Dietz, B.: East West Migration Patterns in an Enlarging Europe, 2002

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Before the political transformation in the end of the 1980s, governments in Eastern Europe kept strict control of their citizens’ movement to the West. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, emigration restrictions were removed and a new migration space developed. Large differences in income and living standards between Eastern and Western Europe, growing unemployment and sporadic ethnic conflicts in the transformation countries thus confronted Western European states, first of all Germany, with an increasing East West migration pressure. Especially in the light of the enlargement of the European Union, which sooner or later will allow a free movement of people between East and West, it is of economic and political relevance to learn more about the East West migration patterns in the recent decade. Using Germany as an example, which is the most affected Western European country by East West migration since the end of the eighties, the patterns of East West migration in the recent decade will be identified.

The first part of the article describes the legal basis of this migration, introducing the different entrance regulations to Germany - the admission laws for asylum seekers and ethnic Germans (Aussiedler) as well as particular regulations for foreign workers, which are based on bilateral agreements. The second part explores the quantity of migrants, their home country origin and their human capital characteristics. The third part concludes, giving an outlook on East West migration in the light of the EU enlargement.

East West Migration to Germany: Admission Regulations

Although Germany did not consider itself an immigration country until the migration law (Zuwanderungsgesetz) in the year 2002 changed this paradigm, it received the highest number of immigrants in Western Europe since World War II (Zimmermann 1994, Münz et al. 1999, Rotte 2000). Migration to Germany had been strictly regulated for different types of immigrants - labor migrants, their following family members, asylum seekers and refugees - controlling the entrance, stay and labor market access of foreign nationals (Halfmann 1997). In addition, the admission of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is guaranteed, even though their entrance has been made increasingly difficult since the beginning of the nineties (Dietz 2000). Netmigration of foreign nationals to Germany included 6.7 million people between 1955 and 2000, in addition 3.9 million ethnic Germans came. However, with the exception of the resettlement of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, East West migration did not play an important role until the end of the eighties. This was first of all due to the political regimes in Eastern Europe, which strictly controlled emigration in the period of the cold war. East European citizens were allowed to leave their home countries only in exceptional cases, mainly for ethnic or humanitarian reasons. Often the German government intervened on behalf of the respective migrants, mostly ethnic Germans. With the political transformation in Eastern Europe the East West migration scenario changed. The liberalization of emigration regulations allowed East European citizens to move to the West, provided they were admitted in a Western European state. Thus migration of East European citizens to Germany grew considerably in the beginning of the nineties. Although the majority of migrants from Eastern Europe were ethnic Germans, asylum seekers additionally contributed to the recent East West population movement. A further group consisted of different types of labor migrants, most of whom were allowed to work temporarily in Germany on the base of special bilateral contracts (Hönekopp 1997; Bauer and Zimmermann 1999). As will be argued below legal admission regulations and their changes constituted a migration regime which shaped the size and structure of East West migration to Germany in the recent decade. In this period East West migration was channeled first of all by the laws and politics under which it took place. Severe migration restrictions have dominated the economic and social determinants otherwise driving migration.

The Admission of Ethnic Germans

The admission of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union into Germany and their acceptance as German citizens have been guaranteed by the 1949 German constitution and the Federal Expellee and Refugee Law of 1953 (Kurthen 1995: 921). These special provisions have been introduced to provide a homeland for ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe (mainly Romania and Poland) and the Soviet Union, who had experienced forced resettlement, ethnic discrimination and expulsion during and after World War II (Brubaker 1998: 1050). For the German government, ideological arguments also played a role in the admission of ethnic Germans. In the period of the cold war the emigration of ethnic Germans from socialist countries could be used in evidence of the superiority of the West German system (Ronge 1997: 125). When the immigration of ethnic Germans grew remarkably towards the end of the eighties, the German government expected serious problems in providing houses for the newcomers and integrating them into labor market and society. Therefore the government started to control and restrict this movement by administrative measures. In July 1990 a law was introduced which demanded German resettlers to apply for their immigration in the countries of origin. This allowed German authorities to slow down and channel ethnic German migration. In 1993 a further law (Kriegsfolgenbereinigungsgesetz) has been adopted which regulated the immigration of ethnic Germans by a quota of 225,000 per year. The law also stated that those wishing to immigrate from countries other than the former Soviet Union must have individual proof of discrimination because of their German descent. As serious ethnic discrimination against Germans in Poland and Romania is almost nonexistent since the political transformation, their emigration has nearly ceased with the enforcement of the new law in 1993. Nevertheless the resettlement of ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union continued on a high level until a German language test was introduced in July 1996. Since then potential immigrants have to proof a certain command of the German language as a confirmation of their belonging to the German people (Volkszugehörigkeit).
Finally, in 2000 the immigration quota was fixed to 100,000. The ethnic German emigration from Eastern Europe has been a driving force to the ‘ethnic unmixing’ in that region (Brubaker 1998). In Poland, the emigration of Germans and other ethnic minorities resulted in the emergence of an ethnically nearly homogenous state in the beginning of the nineties (Okolski 1998: 23). Meanwhile new immigrations to Poland, mainly from the successor states of the Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia and Viet Nam, contributes to the emergence of new population groups (Iglicka 2001: 9).

