For two decades after 1970, no agreement was reached between the Member States on new rules on free movement. However, the scope and practical significance of the early rules on free movement increased due to the accession of new Member States and to the case-law of the EU Court of Justice. The interpretation of the rules by the Court extended free movement among others to part-time workers (mostly women), students, those looking for employment and tourist (as service recipients) (Guild, Peers and Tomkin 2014). Because lawyers and judges began to take these rulings of the Court seriously, immigration officials and politicians, too, were obliged to give effect to those judgments and the EU rules concerned in practice.The accession of Greece, Portugal and Spain in the 1980s after the return to democracy in those countries, of the UK, Ireland and Denmark in 1973, of Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995 and of thirteen states in Central and Eastern Europe after 2004 considerably extended the personal and territorial scope of free movement. The EU enlargements in the 1980s and those after 2004 were primarily motivated by securing political stability in the region: Inclusion of European states in Southern and Central Europe, previously ruled by left or right wing totalitarian regimes. Free movement of persons was as contributing to political stability and democracy, economic aims came second. In 2019 the EU free movement rules applied to the nationals of all 28 EU Member States plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein (all three part of the European Economic Area) and Switzerland.
In 1992 Member States at the initiative of Spain, aiming to strengthen the position of its nationals living elsewhere in the EU, agreed to establish Union citizenship. All nationals of Member States were granted this new EU status. In the following decade, the Court of Justice put flesh on the bones of this status, reinforcing the rights of mobile EU citizens. In 2004, the day before the accession of the EU-10, the “old” EU-15 codified that case-law of the Court and extended the residence status of Union citizens, by introducing a right of permanent residence for those with 5 years lawful residence in another Member State.The relevant Directive 2004/38 granted the right to live and work or study in another Member State to all EU citizens who could find a genuine job or are self-employed and to their family members irrespective of their nationality. Not all Union citizens, however, are willing and able to use this freedom.Those having insufficient means to pay for a passport or the travel or who are unable to find a job due to their handicap de-facto are excluded. Prolonged reliance on social assistance before having acquired the permanent residence status or a serious criminal record are grounds for exclusion and expulsion of EU citizens. The proposal of the Commission to ban expulsion of EU citizens after 10 years of lawful residence in another Members State was rejected in 2004. Member States preferred to restrict the full right to remain on their territory to their “own" nationals.
Who uses free movement?
In 2018, a total of 17.6 million EU citizens were living in another Member State.This number neither takes into account those who returned to their own country nor those who naturalised in their country of residence. Nevertheless, it is clear that only a relatively small minority of the 500 million EU citizens used their right to live elsewhere in the EU even after most legal barriers to migration had been abolished. The 17.6 million mobile EU citizens represented almost 45% of the total non-citizen population (40 million) of the 28 Member States, the other 22.3 million being nationals of third (i.e. non-EU) countries. This implies that Member States due to the EU rules on free movement, de facto lost most of their traditional means of immigration control with regard to almost half of their non-citizen population. Of course, this effect varies between Member States: In Luxembourg, Cyprus, Ireland, Belgium and the UK nationals of other Member States by far outnumber nationals of non-EU countries, whilst in Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Italy, Greece and France, it is the other way round (Eurostat 2019).The number of EU citizens living in another Member State than their own increased with 50% in the 10 years between 2008 (11.3 million) and 2018 (17.6 million) due to the enlargements of the EU, the economic crisis hitting some Member States more than others, the low costs of transportation and the increased level of education in the EU.The loss of control on a considerable share of immigrants may explain the political and administrative resistance against free movement and the fears among public opinion in Member States.