What mobility in EU’s mobility year?

, by Tina Fistravec

What mobility in EU's mobility year?

The European Commission has proclaimed the year 2006 as European worker’s mobility year. This came as a slap in the face of EU citizens coming from eight of the new member states that, due to transitional periods imposed on the free movement of labour, cannot be fully mobile.

The Austrian presidency had engaged in a quarrel over free movement of labour restrictions that many of the old member states have placed on most of the new member states through accession treaties. Austria and Germany had announced that they would extend the restrictions, and this was followed by an unbelievable fight between the Commissioners, who should by all means defend European, not national interests. Yet we have seen many of them fall into the trap of defending the same position as their country of origin, starting with Spidla and Ferrero-Waldner being at the forefront of the two camps.

The accountability of the Commission

In mid-January we have witnessed the Commissioners splitting into two camps of either in favour or against the extension of the labour market restrictions, and going public with their differences in opinions. This proved to be another example of why the current nomination of the Commission is far from what it should be to secure a true European working spirit in the Commission. Commissioners being nominated and placed in their posts by national governments, who usually have only the slightest worry about what the Parliament will say, does not secure the best working atmosphere, possibly free of nationalistic views, in the Commission! How can we then be surprised of their wrong doings?

The current system is not working - what can be changed for the better? The Commission should be elected by the Parliament, which is the only directly elected organ of the EU and therefore the most legitimate one. That would provide grounds for a true political debate on European issues and give way to those candidates, who can defend that ground. The left/right majority would also secure a leadership accountable to the political preferences of the citizens.

Free movement of persons as the basic principle of the EU

Given that all EU citizens should share the same basic freedoms and rights, the justification of the labour movement restrictions have been difficult to understand already prior to Enlargement. The fact that in May 2006 some countries even prolonged the restrictions imposed in 2004 is not only an insult, but a grave violation of human rights, such as equality and human dignity. On the other hand, the new EU directive will make sure that the non-EU citizens will have more rights than the EU citizens coming from the 8 new member states.

A valid point to ask ourselves is why the restriction are there in the first place. Free movement of capital and goods does not hinder the old member states to benefit from the new member states’ markets. They have even less problem with “stealing” qualified and well-educated working force from them. But they are not willing to share their standard of living as they hide between populist nationalistic excuses, despite all the professional estimations of how much mobility would there actually be - a neglectful one percent.

Equality and basic freedoms, the fundamental principles underlying the functioning of the EU, need to be valid and applied without further delay for all EU citizens with no exceptions. A society based on the rule of law and democracy cannot accept a division between first and second class citizens - we are all equal and the member states as well as Commissioners should accept this principle.

True democracy does not cherry-pick its “worthy” citizens!


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Your comments
  • On 10 July 2006 at 10:03, by Emmanuel Vallens Replying to: What mobility in EU’s mobility year?

    Dear Tina,

    however much I appreciate the aim of this Fedwatch article, I must admit I’ve been very disappointed by it.

    I would have expected you, before castigating the selfish attitude of the old member states, at least to explain why they wanted to impose limitations on the free movement of labour for the new ones. You haven’t sufficiently described the arguments of both sides, so it is difficult for the neutral reader to take side and support you.

    It just isn’t enough to say that the restrictions are an insult. It may be right, or it may be wrong. But you must susbtantiate your claims, especially when you’re making such serious allegations as violations of human rights. And saying that it was difficult to understand in the first place is no good political analysis, if you ask me.

    Then you’re talking about a new EU directive, that “will make sure that the non-EU citizens will have more rights than the EU citizens coming from the 8 new member states.” When one says something as serious as this, you should at least document this accusation further: tell us the reference (title, date, number) of the directive, quote it, explain how and in which regard it gives more right to non-EU citizens.

    Then you say “A valid point to ask ourselves is why the restriction are there in the first place.” Indeed. And I would have expected you to actually answer this question: why where the restrictions created in the first place? Unfortunately, you just ask the question, but do not provide any answer. So what should we make of it?

  • On 17 July 2006 at 15:11, by Tina Fistravec Replying to: What mobility in EU’s mobility year?

    Dear Manu,

    My article had no aim to be neutral, it is judging and takes a clear side from the start. So unbiased and objective attitude is something you cannot expect from me, and I thought that was also not a purpose of the FEDwatch, that should clearly take side and condemn certain state behaviour, not write academic political analyses (at least that was the purpose of it at establishment, and as far as I am aware, all FEDwatch contributions are like that). One that follows daily news on developments in the EU, can read the FEDwatch articles only as a supplement comment to the happenings, not really use them as an information source. Correct me if my perception is wrong.

    Since the comments and opinions should be short and clear, I of course didn’t include many analyzes made in support of my claims, but you can find them on the following websites, if you are interested in following up some of my claims, your good starting point might be Euractiv, which also lists several links to other actors in the field: http://www.euractiv.com/en/enlargement/free-movement-labour-eu-25/article-129648 http://www.euractiv.com/en/enlargement/commission-calls-labour-movement-restrictions-lifted/article-152345

    I will however take your criticism as an opportunity to improve my future comments and opinions with listing enough references for the reader.

    However, I am still waiting for any statistics or prove that will support the true economic and not populist reasons behind the restrictions in the labour market. If you have any, please don’t hesitate to forward them to me. As for the directive I am referring to, I’ll need to do a deeper search, for my article was written more than half a year ago, but I am sure you can find the reference to it in the media of that time (mid-January; I will also look for it too).

  • On 17 July 2006 at 23:31, by Emmanuel Vallens Replying to: What mobility in EU’s mobility year?

    Dear Tina,

    thanks for the answer. If it wasn’t clear in my message, here it is: I totally support your claims and point of view, and certainly do not need to be convinced of the discriminatory nature of those restrictions. This being said, surely the French governement did not just say “oh, we want those restrictions for populist reasons, in order to discriminate against new member states”. They MUST have had some arguments, however much ill-founded and subject to criticism...

    As for the directive, I really have never heard about it, but I’ll look for it.

    As for Fedwatch, surely its aim is to present a subjective point of view. But being subjective also means argumenting, if only to convince the reader that what one says is right... There’s no point being subjective if one isn’t convincing... On the French version of Taurillon (“Red Cards”, the equivalent of FedWatch), they do write longer articles, so they can afford to give more facts... I know it may be hard to choose between being snappy and making one’s point convincingly.

    Anyway, that’s it for now, thanks again very much for your reply, and looking forward to reading your future comments!

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