Germany to Keep Immigrant Labor Limits

The German government plans to extend till 2011 the labor market barriers that keep out workers from recently admitted EU member states

The Netherlands has moved to open up its labour markets to workers from "new" EU member states. But the German government has agreed to extend restrictions against them until 2011, despite opposition from the current economy minister.

Experts from Germany's right-left ruling coalition last week backed plans to use the full EU temporary period for labour barriers and delay lifting them for the two final years until 2011, according to German weekly Der Spiegel.

Berlin as well as most other west European capitals opted to keep their labour markets closed for jobseekers from the eight countries in central and Eastern Europe that joined the EU in 2004.

Several countries extended the restrictions in 2006 for another three years and can decide whether to delay them again until 2011, with Austria likely to follow Germany in doing so.

The agreement between the Christian democrats and Socialists in the German government goes against the arguments of the economy minister Michael Glos, who favoured dropping the barriers earlier, according to Der Spiegel.

THE DUTCH OPEN UP ON 1 MAYMeanwhile, the Dutch government informed the European Commission on Friday (27 April) that it would lift restrictions for new workers on 1 May, with employment commissioner Vladimir Spidla welcoming the move.

Mr Spidla suggested it would help the Dutch economy, with authorities saying they expect potential European migrants to find jobs mainly in the construction sector and agriculture.

The Netherlands follows Spain, Portugal, Finland, Greece and Italy who dropped barriers last year while the UK, Ireland and Sweden did not introduce them in the first place when the newcomers joined in 2004.

However, both south European countries and the UK and Ireland switched to a restrictive policy towards Bulgarians and Romanians who entered the EU in January 2007 and introduced quotas for various sectors and types of workers to be allowed in.

Free movement of workers is one of the fundamental principles of the European Union, but member states can apply temporary measures to protect their labour markets from an influx of migrant workers for up to seven years.

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