Asylum Regulation

Until its amendment in 1993, the asylum law in Germany has been characterized as one of the most generous worldwide (Knipping and Saumweber-Meyer 1995). However, Germany not having established a coherent immigration law until the year 2002, political asylum had become an entrance passage for those who would otherwise not have qualified to come into the country. Especially in the beginning of the new East West migration in the early nineties, many migrants from Eastern Europe arrived via the asylum regulation. In Germany, the sharp increase of asylum seekers since 1989 led to a heated debate on the expected consequences of these movements. Many natives opposed the right for asylum, expecting an escalating economic and social burden because of asylum migration. The German government reacted to this debate by changing the asylum law, coming into effect on 1 July 1993. The asylum law which had dictated German policy from 1949 to 1993 permitted the subjective and unlimited right for asylum for politically persecuted persons. When the new law came into effect, the changes made it much more difficult for persons seeking asylum to be recognized, and, in many cases, it excluded them from being admitted to the asylum procedure in Germany at all. According to the new law, citizens from socalled ‘safe countries’ are no longer permitted to ask for asylum in Germany. ‘Safe countries’ are those in which the legal and political situation guarantees the absence of political persecution and inhuman treatment (Bosswick 1995). At present all Eastern European countries under consideration here (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Poland) are classified as ‘safe countries’. The new law also stated that refugees, entering Germany via a ‘safe third country’, have no right of admission to the asylum procedure. All EU-countries are defined as ‘safe third countries’ as well as some other European states, including Poland and the Czech Republic.6 With this regulation, the German government essentially delegated the problem of admitting transit migrants asking for asylum to the respective - mainly East European - transit countries. Such ‘burden sharing’ became even more evident when the German government negotiated readmission agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic on 7 May 1993 and 8 September 1994, respectively. The agreements reached with both countries stated that asylum seekers from third countries had to be readmitted from Germany if they had come to Germany via Poland or the Czech Republic and if they had not been in Germany for longer than six months.

Agreements on Labor Migration

When German politicians registered that the fall of the Iron Curtain increased labor migration from Eastern Europe, special regulations were introduced to control these movements. The rational behind this policy was to improve the economic advancement of Eastern European countries, to decrease the migration pressure on Germany and to prevent permanent migration as well as illegal work. In addition, East European workers were expected to satisfy a particular seasonal or occupational labor demand in Germany. Three different channels (Höhnekopp 1999, Faist et al. 1999) for the access of East European workers to the German labor market can be identified. All of them have been opened up after the fall of the Iron Curtain and are based on bilateral agreements between Germany and the respective East European country:
(1) Seasonal workers, where a German employer can recruit East European workers for up to three months a year. Seasonal workers have to be paid by the same wage as comparable German workers and the payment of social security contributions according to German standards is obligatory. The employment of seasonal workers from Eastern Europe has mainly been restricted to agricultural work and to the employment in restaurants or hotels.
(2) Project-tied employment, where foreign workers are legally sent by foreign subcontractors and are given a work permit for a maximum of two years. The number of workers is restric ted by year and sending country. Although German wage and social security standards are obligatory, project-tied workers do not pay the social security contributions in Germany but in their home countries. This implies that the wage costs for project-tied workers in general are lower than those of comparable German workers. Project-tied employment is mostly concentrated in construction and related industries.
(3) Guest worker contracts, where a limited number of workers from East European countries are allowed to migrate to Germany for a maximum of 18 months to improve their language and occupational competencies. In the context of labor migration the new Green Card regulation has additionally to be mentioned although it has been introduced independently of East West migration. In May 2000, the German government agreed to offer so-called Green Cards to non EU-foreign computer specialists, to work in IT jobs for a maximum of five years. As a precondition for the Green Card application, IT specialists must earn a minimum of €50,000 a year. It has been expected that this regulation might be particularly attractive for East European specialists.

