Bulgaria, Romania Pool Efforts for Unfettered EU Job Rights

Bulgaria in EU | July 8, 2011, Friday // 12:33|  views

Ten member states have kept job restrictions for the citizens of the two Balkan countries that joined the EU in 2007. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The governments of Bulgaria and neighboring Romania have asked the European Commission to help convince older member states to lift restrictions for job-seekers from the two countries as of 2012.

Bulgarian Labor Minister Totyu Mladenov and his Romanian counterpart Sebastian Lazaroiu have sent to this end a joint letter to Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner L?szl? Andor.

In the joint letter, the two ministers call on the European Commission to issue a report on the free movement of workers from their countries, which could serve as a basis for decision-making prior to the scheduled review of the restrictions at the end of this year.

"We strongly believe that such a report would help member states which still uphold restrictions on their labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals to take a positive decision for the restrictions to be lifted," reads the letter.

"We believe that the free movement of workers must become a reality and that transitional measures should be removed at least two reasons: the free movement of workers is a fundamental right in the EU and the types of migration from new member states do not justify these measures," the ministers point out.

Romania and Bulgaria are in the second phase of the restrictions placed on the labor market commonly referred to in EU circles as the "2+3+2-year arrangement". The second phase ends on 31 December 2011.

Ten member states have kept job restrictions for the citizens of the two Balkan countries that joined the EU in 2007.

The restrictions can be kept for another two years, until 2013, if the countries present evidence to back up their claims that the Bulgarian and Romanian job-seekers are a burden for their labor markets.

The UK, Germany and Austria have also retained labour market restrictions for citizens of Bulgaria and Romania despite a recommendation from the European Commission that they be lifted.

Bulgarians and Romanians are also required to secure a work permit in order to take up a job in Ireland and Belgium.

The other EU-25 Member States that have notified the Commission of their decision to continue to apply national law on labour market access after 1 January 2009 include Italy, France, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands.

The presence of eastern European workers is extremely sensitive in Austria and Germany, which border the poorer region and the situation became even worse when recession started to boost unemployment rate.

The European Commission and the European Parliament can only recommend to the member states to open their labor markets for Bulgarians and Romanians, but it is up to the countries themselves to take the final decision.

It is doubtful however whether the joint efforts of the Bulgarian and Romanian governments will yield the expected results.

Earlier this year Austrian Labor Minister Rudolph Hundstorfer forecast that ten major EU member states will keep their labor markets closed for citizens of Bulgaria and Romania till 2014, the maximum period they are allowed.

This means that the ten Western European countries in question will wait until the end of the so called transition period of two-plus-three-plus-two – or up to seven - years after Bulgaria and Romania's EU accession in 2007 to open their labor market for Bulgarians and Romanians.

While Hundstorfer did not name the EU member states in question, it was obvious that he meant the ten countries still having restrictions: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, and the UK.

According to the Austrian Minister's forecast, these countries will keep the labor restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians as long as they are legally allowed to by EU rules.

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