In a World of Tightening Borders, An Interwoven EU

As countries grapple with foreign worker programs, a longstanding open border policy has created an interconnected EU

After Donald Trump’s upset victory in the U.S. presidential election, some attention is turning toward the U.S. foreign worker program. During the campaign, Mr. Trump criticized the system of visas and permits that allows foreign citizens to work inside the U.S.

A key driver of the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union in a June was anxiety over rising levels of immigration to Britain. Once the U.K. exits, the British government has said it will put in place more stringent controls on the number of foreigners who can live in the U.K. The impact of the vote is already being felt in other countries in Europe, where anti-EU movements, which want to exit the bloc and abolish its open-border policy, have been emboldened.

A closer look at migration patterns around the EU shows a system that belies the nationalistic sentiment that’s swelling in parts of the world. EU citizens have embraced their free-movement rights, with hundreds of thousands of workers living away from their home country.

Spain has been a destination for Romanian migrants since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many Romanians left rural and underdeveloped areas of their home country, attracted by Spain’s higher wages and the linguistic similarities between Romanian and Spanish.