MOBILITY

2006 IS THE EUROPEAN YEAR OF WORKERS' MOBILITY

Read Jean's latest speech on mobility (November 2006)

 

September 5 2006, Strasbourg: Jean hosts launch of new ECAS Report on Worker Migration

 

Access the Report

Read the Press Release

What are the latest Member State arrangements?

Commission overview in May 2006

Jean's work on mobility

ECAS Website

 

According to a 2005 Eurobarometer survey, above all else (including the introduction of the Euro), European citizens associate the EU with freedom of movement. Unfortunately, expectations of EU citizens are not being met. The most recent report from the European Citizen Action Service "Who's Still Afraid of EU Enlargement?" concludes that barriers are still being put up by some Member States and this is to the detriment of the EU economy, missing a golden opportunity to boost growth and meet the challenges of an ageing economy.

 

The Report which is based on collection of data since enlargement, compares the experiences of the EU 25 and provides a series of recommendations. One important recommendation is that migrants should be better informed about what to expect from their employment destination, in particular issues about registration and the cost of living should be highlighted. Ireland's "Know before you go" initiative is an example of good practice. Another Recommendation from the report is the need for more reliable figures, particularly of migrants returning home.

 

"The underlying principle of European citizenship is the right to equal treatment." ECAS Report

 

The Report highlights the fact that not only do migrant workers fill jobs that national workers do not want, jobs provided in one country provide an important boost to the EU as a whole with migrants remittances higher than the level of international development aid. Moreover, circular migration increases skills and knowledge. In the UK employment figures are at their highest point since 1971.

 

Fears and misconceptions:

 

While we are often fed scare stories about Polish plumbers and floods of Romanians and Bulgarians entering the UK, it is interesting to note that the EU nationals most inclined to migrate are from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Slovakia. Romanians and Bulgarians would rather migrate to Spain, Portugal and Italy than to the UK as these countries are more linguistically and culturally similar. In fact migration from "old" Member States and third countries vastly outweighs the trickle that comes from the enlargement countries. New Member States make up only 0.4% of the EU's 5.1% resident foreign country nationals. Certainly, a higher number of migrants come from Poland but it is worth bearing in mind that more than half of the A8 population is Polish. When asked about quality of work, most employers agree that Polish workers are motivated, hard working and willing to accept jobs that would otherwise remain unfilled. Fears about "welfare tourists" also seem to be unfounded. In Sweden where there were no restrictions there has been no increase in claims.

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Migration and transitional measures - the story so far: (Source: ECAS Report Who's Still Afraid of EU Enlargement)

 

National regimes on access to the labour market that applied during the first two years post – enlargement can be divided in four groups.

 

1) Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Finland, Greece, Germany and Spain maintained

their work permit systems;

2) Denmark granted work permits only to those in full-time employment; Austria,

Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands maintained their work permit system and

combined it with quotas, thus creating a “double threshold” before granting access

to their respective labour markets.

3) Three Member States: Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom decided to open

their labour markets to workers coming from A8 already as from 1 May 2004 of

which both in the United Kingdom and Ireland, access to social benefits was

made conditional: in the UK, a one-year legal employment relationship was

required, while in Ireland, the “habitual residency” test has become applicable. 26

4) Sweden was the only country to fully apply Community rules on free movement

of workers and the principle of equal treatment as regards access to social

benefits.

 

Restrictions on access to the labour market applied to Czech, Estonian, Hungarian,

Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak and Slovenian nationals. Malta and Cyprus are not covered by Transitional Arrangements given the small size of their labour market and population.

 

Amongst the Accession countries only Hungary, Poland and Slovenia opted for the

application of “reciprocal measures” (see above) and required work permits from

nationals of those EU countries, which also restricted labour flows of their nationals.

Labour migration between the accession countries has not been limited since 1 May 2004.

 

CHANGES IN THE NATIONAL REGIMES APPLIED SINCE 1 MAY 2006:

Since 1 May 2006, restrictions on access to the labour market remain in place in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. The latter is applying also a quota system in relation to seasonal workers. Nevertheless, the Dutch government has made an official declaration announcing the revision of the existing rules by 1 January 2007.

 

Denmark maintains the application of Transitional Arrangements, however eases

conditions in a way, that part time workers will also be granted work permits provided

that they work more than 30 hours per week. France also notified the Commission that it would gradually lift restrictions. From 1 May 2006, it has already liberalised access to 61 sectors suffering from employment gaps or serious labour shortages. For the jobs concerned, French labour authorities issue work permits automatically, without the examination of the situation of the labour market. Eased procedures are also applied on a “sector-based approach” in Belgium and Luxembourg. Between 1 May 2006 – 21 July 2006, Italy has still been applying the work permit system combined with quotas, however raised the quota from the previous 79,500 to 170,000.

After 21 July the restrictions were abolished when Italian State Secretary Giuliano Amato announced that the country has granted full access to its labour market to nationals of the new Member States and at the same time, it has opened a quota of 300,000 for non-EU nationals.

