Meanwhile, that whole free movement of labor thing

So when the 10 new EU members joined in 2004, the old EU-15 came up with a clunky compromise about the free movement of labor: each old member could decide for itself, but they’d have to publicly review that decision after two years (2006) and then again in three more years (2009) and then after seven years, in 2011, they’d have to drop all restrictions and let the Poles and Hungarians in. (I say 10 new members, but really this only applied to 8, because Cyprus and Malta are so tiny that nobody cared to put restrictions on them. So, this was really about the “EU-8” — Poland and Hungary, Czechs and Slovaks, Slovenia and the three Baltic states.)

The old members came up with a bewildering array of responses, ranging from total liberalism (Britain, Ireland, Finland) to sharp restrictions (Belgium, Austria).

Then three years later, in April 2007, Romania and Bulgaria joined. The EU adopted the same two-three-seven rule for these new members as well.

The existing members — which now included the 10 new members — came up with a different bewildering array of responses. Some members that had been very liberal to the EU-8 closed their doors to the new two, while some that had been conservative reconsidered.

So we’re now at the point where you need a chart. Fortunately, our friends at the Beeb have prepared one! Here it is.

What’s interesting is that this is a snapshot, a complicated picture that’s on its way to becoming much simpler. May 2011 is less than three years away. And when all the EU-8 have complete freedom of movement, it’s unlikely that many countries will keep restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians.

But here’s a thought: will the EU keep the same rules for newer members? One might think not… after all, Croatia and Macedonia are pretty dinky. But waiting beyond them lies Turkey. So, almost certainly the seven-year rule will be implied on the new Balkan members as well, even if most members will promptly wave them in. In fact, all of these countries already have arrangements with the EU allowing some movement of labor.

(The interesting exception: Kosovo. In fact, movement of labor out of Kosovo has been getting harder, not easier. But that’s a story for another post.)

As for the effects of all this… well, that’s the big question, isn’t it. Watch this space.

5 thoughts on “Meanwhile, that whole free movement of labor thing

  1. Oh, the effects are visible. Over a period of just one year, there has been a sixfold increase in the number of crimes committed by Romanian citizens in this country.

    Of these, 75% were property crimes. And the reference was specifically to the Romanian citizens _other_ than the Romani… who, in spite of being singled out by the media, are really a rather marginal group.

    Great PR for Romania. Funny thing, there were never any such problems with the citizens of those other new EU countries.


    J. J.

  2. Doug, I think you meant Sweden, not Finland as one of the “total liberalism” three. Finland had slight restrictions until 2006.

    This came to my attention when reading a related post by P. Whyte at CER.

  3. “Over a period of just one year, there has been a sixfold increase in the number of crimes committed by Romanian citizens in this country”

    Funny thing, this has never happened in the US. There are almost 400K Romanians in the US and there are no issues at all. Most of those that arrived after ’89 came through the diversity visa program. The only condition was to have a highschool diploma, which almost everyone in RO has, if they graduated in the 80’s at least. Also, I don’t see gypsies here as well, Romanians or from whatever..

    I’m curious why Finland would be different.

  4. Stefan, a guess could be that Romanian immigrants to the US are more permanent, after all cross atlantic tckets are not really cheap.

    Here in the Netherlands the same stories about Romanians and Bulgarians in particular are growing, but I have no data to see if there is body behind the rumours.

    A story that keeps on reappearing are ‘shopping sprees’, where some guys drive a van to a country, steal stuff until the police is aware of them, move on to another country to continue, and eventually return to Romania where they know people to sell the loot to. We are not so much talking about permanent migrants to the richer parts who turn out to be above-average criminal, but more about Romanian criminals who have moved their working field.

    I guess inter-country policing in the EU is still far from perfect, especially in the contacts with the newer members.

  5. The problem with BBC News maps is they never use enough colours – it’s always shades of tan, usually three shades at most, when they should be using bright colours that are easily distinguished. In this case, they could have coloured in the EU15 countries to indicate the different policies towards migrants from the EU8 and Romania + Bulgaria, but they didn’t want to spoil their daft colour scheme. As a result, the text has to do all the work, rather than the map giving an at-a-glance summary.

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