Latvian workers won't flood Germany, Austria: minister

28th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The opening of German and Austrian labour markets to workers from eastern European Union member states will not mean an avalanche of migrants from Latvia, Finance Minister Andris Vilks said Thursday.

"There will be those who leave, but it won't be in such a volume and for such a long time as when they left for Britain and Ireland," Vilks told the Latvian newspaper Diena in an interview published Thursday.

"I don't believe that tens of thousands of people will leave," he said.

Germany and Austria are set to open up their labour markets on Sunday for citizens of Latvia and seven other countries from behind the former Iron Curtain that joined the EU in 2004.

Berlin and Vienna were the last remaining holdouts in the bloc, which now has 27 members. In contrast, Britain, Ireland and Sweden dropped restrictions in 2004.

No official statistics are available for the number of Latvian migrants who have left since 2004, but most experts agree that it could be in the tens of thousands.

The results of Latvia's ongoing census -- the last was in 2000 -- are expected to reveal the true extent of high emigration, which has been seen as having a major social impact here.

Latvia, a nation of 2.2 million, broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite Britain and Ireland's slumps, Latvians have not headed home in droves.

Their homeland is currently emerging from the world's deepest recession, which struck after its once-booming economy went off the rails in 2008, and is locked in a biting austerity drive.

© 2011 AFP

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