Not opening the door just yet

The latest awkward note in the Czech EU presidency is a statement immediately before Mayday making clear the displeasure of the Czech Republic and the other eastern European entrants from the 2004 accession cohort that Germany and Austria will maintain their transition restrictions on free movement of labor from these countries until 2011.  As the statement explains, Germany and Austria are the last two “western” countries to maintain the restrictions, and one suspects that the global recession played a significant role in their thinking.  One thing this highlights is the weakness of the G20 process.  G20 leaders worked themselves into righteous indignation a few weeks ago about the evils of “protectionism” — with protectionism carefully defined as additional restrictions on trade in goods and services and made to sound like something like all decent people must be against.  And definitely something easy to be against for people steeped in economic orthodoxy, as the people drafting these summit statements are.   But allow policymakers to conjure up an image of huge westward flows of unemployed labor as the crisis deepens, and a different protectionism instinct kicks in.   It’s not even clear how big the prospective flows would be.  Many of those most likely to leave Poland or the Baltics in search of work had gone elsewhere already.

4 thoughts on “Not opening the door just yet

  1. That’s odd; there are about 6 million Polish people in Germany alone ATM.

  2. Bruce,

    Where did you get this number?
    According to the German Federal Statistics office, there were 384000 Polish citizens living in Germany at the end of 2007.
    Source: Destatis (in German)

  3. Germany’s run by an aging, sclerotic coalition government that’s terrified of anything new, strange or potentially unpopular. Austria is Austria.

    But here’s a question: wasn’t there supposed to be some sort of standard for this? IMS it was “Up to seven years, the first two years are free, the next three you have to at least make up some reason, the last two you have to show evidence of serious impact on your labor market”? Did they even bother with that?

    Doug M.

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