Saturday, May 09, 2009

Germany and Austria keep doors closed for Polish workers

On Monday Vienna and Berlin officially informed the European Commission that they will retain restrictions on their labour markets for Poles and other new EU members.

As the five year anniversary of the latest enlargement of the European Union approaches on May 1, Germany and Austria will now be the only countries in the 27 nation bloc to retain labour market restrictions.

The governments argue that the present economic crisis is already putting a strain on labour markets and any possible new influx of migrants would be intolerable.

In 2008, over 3.3 million Germans were unemployed. In March 2009 the number rose to 3.6 million. According to Germany’s official letter to the European Commission, sent on Monday, next year about 4.6 million people could be without a job. The worst situation is forecast for the east of the country, where the unemployment rate has risen to over 14 percent.

The European Commission has underlined, however, that the economic crisis is not sufficient reason alone to maintain labour market restrictions.

“We will analyze the official statements and then we will comment on the case”, said Katharina von Schnurbein, spokesman of at the EC.

At present about 490,000 Poles work legally in Germany as self employed, or where rules allow for migrants to occupy a designated number of professions. Even with restrictions in place Germany has been the second favourite destination after the UK for Poles since the nation joined the EU in 2004.

Germany has said that it will retain its restrictions to migrants from Poland and new member states until 2011.