Number, Country of Origin and Human Capital Characteristics of Migrants from Eastern Europe

Economic considerations would suggest that big differences in welfare and wages between Eastern European countries and Germany as well as growing unemployment in the East had been the driving forces of East West migration. However, entrance regulations to Germany restricted migration movements and contributed to the formation of distinct migration patterns. Altogether, net migration included 1.13 million East Europeans between 1989 and 1999: 678,000 were ethnic Germans, approximately 458,000 were foreign nationals from East European countries.
Whereas ethnic German immigration from Poland and Romania decreased continuously since 1990, the net migration of foreign nationals from Eastern Europe experienced a sharp decline between 1992 and 1993. Both developments were linked to the tightening of admission regulations. However, net migration of foreign nationals from Eastern Europe to Germany does not present a full picture of East West movements. The consideration of inflows and outflows shows that the number of East Europeans involved in migration movements had nearly been five times as big as net migration. Altogether, a total number of 2.27 million East Europeans moved to Germany between 1989 and 1999, while in the same period 1.82 million left the country again. This points to high fluctuations in East West migration, which are typical for short term and back and forth movements.

Ethnic German Migration

In quantitative terms, the immigration of ethnic Germans has been the most important factor in East West net migration to Germany until 1993. In 1989 and 1990 the relaxation of emigration regulations in Poland and Romania allowed more than half a million (518,749) ethnic Germans to come in these two years. Whereas the immigration from Poland had reached its highest level already in 1989, immigration from Romania increased by nearly five times between 1989 and 1990. As has been described above, the German government introduced several administrative regulations and laws since 1990 to control the Aussiedler migration. As a result of these measures, the immigration of ethnic Germans from Poland and Romania decreased sharply since 1990. In addition to the legal restrictions in the admission of ethnic Germans from Poland and Romania it must be taken into account that the German minorities there had severely diminished, and migration pressure had declined. Nearly 90% of ethnic Germans are granted the German citizenship shortly after arrival. However, regardless of their German descent, they have been socialized in the norms, culture and language of their former home countries and they have received their education and professional training there. In Romania - other than in Poland - ethnic Germans often had been able to visit German schools and to learn the German language. The socialization in the country of origin deeply influences the integration process of ethnic Germans: whereas Aussiedler from Romania took up the German language fast and adapted comparatively straightforward into German society, many German immigrants from Poland partly sticked to Polish in communicating among each other and many are incorporated in networks, created by ethnic Germans from Poland. Because of their quantity and their distinct socio-cultural background, ethnic Germans from Poland might be defined in terms of minority populations. This is less so in the case of Aussiedler from Romania. Although they likewise integrate into ethnic networks, they are closer to natives in socio-cultural terms.

