Dutch to impose cap on East European workers
23 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government has decided to cap the number of Eastern Europeans coming to the Netherlands for work after 10 countries join the EU later this year.
In a statement on Friday, the Dutch government said that current regulations requiring workers from Eastern Europe to obtain a work permit would remain in place until 2005.
Employers have to apply for a work permit for workers from these countries. At present the issue of a permit is dependent on whether or not a worker from the Netherlands or another EU member state could do the job in question. This criterion will no longer apply. However, checks will still be carried out to see that the agreed terms and conditions of employment are in line with Dutch rules, the government says.
If by 1 May 2005, the limit of 22,000 workers threatens to be breached, the Cabinet will reconsider its decision.
Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic along with Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovenia will be officially admitted to membership of the EU on 1 May this year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said that the Dutch borders would “be opened, but not overrun” by the EU enlargement. The centre-right coalition hopes to deter large number of Poles in particular from coming to the Netherlands.
The freedom of movement for labour is one of the main planks on which the EU is founded, but several member states are worried that their markets will be flooded by poorer workers from Eastern Europe.
The Dutch Cabinet’s decision on Friday reverses the earlier stance of the previous centre-left coalition of Wim Kok (1994-2002) which had agreed to open its labour market fully to the new EU citizens, news site nu.nl reported.
Germany has already insisted on a two–year transitional period from 1 May during which time the free movement of labour will be denied to citizens of the new member states.
Zalm has been a strong supporter over the past year of a similar move by the Netherlands based on fears that workers from the East would flood the Dutch labour market. Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst had been against the idea of a cap on work permits.
Brinkhorst had argued that the feared influx of cheap labour when Portugal and Spain joined in the EU in 1986 did not materialise.
To break the deadlock, the Cabinet asked the macroeconomic thinktank CPB to draw up a report estimating how many workers from the new EU states would seek employment in the Netherlands.
The CPB issued its finding earlier in January saying that it anticipated about a maximum of 10,000 extra workers — on top of the normal amount — would apply annually to immigrate to the Netherlands as a direct result of EU enlargement.
As a result, the Cabinet compromised by agreeing to maintain the current system of work permits for East Europeans wishing to find employment in the Netherlands.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news + EU enlargement