After the case which involved Silvia Guerra – the Italian citizen and artist living in Brussels, who was expelled as a «burthen» for the Belgian welfare system – we begun to think how Europe is reconfiguring its borders and how mobility works in this frame. The affaire Guerra, in fact, is not a single episode, but is rather one of many instances of restriction of the freedom of movement within Europe.
In the last years, freedom of movement has been a crucial demand for social movements. They denounced how the free circulation within the Schengen area is granted at the price of restrictions and limitations for migrants, who are allowed to enter Europe legally only as workers or asylum seekers subjected to the hideous Dublin II regime. Under the crisis, the common European free circulation space seems collapsing, and a new reality of differentiation and hierarchies among European citizens is emerging. The government of the economically stronger States are charging the weaker countries with the costs of the crisis by sending back migrants (even those who moved long ago, as Silvia Guerra did), or cutting every social support for them, or simply denying them the socials benefits they obtained through their social contributions. These means of governing the movements of individuals and labor force seems inspired by the Dublin II regulation, since today the costs of the allowances for refugees are paid mainly by the southern countries, where asylum seekers usually arrive when they reach Europe for the first time. The season of the European space of free circulation of persons, beside commodities and capitals, seems to be over. Through a combined management of welfare systems, austerity politics and of the Schengen agreement Europe is developing new instrument to discipline both European and extra-European labor force by governing its movements. Like migrants coming from the rest of the world, even European citizens are subjected to the «guest worker» regime: it does not matter if they decide to live and settle in a new country. They can be send back in the native one once they are regarded as a burthen by the «hosting» State.
The limitations to free circulation introduced by several European countries against the citizens of the new member States show that national governments decide if and how the Schengen agreements should be enacted. The case of Silvia Guerra is a clear evidence that welfare is becoming an indirect borders-multiplier directed both against migrants and against European citizens. The EU member States still have an exclusive sovereignty in welfare concerns, so that welfare appears to be a kind of residual area within processes that are wholly transnational. According to the rules that coordinates European countries in matter of welfare, in fact, one can «export» his or her social rights only insofar as he or she is already entitled to them in the country of origin. However, this is a very limited condition since the majority of people is experiencing a reduction and precarization of social rights which involves all the workers, beside their legal or contractual status. European rhetorics are emphasizing self-entrepreneurship, mobility as an investment in one’s own human capital, they are praising «employability», while Europe is engaged in governing the mobility of individuals according to the logics of profits and balanced budget. Thus, for instance, the UK government announced that no allowance will be granted to those European workers who will earn less than 150 £ per week. Each time they cross an internal European border, workers loose the social contributions they paid in their country of origin and are allowed to live in another European country only insofar as they are not a «burthen». The social contributions they paid, in this way, are supporting the public expenditure of each country while social services – health, school, retirement – must be purchased in the market. The (fragile) balance of the welfare systems of the so called virtuous countries is granted through the exclusion from their benefits of a part of the population which produce wealth having nothing in exchange.
At the same time, Special Economic Zones are multiplying within the European space. There rights, working conditions, working hours and wages can be legally organized out of the European normative frame, or according to worse national legislation: multinational enterprises which employ millions people, such as Foxconn or Chung Hong Electronics, are outsourcing their production in Europe (Czech Republic and Poland, respectively) and are exploiting the mobility of labor and the legal standards of the countries where they are settled, thus increasing both profits and hierarchies within the working places. The exploitation-rate dramatically increase when workers cannot live in a house but are forced to stay within crowded ghetto-dormitories, where the management of reproduction enacted by the masters turns into a regime of full-availability of labor force.
In front of this Europe – which manage both European and migrant labor force according to the laws of capital – thousands workers, mainly young but not only, are moving and following the movement of capitals and wage variations so to improve their living and working conditions. In Foxconn, Chung Hong Electronics and Amazon, turn-over is incredibly high. On the one hand, workers still wish that their sons and their sons’ sons will continue to work within the same multinational enterprise, so to have a granted future. On the other hand, migration is a way of refusing an increasing exploitation. These behaviors are often individualized, and they did not turn yet into collective political initiatives. Rather, they sometime reduce the possibilities of fighting within working places. However, against the attempt to discipline and govern labor within and across the borders of Europe, the mobility of precarious, industrial workers and migrants can be also an opportunity for organization and political initiative.
Europe is becoming a non-homogeneous space where the mobility of labor-force – mobility of migrant labor, mobility imposed by the crisis and by the new paradigm of employability, mobility of the young people who refuse to be chained forever to the same working place, mobility between different typologies of contracts – is not only an instrument in the hands of capital, but it is also destabilizing its logics. Migrants first experienced – through mechanism such as the link between the labor contract and the residence permit – the forms of government and exploitation that today are involving also the citizens of Schengen. Migrants were also pioneers in paving the way of political processes which turned mobility into a lever to react against that government and this exploitation. This challenge should be faced also by those social movements – like Blockupy – who look at Europe as a field of struggle within the global transformation which is taking place under the mark of mobility. The mobility of precarious, industrial worker and migrants within and across the European borders is strategic for any process of organization since it point at crucial questions such as austerity politics, border regime, precarity and welfare systems, highlighting the systematic relationships among them. The mobility of precarious, industrial workers and migrants points at the possibility of defining processes of organization and a political communication that could reshape – moving from the definition of a partisan politics – the transnational meaning of democracy and solidarity.