Asylum Migration

In the beginning of the nineties, asylum migration contributed considerably to East West population movements to Germany until the amendment of the asylum law in 1993 terminated that migration. It has to be remarked, however, that the patterns of asylum migration were quite different regarding individual East European countries. Whereas asylum migration from Poland to Germany had played an important role in the eighties - caused by the martial law and the political oppression in that time - it declined significantly since 1989 (Okolsky 1996). Although the economic situation in Poland was characterized by a severe crisis, the establishment of a non-communist government in September 1989 supported an expectation of economic improvement and political stability. In addition, job opportunities were opened up in Western Europe - mainly Germany - which made labor migration feasible, though on a short term basis (Okolsky 1998). Asylum migration from the (former) Czechoslovakia and Hungary did not play an important role. There was a small but steady asylum migration from these countries to Germany in the eighties. This movement increased slightly for a short period in 1992/1993, when asylum migration was used as an entrance to the Western world by those who felt politically repressed and economically deprived.
In the case of Romania and Bulgaria, asylum migration to Germany developed in a much more dynamic way. In both countries it started in 1989, increased quickly until 1992 and declined rapidly thereafter. In Bulgaria, the liberalization of the passport restrictions in 1990 made up the framework for emigration. Yet the decisive factors for the asylum migration to Germany were political instability and a desperate economic situation in the beginning of the nineties (Bobeva 1996). The victory of the ex-communist party in the 1990 elections destroyed the hope for fundamental political and economic reforms. This fostered a migration movement, which used the asylum procedure to Germany because admission was not guaranteed otherwise. As in the case of Bulgaria, asylum migration from Romania to Germany was motivated to a considerable degree by economic reasons and the loss of confidence in political reforms (Ciutacu 1996). In addition, the deprived situation of the Roma minority in Romania played a role, as a remarkable part of the asylum migration from Romania to Germany consisted of Roma (Ohliger 2000). Because the German asylum law only accepts those applicants who have been persecuted because of political reasons in their countries of origin, the acceptance rate of East European asylum seekers had been below 1% in the early nineties. Thus even before the amendment of the asylum law the German government signed bilateral agreements with Bulgaria and Romania to regulate the readmission of rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin. These agreements were combined with financial compensations for the reintegratio n of returning asylum migrants. In the case of Romania a special readmission agreement had been worked out for the group of Roma (Rakelman 1994). Although no figures are available on the outflow of rejected asylum seekers from East European countries, everything points to the fact that many asylum migrants left Germany after 1993 or were sent back in the context of bilateral readmission agreements. Apparently, some East European asylum seekers were successful in obtaining a secure legal status, whereas some stayed in Germany illegally.

Labor Migration

As has been indicated above, labor migration from Eastern Europe to Germany is strongly restricted. Either the entrance regulations for non-EU citizens or the special employment programs based on bilateral agreements apply. In the context of special employment programs, seasonal workers are the most important group in quantitative terms, followed by project-tied and guest workers. In the case of seasonal workers, figures indicate that their employment more than doubled between 1991 and 2000. Nevertheless the total number of 258,000 seasonal workers (in 2000) does not have an important weight in the German labor market as a whole. Nearly all seasonal workers (90%) are employed in agriculture.
In absolute terms, the number of project-tied workers is comparatively low. Here, employment declined noticeably between 1992 and 2000, which points to substantial restrictions in this form of employment because of a reduced demand. Most project-tied workers are occupied in construction and in related industries. In the case of guest workers, the official quota of 10,200 work permits per year has never been exhausted. Nearly half of all guest workers are employed in hotels or restaurants.

In all special employment programs, Poland is by far the most important sending country. Throughout the nineties migrant workers from Romania grew more important, whereas those from (former) Czechoslovakia declined. These trends first of all reflect the existence of business cooperation and migrant networks between Germany and the respective East European countries. For example, long lasting migration relations exist between Poland and Germany, including labor, ethnic German and asylum migration. In addition, business cooperation, which are a precondition for the sending of project-tied workers, are mostly established between Poland and Germany. In the case of Romania, migration networks have also been built up for decades in the context of ethnic German migration. As in many other transnational migrations, networks foster further movements. Because of their comparatively little weight in total employment, not much is known about demographic and human capital characteristics of East European workers who come to Germany by special employment programs. An empirical study, exploring the situation of Polish program employees in Germany in 1995 found that 75% of Polish migrant workers were under the age of 40 (Mehrländer 1997: 11). In comparison to German workers - with 51.7% being under the age of 40 - or to foreign workers in Germany - with 59.5% being under the age of 40 - they are considerably younger. This corresponds to the situation in Western Europe as a whole, where labor migrants from Eastern Europe in general are younger than foreign employees (Hönekopp 1999: 23). In Germany, the education and qualification which East European program workers received in their home countries is found to be higher than the qualification level of foreign workers in general (Hönekopp 1999: 36, Schulz 1999: 410). In most cases, however, East European workers can not employ their qualification in the job. While approximately 28% of all employees in Germany work in low qualified jobs, 45% of all East European and 60% of all foreign employees are occupied in this type of job (Schulz 1999: 407). With respect to qualification, remarkable differences can be observed in the group of program workers. According to the results of a survey study, 66% of all seasonal workers from Poland worked in jobs with low qualification in contrast to only 3% of project-tied workers. On the other hand, 65% of project-tied workers from Poland were occupied in qualified jobs, but only 7% of seasonal workers (Mehrländer 1997). If one looks at the regional distribution of program workers from Eastern Europe, especially Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Berlin and industrial centers in North-Rhine Westphalia are of importance. Independent of the close geographical location of some East European countries to the Eastern part of Germany, the number of East European program workers in the five new countries is below average (Hönekopp 1999). So far, labor migrants from Eastern Europe to Germany - related to special employment programs established in the nineties - have been examined. To give a full picture of East European employees in the work force in Germany, socially insured workers from Eastern Europe will be considered. In 1991 and 2000 the number of socially insured employees from Eastern Europe differed only slightly in Western Germany (96,242 persons in 1991, 105,582 persons in 2000), keeping their share in all foreign employees nearly stable (5.0% in 1991, 5.4% in 2000). It has to be recognized, though, that in absolute figures, foreign employees from East European countries reached the highest level in 1993 and decreased thereafter. As in the case of program workers, most socially insured employees come from Poland.
The Green card regulation - as a special permit for foreign employment - allowed about 10,600 IT specialists to come to Germany between August 2000 and May 2002. IT specialists from East European countries hold a share of 28.6% in the total Green Card employment. In the case of Green Card employment, Poland is not the most important sending country. This indicates that highly educated Poles either find attractive working conditions at home or move to other migration destinations, for example the United States (Iglicka 2001).

