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1 May rule changes raise mixed feelings in EU

Administrator Administrator 26.04.2011 07:29
While the government in Berlin is positive about opening its labour market to Poles and others on 1 May, British media are warning of “a new flood of immigration” to the UK by eastern Europeans “looking for handouts”.

While the government in Berlin is positive about opening its labour market to Poles and others on 1 May, British media are warning of a new flood of immigration to the UK by eastern Europeans “looking for handouts”.

Changes in regulations on 1 May mean that Germany will open its doors fully to Poles and the other new arrivals to the EU from Eastern Europe. Germany’s economy needs more skilled workers to maintain economic growth, says the government in Berlin.

“Free movement of workers is normal in the EU and we are delighted that people from Eastern European Union will finally be able to make full use of this,” German State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour Ralf Brauksiepe told foreign journalists in Berlin, Sunday.

Germany and Austria are the final two countries to open their labour markets fully in the EU. The German government says it expects around 100,000 workers a year from Poland and other Eastern European countries to take advantage in the new rules.

While Berlin and Vienna kept their markets closed to the new accession countries when they joined the EU in 2004 ( joined later by Romania and Bulgaria), an upturn in the economy has revealed shortages of skilled labour in key sectors of the economy.

Minister Brauksiepe said Germany "had reasonable grounds" to maintain the labour barrier in 2004. “Wages in Germany are relatively high, especially compared with countries beyond our eastern border, ” he says, but now conditions dictate finding new workers in the country even though there are currently 3 million unemployed there.

Fears of new flood

But while positive noises are coming out of Berlin as 1 May approaches, British media are voicing fears that changes in benefit rules on that day in the UK may produce a new wave of immigration from the east.

“As many as 100,000 people from eastern Europe are expected to head for the UK after May 1, when they will be able to claim up to £250 a week in handouts,” leads an article in the Daily Express this morning.

“Immigrants from eight countries – including Poland and Hungary, which joined the European Union in 2004 – will get automatic rights to Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing and council tax benefit. Rules that prohibit eastern bloc migrants from accepting the handouts unless they have worked here continuously for a year must be lifted to comply with EU requirements,” continues the article.

Besides attracting a new wave of migration, the change in rules will encourage the estimated 700 to 800,000 Poles already in the UK to stay, warns the Daily Express.

“These new rules will make Poles feel even more at home in Britain and are another reason why they will never leave,” the newspaper quotes Professor Krystyna Iglicka, of the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw as saying. (pg)

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