Schengen − 03-05-2011 – 17:56
On 1 May Germany and Austria finally opened their borders to workers from the eight Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, but they needn’t fear a flood or even a surge of migrants, MEPs and the Commission say, rather migrants can fill gaps on the job market and cover shortages of skilled workers. “We should have opened our labour market even earlier,” according to German Liberal Nadja Hirsch.
“Germany suffers from a shortage of skilled labour,” she said, noting that by 2025 Germany’s active population will decrease 6.5 million to 38.1 million. “This shortage cannot be compensated by better education or training, the improved integration of women or the prolongation of working life alone. We do need employees from other countries as well and should have opened our labour market even earlier.”
End of an era
According to Polish EPP member Bogusław Sonik this is the end of an era, “Finally new member states are treated on an equal footing with old member states. This is an important political symbol…the old member states are no longer afraid of workers from the new states.”
He said while some countries were afraid of opening their job markets, the EU in general benefited. “Polish specialists filled in the gaps on the job market”, particularly in agriculture, hospitality, health car and IT. Migrants coming back to Poland are valued workers, he added, “they often have new, better attitude towards work”. However, “now we have a shortage of skilled workers in some sectors. Poland needs to rethink its education policy,” Mr Sonik said.
Not open to all
Some job markets remain closed to Romania and Bulgaria, who joined the EU in 2007 and who may have to wait for another two years. Romanian Socialist Corina Crețu thinks that’s unjustified. “I believe that maintaining barriers will prevent using the full potential of manpower for the European economic recovery.”
“Reality shows that the potential consequences of the influx of labour from Romania are overstated, considering that at this moment over 2 million Romanians already work in EU countries that have abandoned discriminatory practices (and) we already have 100,000 people working in Germany,” she said.
The 10 countries that still impose restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria must remove them by the end of 2013.
The UK, Ireland and Sweden opened their job markets to new member states from the day they joined in 2004. Job markets in other countries opened up gradually with only Austria and Germany fully using the permitted seven-year transition period.
Malta and Cyprus, who also joined the EU in 2004, were excluded from restrictions by all 15 existing member states.