Saturday

21st Oct 2017

Western Europe remains wary of new member state workers

Two years after becoming citizens of the EU, workers from central and eastern Europe will see a further four 'old' member states lift their labour barriers – in line with basic EU rules.

Greece, Spain, Finland and Portugal have all agreed to remove worker restrictions before the 30 April deadline.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

These countries join the UK, Ireland and Sweden – the only member states of the 'old' 15 which never introduced temporary measures against workers from the new member states.

The remaining west European governments will either keep their labour markets closed or open them gradually.

"It is a real success, as a few months ago nobody would have expected a half of these countries to be without any restrictions and most of the others choosing some way to weaken them," commented social policy commissioner Vladimir Spidla.

Germany and Austria however are keeping full barriers in place, with Berlin and Vienna indicating they will make use of the whole transitional period – until 2011 – to keep the restrictions.

France informed Brussels it would "gradually" drop the barriers on a sector-by-sector basis and in line with agreements between the government, employers and trade unions.

Denmark is also planning to relax its existing restrictions and phase them out completely in the next three years, with the national authorities promising to "take steps to help enterprises recruit foreign workers to sectors that experience a shortage of labour."

A similar cherry-picking method will be used by Luxembourg and Belgium, which reported they would make the work permit procedure more flexible in certain sectors or occupations.

Italy increased a quota for foreign workers from 85,000 to 170,000 with statistics showing that previous quotas were not filled in the past.

The Netherlands postponed a final decision on the issue until the end of this year. The government has suggested opening up the country's labour market but parliament still has to make a decision.

The European Commission has urged all "old" member states to lift their national restrictions, arguing that the May 2004 enlargement has not resulted in an overwhelming influx of new workers or increased unemployment among home citizens.

Only in Ireland and Austria do nationals from new EU member states represent more than one percent of the working age population, hitting 3.8 percent and 1.4 percent in the two countries respectively.

Sofia and Bucharest await the same debate

By the end of this year, all 25 EU member states are set to indicate what approach they will take to Bulgaria and Romania, expected to join the bloc in 2007, with a combined population of around 30 million.

But UK interior minister Charles Clarke recently hinted Britain may not automatically apply the same rule to Sofia and Bucharest as to the eight central and eastern European member states while commissioner Spidla has admitted he has seen "vague signs" of hesitation on the matter in some national capitals.

Some new member states have also inticated they may play tough with the two fresh newcomers.

Czech social affairs minister Zdenek Skromach has remarked Prague may consider introducing restrictions against Romania and Bulgaria if the "old" member states keep their barriers against the eight former entrants.

But the commission has criticised this with commissioner Spidla noting, "Those member states that have been trying hard to achieve that barriers against their citizens be lifted should consider very cautiously whether they would take the same approach as the one they have criticised."

Parents of EU children win right to stay

Countries cannot automatically refuse residence to parents of EU children simply because the other parent could care for the minor, the EU's top court ruled on Wednesday.

Analysis

Obesity linked to agricultural policy, new studies say

The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, according to the WHO. Health campaigners are pushing for a radical rethink of the EU's common agricultural policy to help tackle the obesity epidemic.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks