Candidates object to labour transition periods

Candidates say curbs to free movement of their people after EU enlargement are discriminatory and may delay negotiations

The candidates say that curbing the freedom of movement of their people in the enlarged EU would turn them into second-class Member States and would disrupt the internal market. The candidates realise they do not have much room for manoeuvre in negotiations on this issue. Slovak chief negotiator Jan Figel expressed hope that the EU would review the ban after the first two years, when they realise there are no economic grounds for it.

Slovenia and Hungary were unhappy with their inclusion in the ban despite being richer and smaller than other candidates. They stressed that the proposal breached the principle of differentiation, whereby each candidate should be assessed according to its own merits. The Commission only exempted Cyprus and Malta from the ban. Slovenian Minister of European Affairs Igor Bavcar said Slovenia will press for an exemption from the ban.

According to EU diplomats, Germany may end up paying for this concession to Spain, which can use it during its stint at the EU Presidency in the first half of 2002 to get a fair share of development and farm aid in negotiations on the key financial issues of structural funds and agriculture.

 

EU membership candidates reacted with dismay and disappointment at the European Commission's proposal to introduce five to seven year transition periods for workers from the future Member States. Poland's chief negotiator Jan Kulakowski said Warsaw could not accept this position "because it simply gives the Austrians and Germans what they want".

 

The Commission proposed curbs for Central and Eastern European workers under pressure from Germany and Austria who made their assent to enlargement conditional on this measure. The two Member States are expected to receive the brunt of job seekers from the future Member States. However, the overall impact of enlargement on EU labour markets is expected to be small. According to a recent Commission study, only 3.9 million Central and Eastern Europeans would migrate to the present EU countries over a period of 30 years.

 

The EU Member States still have to adopt a common position on this issue. The Swedish Presidency plans to start discussions on 20 April. The issue of free movement of people will then be negotiated between the EU and each candidate country.

 

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