Free movement? Not really
In Sweden the discussion was heated about restrictions on the labour market for the new EU members in March 2004. Many of the traditional liberal voters turned away from the Liberal Party in the European elections of June 2004 wanting to punish the leadership for having advocated those restrictions of free movement. Myself, I have never been closer to leaving the Liberal party than during those weeks of intense debate. Fortunately the proposal didn’t gain support in parliament and Sweden was one of few EU contries (together with UK and Ireland) to keep their labour market open to new member states.
The EU observer reports that the Netherlands who in 2004 chose restrictions has now moved to open up its labour markets to workers from ”new” EU member states. Not all member states are following the Dutch example. The German government has agreed to extend their restrictions until 2011, despite opposition from the current economy minister Michael Glos. Why is it so hard to comply with the principles of free movement of goods, services, persons and capital?
Well, one reason is for sure that national politicians don’t have the courage to stand up against strong unions and interest groups. In the case of the German government, the economy minister Glos has to stand up even against his fellow ministers – from the Socialist party. Germany has a bad reputation when it comes to restrictions to the labour market. The German worker unions were the ones putting strong pressure on Schröder against the Directive of services, which in the end led to the directive being watered down completely.