Berlin maintains restrictions on workers from eastern Europe

17.07.08 @ 09:05

  1. By Leigh Phillips

Germany is to maintain restrictions on access to the country for workers from eastern European EU member states until 2011.

  • Germany is still worried about an influx of workers from the east (Photo: Notat)

Germany says it must retain the barriers due to worries that workers willing to work for less than native-born employees would drive up local unemployment. This despite a steady decline in the German unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent last month.

Berlin will nonetheless relax rules for highly-skilled workers, according to an announcement on Wednesday (16 July) from the country's labour ministry.

Starting next year, the largest European economy will no longer demand that the minimum salary foreign workers must earn before taking up work in the country be €86,400, dropping the threshold to €63,600.

Highly skilled foreign workers will also no longer have to show that by taking a position in Germany they are not displacing a native applicant.

When the European Union welcomed ten new member states in 2004, Germany established barriers to entry for citizens of the new countries.

Only four EU member states from ‘Old Europe' retain restrictions on workers from the EU8 - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia. There were never restrictions imposed for Cyprus and Malta, which also joined the EU in 2004.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Germany have all maintained restrictions on new European citizens. France lifted its barriers earlier this month, although not to Bulgaria and Romania, who joined in 2007.

Talks were taking place in Belgium to drop the barriers, possibly by this month or September this year. The Belgian institutional crisis however has frozen this and other governmental moves.

Almost none of the 15 member states from Old Europe have fully opened up to workers from Bulgaria and Romania, except for Sweden and Finland. Spain is expected to follow suit at the end of this year.

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