countries?

Usually, liberals or progressives in white-majority countries say that they're opposed to privileging white people over non-white people either directly or indirectly. However, most liberals are in favour of the European Union, which allows people from a set of predominantly-white countries easier access to the UK than other people.

A pro-leave voter described the EU as discriminatory in this article:

Non-EU citizens are discriminated against

I voted for a fair immigration policy. My wife is a non-EU citizen from Thailand and we are discriminated against. If I didn’t earn £20,000 or more – the required figure – the choice would be to claim benefits and then when it came to my wife’s visa renewal she would have to leave. Her visa costs almost £1,500 every every two-and-a-half years.

Cameron has only himself to blame. He thought he could bully the electorate, the same as in the Scotland referendum, but forgot that nobody is enthused or patriotic about the EU and millions hate him. I also don’t like to be told by governments and businesses how to vote, that’s why we have a secret vote. There’s a lot of anger against Cameron.

I think any xenophobia and racism is stirred up more by the remain side, not the leave side. I am very much in favour of a fair immigration policy. The Australian points system was a big deciding factor for me. I’m not sure if it would be any easier for my wife under the points system. Depends on the level, but I would hope as a British citizen I wouldn’t be discriminated against.

I’m very happy with the result, it should keep all of them occupied for years and less time to start picking fights around the world.

Andrew Riches , 54, Graphic design, Midlands

How do people who view themselves as progressive justify the privileging of certain countries, if at all?

  • 6
    Which one of them? Some of them sound pretty crazy (the one who seem to think that his non-EU wife will have it easier now, for example). Since UK was never part of the Schengen treaty, the Brexit really does nothing to him or her (there are questions about UK and Schengen already answered). – SJuan76 Jun 27 '16 at 0:20
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    And about "white" or "non-white" countries. The primary interest of the EU was (initially) to have a common market as a means to prevent further European conflics. Yes, all the time most of the population of the countries was Caucasian (and still is), but that does not make it an organization based in racial profiling (the same way Eurovision, the NATO and the Warsaw Pact are not/were not based in "white" vs "non-white" countries, either). – SJuan76 Jun 27 '16 at 0:51
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    Not sure what you're on about. The UK is not part of the Schengen Zone. You're stretching UK's sketchiness on these topics and its despicable immigration policy, and trying to make it look like the rest of the EU worked the same. – Denis de Bernardy Jan 13 '18 at 5:24
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    "How do people who view themselves as progressive justify the privileging of certain countries" - why should all countries be handled the exact same way? Some countries can be traded with, others not. Some countries are respecting human rights better, others don't. Some countries are trusted because there is a history of cooperation, other countries have dominant ideologies which are opposite or even belligerent. Calling such a differentiation as discrimination is as if I called you a xenophobe because you invite your friends into your house, but are more careful with complete strangers. – vsz Mar 29 '18 at 20:15
  • This question doesn't seem to understand what privilege is, in the context of "white privilege" and the like. – user Jan 7 at 16:34
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Ok, I'll bite.

First, the answer. I have put it as an analogy to make it easy to understand.

The EU is a privilege for certain countries in the same way that driving the car you own is a privilege.

Having a car and driving it everywhere you want to is nice. But you have the car because you have paid for it with some money you no longer have. Maybe you think that in the end the car was worth the money, maybe you don't. Either way, most likely you do not think that driving the car is a privilege.

Membership of the EU means that the citizens of those countries gain some rights, but also some disadvantage. Yes I can freely go to Germany and search a job there, no paperwork required. But similarly a German citizen can work in Spain or Italy and France with no paperwork required.

Properly talking it is a deal, but of course someone may prefer using loaded concepts1 to aim the question to a predefined answer.

In that instance, it is no difference from other international deals. Each government decides what is best for themselves (or their constituencies) and acts accordingly. They can waiver or ease requirements in order to increase visitors, or to get reciprocity pacts, or other advantages. The decision if the deal is beneficial for the country is up to each country.

Now, your quote strikes me as curious, because:

  • It is someone who votes against the EU because of an UK law that is no related to the EU at all. In fact, the EU provided some ways to circumvent the stricter UK legislation (although it required some work from the part of the interested party2).

  • At best, he has the "pipe dream" that the Brexit will lead to relaxed immigration laws for non EU nationals. Where has he got this idea from is a mystery to everyone, but everyone is entitled to their pipe dreams.

  • At worst, he sounds to me like a blind man that hopes to gouge the eyes of everyone else who has the "privilege" to see.

I mean, I can feel sorry for the guy and may even feel some sympathy (that the fact that there are children in common should be sign enough that it is not a "convenience marriage"), but at the same time I cannot help noticing that a) he was the one who had children with someone before ensuring that she could move into the UK and b) he has done nothing but blaming others of his plight.

1 Everybody has his/her own experiences and bias. But if you want to present an actual question (instead of a not-so-cleverly-disguised-rant) it would be a good idea to a) get to the point and b) avoid loaded words, concepts and conclusions ("privileges", "white vs non-white"). It only reflects badly on you.

To help you with an analogy, I would never ask if Australians are racists or if Malcolm Turnbull is a bigot just because I am asking why nationals from the USA or EU can apply to Australian visas of types that are not available to nationals from Nigeria, for example. I think that kind of presentation of such a question would not be constructive.

