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Netherlands – Eastern European worker influx causing concern

20 August 2013

Dutch Social Affairs Minister Lodewijk Asscher called on the EU to focus on the negative consequences of labour migration from Romania and Bulgaria at a time when surveys indicate that the fear of massive influxes is exaggerated.

Mr Asscher, writing in an article for Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, commented: “In the Netherlands, a 'Code Orange' is issued as the water in the rivers reach an alarmingly high level. It is now time for a similar alarm, namely about the sometimes negative consequences of the free movement of persons within the EU."

Labour migration from Romania and Bulgaria has turned into a hot topic in the Netherlands, as well as in Britain and Germany, ahead of 1 January 2014, when the last remaining labour market restrictions will be lifted, according to the EU Observer.

The newspaper article, co-authored by English writer David Goodhart, highlighted wage dumping, exploitation and the negative impact on local workers as the main disadvantages to freedom of movement of EU workers.

Asscher and Goodhart are calling for stricter rules penalising companies that exploit workers from the new EU Member States. EU legislation allowing freedom of movement of self-employed workers entered into force in 2006 and was tabled by Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein, then- EU Commissioner for the internal market, who was also a member of the ruling Dutch liberal party.

The law was sharply criticized by trade unions in Europe, who cautioned against a race to the bottom on wages and social benefits once poorer eastern Europeans were allowed to work freely in the richer western countries.

Fears of mass labour migration from Poland and other eastern countries has, however, proved unfounded, according to the EU Observer

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