Prague threatens labour restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers

Should Austria fail to lift labour restrictions on the new member states next year, the Czech Republic says it will consider imposing similar restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers.

On the sidelines of the 15-16 December EU summit, where the participants are preoccupied with the Union’s long-term budget, many of the new member states have also been pressing for the EU-15 to lift restrictions on the free movement of labour. 

In a recent statement, the Czech Republic’s Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach has said that in absence of a decision to shorten or cancel the seven-year transitional period by the old member states, notably Austria, the “wealthier” new members (Czech Republic and Slovenia) would have no choice but to slap labour restrictions on the next wave of newcomers, Bulgaria and Romania. In Skromach’s opinion, under the existing “discriminatory” scenario, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are bound to become highly attractive destinations for poorer Bulgarian and Romanian workers.

The Commission is scheduled to make public its stance on the European labour market situation in January 2006. The old member states have until the end of April to decide whether to keep or remove the “transitional restrictions” on the movement of workers from the new EU members.

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