Germany seeks workers' rights delay

BBC News Online, Monday 18 December 2000, 22:47 GMT

Germany has said former communist countries joining the EU should face long delays before their workers get the right to take jobs in western Europe.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wants the eastern Europeans to wait up to seven years before they get full employment rights, allowing them to work anywhere within the EU&s boundaries.

Correspondents say Germany wants to cushion the extent to which its own workforce is undercut, especially by low-paid Poles and Czechs, but that this is the first time the details have been spelt out.

Poland, by far the biggest nation seeking membership, has been the first to react to Germany&s calls.

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said he did not want to see any delay in the free movement of its workers.

Smaller countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia are more relaxed on the migrant labour issue.

Final decision

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has already said that all the Hungarians who want to work in Austria are probably already there.

In Slovenia, a government spokeswoman said Slovenia did not expect to be subject to a transition period.

We believe the EU will differentiate among candidates, she said.

The EU is expected to make a final decision on the freedom of movement of workers from new Eastern European member states next year.


A similar transition period to that proposed by Germany was applied to citizens from Spain and Portugal when those countries joined the EU.

Mr Schroeder says similar transition rules are needed for the EU&s enlargement towards the eastern Europe to fill certain vacancies.

He added those rules should be flexible, to allow current EU members to lift restrictions in certain sectors in the event of labour shortages.

Mr Schroeder also said some countries could be granted shorter transition periods, either after a five-year review or at the request of an individual country.

The plans were outlined by Mr Schroeder in a speech delivered in Bavaria, not far from the border with the Czech Republic.

At a summit in Nice a week ago, the EU&s 15 existing members agreed reforms aimed at allowing up to 12 applicant states to join the bloc from 2003 onwards.