21 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — Rather than simply closing its borders to protect Dutch jobs, the government in The Hague is considering imposing a maximum limit on the number of East and Central European immigrants allowed to enter the Netherlands after the EU expands in May.
Social Affairs State Secretary Mark Rutte said in a letter to Cabinet members that the immigrants will also need to obtain a work permit to enter the country, thus requiring that they have an employment contract. Citizens from Malta and Cyprus will not face the restrictions.
At the end of November last year, Rutte presented a similar proposal as an alternative to closing the borders against the expected inflow of job seekers, an NOS news report said.
A parliamentary majority made up of the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and populist LPF was in favour at the time of placing a restriction on the free movement of workers.
The three parties were concerned that the immigrants would push aside Dutch nationals in the search for jobs at a time when the Netherlands is faced with rising unemployment.
Recent figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) indicate that 5.5 percent of the Dutch workforce was unemployed in the last quarter of 2003. In the same period 12 months ago, 4.2 percent were jobless.
Elsewhere across the EU, Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Spain and Finland have all imposed a two-year closure of their borders to job seekers from the Central and Eastern states to prevent a mass immigration to Western Europe.
Despite the fact that the free movement of labour is a cornerstone of EU policy, the European Commission has permitted member states to close their borders to job seekers from eight of the incoming states for two years after the May expansion. After the initial two-year period, member states are also allowed to impose a three-year and then an extra two-year border closure.
But a conflict erupted within the Dutch Cabinet over the measures to be implemented in the Netherlands as VVD Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm warned of an alarming inflow of migrants and called for border control restrictions.
Democrat D66 Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, a strong proponent of the free movement of labour, urged instead for the borders to be thrown open from 1 May.
But Zalm’s fears of an alarming rise in migration were not supported by figures released last week by the Central Planning Bureau (CPB). The CPB said without extra restrictions, only 5,000 to 10,000 from the new states will migrate to the Netherlands annually by 2006, after which the inflow will gradually decline.
Its fears assuaged by the report, the VVD stepped back from its demand that the borders be closed, but contined to insist that incoming workers from the 10 states be required to obtain a work permit. But the CDA was not fully convinced and said the planning bureau’s figures were too rosy.
The CDA has urged that agreements be made with other EU nations about the introduction of restrictions, but the government coalition parties have not yet reacted to Rutte’s proposal, which is designed to break the deadlock between the coalition government members.
The state secretary will officially present his proposal to the Cabinet during its weekly meeting on Friday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news