2: https://travel.stackexchange.com/a/72032/46620

  • "why nationals from the USA or EU can apply to Australian visas of types that are not available to nationals from Nigeria, for example" However the fact that US and AU has a visa arrangement has nothing to do with the AU-Nigeria arrangement. Does the EU allow participating member countries complete control of their non-eu immigration policies? – NPSF3000 Sep 27 '17 at 14:30
  • ", I would never ask if Australians are racists or if Malcolm Turnbull is a bigot just because I am asking why nationals from the USA or EU can apply to Australian visas of types that are not available to nationals from Nigeria" TBF, A certain DT was accused of being racist when he imposed certain border policies against a set of countries. So regardless of your personal actions, it is a step that people will take. – NPSF3000 Sep 27 '17 at 14:48
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    @NPSF3000 a certain DT has been accused of being racist after publicly and repeatedly attacking people only because their race and nationality (look up the word "racist" in a dictionary), defending violent white supremacists and neo-nazis, criticizing people for protesting against racist actions, stablishing immigration procedures based in religion, etc., etc. etc... Certainly, he has not been "attacked as racist" just because a single action. – SJuan76 Sep 27 '17 at 21:01
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Mr. Riches is blaming the wrong people.

The reason that EU immigration is seen as making non-EU immigration more difficult is because xenophobes and other assorted bigots demand that overall immigration numbers fall. David Cameron made a very ill-advised promise to reduce the numbers to "tens of thousands", which is far more than the amount of non-EU immigration currently. In fact, it's more than the total number of family reunions last year, which would include Mr. Riches wife.

The EU does not discriminate against non-EU citizens, as it does not set any rules on immigration for them. Those rules are entirely up to each member state. The UK could, if it wished, grant his wife a visa. The EU has no say in the matter. It is the EU that chooses to not offer his wife the same terms as EU citizens, which chooses to impose the minimum income requirement.

From a logical point of view it's also no more racist or preferential than allowing people from the UK nations to move around, e.g. from England to Scotland. And the UK has a long standing agreement with Ireland, which pre-dates EU membership, allowing citizens of either to live and work in the other more or less freely.

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Is the concept of the European Union seen as an act of privileging certain countries over other countries?

Yes, but in a multilateral way. Within the EU, member states give each other's citizens rights (or privilege) in their country and in turn their own citizens get rights in the other member countries.

This is not at all unique to the EU. Many countries make such (for example in the case of visa-free travel) quid pro quo agreements bilaterally.

How do people who view themselves as progressive justify the privileging of certain countries, if at all?

As a progressive person, I would look at this situation as a glass half-full situation. You start with an empty glass: your citizens can only do X in their own country. They want to do X in other countries, so you start negotiating. If the other country is willing to let your citizens do X then they are likely to want something in return and you get a bilateral agreement: they also get to do X in your country.

There are also reasons why sometimes you don't want to allow citizens of another country to do X in your country. For example, a rich country like the UK might not want citizens of very low-wage countries to come and build factories and bring their own workforce. That would create an unequal playing field and your own companies may not be able to compete with those foreign companies.

In conclusion, we see that sometimes it's good make bilateral agreements on something and sometimes it's not. From your own (citizens') point of view it's mostly a trade-off between getting more privilege abroad and protecting your own citizens from foreign influence.

2

It's a sweeping generalisation, but people with liberal views tend to see nationality and ethnicity as two different concepts. True, most nations have an ethnic profile, but liberal voters tend to think that's something that is likely to change over time, rather than something that defines nationality.

On the other hand, more right wing commentators appear more likely to define nationality and ethnicity in a fixed way. This is where the confusion highlighted in the question appears to originate - it may be that Andrew Riches is white and his Thai wife is not, but someone with liberal views is less likely to take that as given purely because of their respective national origins.

From a liberal or progressive viewpoint, the idea that the EU is perpetuating white privelege is on shaky ground every time a black German is given rights not shared by a white South African.

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I voted for a fair immigration policy. My wife is a non-EU citizen from Thailand and we are discriminated against. If I didn’t earn £20,000 or more – the required figure – the choice would be to claim benefits and then when it came to my wife’s visa renewal she would have to leave. Her visa costs almost £1,500 every every two-and-a-half years.

This is an extremely onerous system, and I would say that it's unfair on its own. The treatment of non-EU nationals and especially spousal visas has been made much worse in recent years.

However, it's important to remember that this is UK law. It's not EU law. The UK government could wave it away if it wanted.

And what this vote has done is cause this system to apply to EU nationals as well. It's making life harder for a lot of people out of bitterness.

It's worth noting that the UK immigration policy has long had a racial bias that predates EU membership, going all the way back to Enoch Powell and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.

-1

It does not follow that the relative population of caucasians within EU member states to non-member states means members are discriminated based on whiteness of population. That's a straw man.

Yes, it is a "privilege" assuming we go with the question's other premises. However, anything other than completely open borders would be some degree of "privilege" and each country, or group of countries (e.g. EU), discriminates to some degree, based on socio-economic factors, public and private relationships, other negotiations, etc. Discrimination in itself is not bad. We discriminate when we choose what to eat.

There is simply disagreement about which groups should or shouldn't receive particular types of discriminations (and equally incentives), if any.

"Progressive", "leaver", "remainer", "liberal", "conservative", are all broad brush strokes to collectivise preferences of individuals into groups.

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