EU labour chief calls for end to labour barriers

2nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

2 May 2006, BRUSSELS - The European Union's top official in charge of labour policy on Tuesday vowed to press for an end to all barriers impeding the east-west flow of workers in Europe as Austria, Denmark and Germany said they were maintaining such restrictions. "I will take major steps to ensure member states introduce real freedom of mobility," EU Commissioner for Employment Vladimir Spidla told reporters. "Discussions will continue," Spidla added. Spidla welcomed this week's decision by Finland, Greece

2 May 2006

BRUSSELS - The European Union's top official in charge of labour policy on Tuesday vowed to press for an end to all barriers impeding the east-west flow of workers in Europe as Austria, Denmark and Germany said they were maintaining such restrictions.

"I will take major steps to ensure member states introduce real freedom of mobility," EU Commissioner for Employment Vladimir Spidla told reporters.

"Discussions will continue," Spidla added.

Spidla welcomed this week's decision by Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain to lift labour barriers imposed in May 1, 2004 when eight central and eastern European states as well as Cyprus and Malta joined the EU.

The move by the four countries - as well as an easing of some barriers announced by Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg - was "an important step" in creating a frontier-free labour markets throughout the 25-nation bloc, said Spidla.

Although Germany and Austria were maintaining the labour barriers, Spidla said that Berlin had, in fact, delivered a total of 500,000 work permits to eastern European workers since May 1, 2004.

"In practice, Germany has given as many people work as many other big EU countries," said Spidla.

Bilateral agreements on labour flows also existed between Germany and many EU newcomers, he said.

The Commission - the EU's executive arm - has long been pressing for an end to east-west labour barriers, arguing that this amounts to discrimination against new EU states.

It has also argued that the arrival of eastern European workers in countries like Britain, Sweden and Ireland, which threw open their labour markets in May 2004, had boosted the three countries' economies.

Fears of a mass arrival of cheap labour from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia prompted all other EU states, however, to restrict the entry of workers through work permits, which were sometimes handed out on the basis of quotas.

Concerns that low-cost eastern European workers would undercut local rivals were especially strong in France where media focused on the threat posed by the "Polish plumber" who, it was feared, would drive competitors out of the market.

All the current labour restrictions, which do not apply to Cyprus and Malta, are supposed to be phased out over a seven-year period. Some countries have said they will lift the barriers in 2009.

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article