 

The number of labour markets that are now open for A8 nationals has tripled with

Finland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy fully applying Community rules on free

movement of workers. Going hand in hand with the opening of its labour market, Finland is setting up a system, which allows labour authorities to monitor the labour flows from the new Member States. This might provide for a reliable record of post-enlargement migratory flows that hopefully will encourage other Member States.

Amongst the new Member States, there is one important (and symbolic) decision to be mentioned i.e. that Slovenia ceased to apply reciprocal measures towards nationals of those EU-15 countries that still keep in place the restrictions on the free movement of Slovenian labour.

 

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May 2006 - Read Commissioner Spidla's overview of the situation in Member States regarding transitional measures.

Jean is recognised as one of the most prominent MEPs on this issue. This is because:

  • Jean was Rapporteur for Parliament's Report on the co-ordination of social security systems (otherwise known as 1408/71).
  • Jean has worked extensively with the European Citizen Action Service and for the past few years has held a Hearing in Strasbourg with them on the issue of free movement of people.
  • She was a keynote speaker at the high level launch of the Year of Workers' Mobility, speaking along side Commissioner Spidla and ETUC Secretary General John Monks.
  • She has consistently called for re-evaluation of the transitional measures that are currently imposed by the majority of "Old" Member States.

Background:

Rules which were laid down in the Accession Treaties, allow EU countries to decide whether they want apply transitional measures. These measures place restrictions on workers from the 10 accession countries who want to work in "old Member States" and can be enforced for the first seven years following accession. Decisions are made and then re-evaluated on a regular basis. Restrictions can remain in place for up to seven years but some countries have already lifted them. In 2004, for example, the UK, Ireland and Sweden decided against enforcement of the transitional measures. Following a Commission Report on the issue, Member States now have to announce by May 1st 2006 whether they too want to open their Labour Markets.

The Commission Report:

The Report was published in early February 2006. It outlines the current situation as well as some key problems.

Key findings

  • no statistical proof of increased migration flow into countries with lifted measures
  • positive influence on labour markets of countries with no transitional measures
  • increased illegal labour in countries who have not lifted transitional measures

The Employment & Social Affairs Committee in European Parliament has put forward a draft Report which:

  • asks MS to abolish transition periods based on the Commission report findings
  • demands better application and monitoring of existing labour law to avoid social dumping
  • asks for an information campaign to promote fact over myth
  • suggests that citizens of New Member States might be potentially discriminated against

Jean's position: Free movement of workers is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU. The transitional period makes New Member State integration difficult. This "Year of Mobility" is a perfect opportunity for Member States to demonstrate their commitment to equality in the EU. Read Press Release

News Release, From the Office of Jean Lambert

5th September 2006

Two Tier Approach To EU Citizenship Fails Both New and Old Member States Warns Green MEP

Commenting on the findings of a report by the European Citizens Action Service (ECAS) on mobility rights in the EU, presented in the European Parliament today, UK Green MEP Jean Lambert, who hosted the presentation stated;

"The findings of the ECASreport add to the body of evidence confirming the positive impact of enlargement and workers mobility, which should dispel the unfounded fears still held by EU Member States. The concerns used by many Member States to justify the imposition of restrictions have proved unfounded - there has been no flood of migrants, welfare or otherwise.

"Those Member States that opened their labour markets to EU citizens from the new Member States have benefited economically, socially and culturally. In those countries in which no restrictions were applied, workers from the new Member States played an important role in increasing output, with economic growth also being reflected in soaring employment rates {2}. If this is to continue to be a positive experience, those going to work in another country need to be fully prepared for the fact that there are still differences, not least in the cost of living.

"Despite this year being the European Year of Workers Mobility, we are in the ironic situation where Member States are again preparing to batten down the hatches of their labour markets in advance of the forthcoming accessions of Bulgaria and Romania. Instead of learning from the positive experience in those Member States that did not impose restrictions, politicians and the media are stoking baseless fears. Denying full rights to EU citizens merely increases the incentives for undeclared work, with the consequences this can have for exploitation of workers. National governments and politicians must end the two-tier approach to EU citizenship and communicate to their citizens the proven positive effects of labour mobility within the EU."

ENDS

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JEAN HOSTS PARLIAMENT MEETING: WHO'S AFRAID OF EU ENLARGEMENT?

September 2005

To launch the ECAS Report on worker migration, based on the official statistics from Member States, Jean chaired a meeting at which ECAS Chair, Mario Monti, presented the Report findings. They show that actual migration numbers have been much lower than many expected – raising questions about current transitional measures. The response from the audience of MEPs and journalists highlighted the necessity for positive action based on facts about migration. The timing is particularly important given that the Commission's preparation for its Year of Workers' Mobility begins this month.

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF MEETING

Opposite: Jean with Mario Monti at the event

Both photos: European Parliament

PRESS RELEASE

ECAS REPORT

ECAS WEBSITE

EVENT PROMOTION

Context: One year ago in Strasbourg , the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) launched a report on 'unfinished enlargement', which included seven recommendations to EU leaders. The political landscape has, however, in the meantime changed, particularly regarding enlargement and attitudes towards migrant workers. ECAS is launching a new 'hotline' to gather evidence from citizens and organisations on how free movement is operating.

Opposite: The full panel including co-author Monika Byrska and ECAS Director Tony Venables