25th Sep 2023

Italy opens up labour market to eastern Europeans

Italy has lifted the barriers to workers from central and eastern European member states bringing the total number of EU states with free movement of labour to 18.

Rome announced the decision to lift the restrictions, in place since the bloc's big bang enlargement to the east in May 2004, on Friday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Eighteen member states now have free movement of labour (Photo: Notat)

"We have put an end to discrimination against the new EU countries," said Enrico Letta, a cabinet under secretary, according to Reuters.

Italy also announced it would start a quota of 350,000 non-EU citizens who would now be able to legalise their status in Italy.

The move was welcomed by Brussels with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso saying that he "warmly congratulated" Italy on its announcement.

Meanwhile, the UK, which along with Ireland and Sweden never had labour barriers for eastern member states in the first place, has announced record immigration figures.

According to a report published on Friday by immigration experts, the country is experiencing its biggest immigration ever due to workers from eastern Europe.

In 2005, there were over 1.5 million foreign nationals working in the UK.

The Economic and Social Research Council paper suggests that central and eastern European workers account for a tenth of the foreign labour force, according to the BBC, with Poles making up the vast majority of the 375,000 recorded entries.

However, London is being more circumspect about Bulgaria and Romania and has not yet said whether it will also keep open access for workers from these two countries, due to join the bloc next year.

It is expected only to make a formal decision once the precise accession date has been agreed.

According to a report in The Sunday Times (23 July), London believes there may be around 45,000 Bulgarians and Romanians whom it considers "undesirable" but who may be legally allowed to live in Britain once the two countries join the EU.

The newspaper reports that the government has drawn up a confidential "warnings index" of people from the two states, most of whom are suspected of having criminal associations or posing a security risk.

The leaked Home Office paper also shows that the government is expecting between 40,000 and 160,000 Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to come to the country in the first year after EU accession.

Before the 2004 accession, when eight central and eastern European states joined the bloc, London hugely underestimated the amount of immigrants that would come to the UK.


Von der Leyen overlooks cost-of-living crisis and job quality

Von der Leyen's speech focused on labour and skills shortages, inflation and improving the business environment. Some trade unions, political groups, and organisations felt that there were missed opportunities to outline a roadmap for a social Europe.


Spain's EU-language bid and UN summit This WEEK

While the heads of EU institutions are in New York for the UN high level meeting, Spain's EU presidency will try to convince ministers to make Catalan, Basque, and Galician official EU languages.

Latest News

  1. EU trade chief in Beijing warns China of only 'two paths' forward
  2. Why should taxpayers pay for private fishing fleets in third countries?
  3. Women at risk from shoddy EU laws on domestic workers
  4. EU poised to agree on weakened emission rules
  5. China trade tension and migration deal This WEEK
  6. Europe's energy strategy: A tale of competing priorities
  7. Why Greek state workers are protesting new labour law
  8. Gloves off, as Polish ruling party fights for power

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us