MOBILITY AND IMMOBILITY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION: EXPERIENCES OF YOUNG POLISH PEOPLE LIVING IN THE UK
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‘Mobility’ is a zeitgeist of the European Union. European enlargement and the removal of borders in Central and Eastern Europe has reinvigorated geographical mobility in Europe while the extension of neo-liberal economic reform across the region has been said to offer opportunities for social mobility to a new demography. The right to spatial and social mobility in the EU is described as enhancing freedom, opportunity and choice for large numbers of people living in Central and Eastern Europe, yet the reality for many people living and working across borders in the EU is marked still by poverty, uncertainty and immobility. How do we conceptualise this inequality within a discourse of ‘free movement’ and ‘equality of opportunity’ in Europe? In this paper I will discuss theories of mobility that have shaped the discourse on mobility and immobility in the EU in recent times. I will explore the ways in which this discourse has contributed to an almost immutable acceptance of the EU as a ‘mobile space’. Adding to this I will present some early empirical findings from case studies in the Edinburgh, Scotland and Krakow, Poland to show that the everyday experiences of young Polish people who negotiate the invisible borders of the EU to find ‘opportunities’ has many dimensions, raising further questions about how ‘mobility’ is perceived and enacted by young Polish people living and working in the UK.
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