To summarize, labor migration from East European countries to Germany experienced a remarkable increase in the beginning of the nineties, but thereafter slowed down again. Everything points to the fact that apart from illegal inflows, East West migration to Germany in the nineties has been channeled in the framework of national policy regulations (Rotte 2000).

Conclusion: East West Migration in the Light of EU Enlargement

After the fall of the Iron Curtain East West migration to Germany has increased remarkably in the beginning of the nineties. When the German government introduced severe immigration barriers in 1993 net migration slowed down. The most important part of East West migration consisted of ethnic Germans, although asylum seekers and labor migrants additionally contributed to it. Concerning the past, everything points to the fact that German politics were aimed at restricting East West migration and were able to do so. However, in the light of the expected EU enlargement, which sooner or later will tear down migration barriers, labor migration might become much more important. In the case of East West labor migration pull factors are first of all seen in the big income differences between Germany and the East European states. On the other hand high (hidden) unemployment rates in Eastern Europe can be identified as push-factors. In addition, established transnational networks might stabilize and strengthen ongoing migration movements, in lowering risks and costs of migration. East West migration has been an important issue since the political and economic transformation of Eastern Europe in the beginning of the nineties. The first seminal study which estimated the East West migration potential in the case of a free movement of people was published in 1992 (Layard et al. 1992). Based on a comparison of South North with East West migration in Europe the study argued that about 3% of East European citizens would be ready to move to the West within the next 15 years after free population movements have been guaranteed. Following this study a number of experts have undertaken further efforts to estimate the East West migration potential after EU enlargement (Bauer and Zimmermann 1999, Boeri and Brücker 2000, Sinn et al. 2001, Straubhaar 2001). The differences with respect to the methods and assumptions employed are mirrored in the results of these studies. The forecasted East West migration is estimated to reach about 3%-4% of the East European population within the next 10-20 years after EU enlargement will allow a free movement of people.16 Because temporary migration is expected to play an important role in the East West context, net migration is estimated to amount to 1%-2%. This would imply that 3.2-4.2 million East Europeans might come to Western Europe, but only 1.6-2.1 million might stay in the longer run (Straubhaar 2001). It is expected that the most important part of East West migration - studies name about two third (Bauer and Zimmermann 1999) - will affect Germany. Because of its outstanding importance, East West migration to Germany has particularly been studied. The estimated net migration to Germany ranges from 1.4 million (Boeri and Brücker 2000) to 2.6 million (Sinn et al. 2001) people, coming from five Eastern European countries within 15 years after a free movement has been allowed.
Nevertheless, even in this case the fear of mass immigration in the context of the EU enlargement seems to be fairly overstated. It has to be taken into account however, that future migration holds the risk of specifically affecting certain regions or economic sectors. Therefore future migration might enlarge the competition in specific regional or sectoral labor markets and promote social conflicts in these areas. On the other hand, East West migration might also contribute to the economic welfare in Germany in satisfying the demand for otherwise not available labor, for example in parts of the IT sector, in agriculture or services. Moreover, the establishment of an East European population in Germany might promote the process of East West integration on the micro level.


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