Answer given by Mr Andor on behalf of the Commission
The Commission does not expect the end of the transitional arrangements that temporarily restrict the right of free movement of workers from eight of the ten Member States that joined the EU in 2004 (‘EU‑8’) to have an adverse effect on the economies and labour markets of the receiving countries. Two Commission reports(1) on the functioning of the transitional arrangements found that free movement of workers is beneficial to the economy and does not have serious negative side-effects on the labour market.
A recent German study(2) shows that no massive inflows of citizens from EU‑8 are expected, that the new mobile workers will fill job vacancies and that the economic impact of greater mobility from EU‑8 is likely to be minor. Moreover, Austria and Germany are currently among the Member States with the lowest unemployment rates and the highest job vacancy rates. Lastly, the latest Commission economic forecasts(3) indicate that the German and Austrian unemployment rates are expected to decrease in the next few years.
Combating unemployment is one of the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy and is part of the employment guidelines(4). In its 2011 Annual Growth Survey(5), the Commission invites the Member States to implement reforms to improve the way the labour market functions and allow more people to find and stay in work. The 2011 Joint Employment Report also indicates practical measures to be implemented by the Member States to increase employment and reduce unemployment.
Since the 2004 enlargement, the large gap in wages and living standards between the Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and EU‑15 has narrowed(6). The Commission expects their economies to continue converging in the future, despite the economic crisis. It underlines that it does not intervene in wage and salary-setting arrangements the responsibility of which solely lies with the Member States. At EU level, the Cohesion Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund contribute to furthering economic convergence between the Member States.
The first (COM(2006)48 of 8 February 2006) covers the first 24 months of the transitional measures for EU‑8 workers, while the second (COM(2008)765 of 18 November 2008) on the impact of free movement of workers in the context of enlargement covers the first two years (2007‑08) of the transitional measures for workers from Bulgaria and Romania and reviews the transitional measures for EU‑8 workers.
See Wirkungen der Zuwanderungen aus den neuen mittel- und osteuropäischen EU‑Staaten auf Arbeitsmarkt und Gesamtwirtschaft, FES, September 2010 (available at: http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/wiso/07432.pdf).