As you have seen before I base many posts on the premise that movement of people is good for innovation – it brings mixed perspectives and therefore also creativity. But, sadly, when migration is discussed in Europe the focus is usually on negative things such as illegal immigration or problems of segregation. Maybe this will change due to the problematic labour supply situation that many countries are facing. At least the debate about migration is getting increasingly nuanced.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has definitely become aware that there are many aspects to take into consideration. He has to react to a report where one conclusion is that France needs more immigrants; it is crucial for future growth and it is necessary to break economic stagnation. Although he acknowledges this the report it is not completely unproblematic to him. He won the presidential election with a more convincing popular support than many had expected – partly as a result of his firm stance during the suburb riots a couple of years ago. He promised to deal with the problem of illegal immigration and that gave him support from many right-wing voters who are negative to immigration as a whole.
Instead of acting to make it tougher to be an illegal immigrant in France Sarkozy must now act to make it easier to become a legal immigrant. This is by no means the opposite of what set out to do but it is undoubtedly a different course. Whether he wants to admit it or not there are voters who will feel that he fails them. (And those voters will probably not be convinced by figures on demography and growth.)
France is far from unique in this respect and the idea of increased immigration to solve the problem is not new. Philippe Legrain, for instance, explores it thoroughly in his 2006 book Immigrants: your country needs them. Nevertheless it will be really interesting to follow the development in France. The irony is that French scepticism about the expansion of the EU was very strong since many feared a massive influx of Eastern European professionals...