Enlargement

Greece might open up to new member state workers

24.01.06 @ 17:44

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

Greece is likely to join Spain and Finland in opening labour markets to workers from new member states this May, with France and Belgium also planning to relax restrictions Polish daily Rzeczpospolita reported on Tuesday (24 January).

  • Polish workers: popular in Greece (Photo: Polish tourist office)

"The Greeks are signalling this, but knowing their character they will take the decision at the last minute," Slawomir Misiak, the spokesman for the Polish embassy in Athens stated.

Greek diplomats in Brussels declined to confirm or deny the report, but told EUobserver that a more likely scenario might be reducing the seven year-long period before restrictions automatically come down in 2011 or allowing selected professions only to come to Greece.

Rzeczpospolita also cites unnamed officials attending a Spanish-Polish meeting in Warsaw on Monday as saying Madrid will probably announce its official decision to open doors when prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz visits Spain in April.

The moves would mean Greece, Spain and Finland would join the UK, Ireland and Sweden, who opted not to impose any restrictions since enlargement on 1 May 2004.

Polish diaspora

Most Polish workers currently go to Germany, Polish news agency PAP reported, with 680,000 German work permits granted to Poles in 2004 and the first half of 2005.

About 170,000 Polish people are legally working in the UK, 70,000 in Ireland and 70,000 in the Netherlands, 35,000 in Norway, 5,000 in Iceland and just a few thousand in Sweden.

A recent poll in Ireland showed that 78 percent of Irish Times readers would like to turn back the clock and bar eastern Europeans.

Poles currently make up the largest expat group in Ireland, accounting for 3 percent of the population.

What about the rest?

Meanwhile, the French and Belgian ambassadors to Warsaw told Rzeczpospolita that their countries will probably lift restrictions fully in May 2009, but begin a gradual rollback this May.

French envoy Pierre Mena said new member state workers from the restaurant, hotel, plumbing and construction sectors might gain access to five regions in southern France this year.

And Belgium's Bruno Neve de Mevergnies indicated Brussels might open up to workers in the construction, steel and scientific research fields.

Such a move would mirror the Netherlands' approach, which allowed Polish construction workers in last December.

Germany and Austria have said they will keep the barriers up for now, while Portugal, Denmark and Italy seem likely to go down the same path.

Rzeczpospolita also says non-EU member Norway might open its doors to new member states in May this year.

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