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11 years ago

Employment: Commission proposes to improve application of workers' rights to free movement

The European Commission has today proposed measures to ensure the better application of EU law on people's right to work in another Member State and so make it easier for people to exercise their rights in practice.

Currently there is a persistent problem with public and private employers' lack of awareness of EU rules, regardless of whether the national legislation is compliant or not. This lack of awareness or understanding of the rules is a major source of discrimination based on nationality. People also consider that they do not know where to turn to in the host Member State when faced with problems concerning their rights to free movement. The proposal aims to overcome these obstacles and to help to prevent discrimination against workers on the basis of nationality by proposing practical solutions.

László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said: "The free movement of workers is a key principle of the EU's Single Market. With much higher levels of unemployment in some Member States than others at the moment, it is all the more important to make it easier for those that want to work in another EU country to be able to do so. Labour mobility is a win—win – it benefits both Member States' economies and the individual workers concerned. This proposal will help workers to overcome obstacles to working in another EU country."

The proposal, if approved by the European Parliament and Council, would help to ensure real and effective application of existing legislation. Member States would be required to:

· create national contact points providing information, assistance and advice so that EU migrant workers, and employers, are better informed about their rights

· provide appropriate means of redress at national level

· allow labour unions, NGOs and other organisations to launch administrative or judicial procedures on behalf of individual workers in cases of discrimination

· give better information for EU migrant workers and employers in general.


Currently 3% of the EU labour force, or 9.5 million people, live and work in another Member State. An additional 1.2 million people live in one EU country but work in another. But people wanting to work in another country often lack protection and information in the host Member State and can have difficulties accessing a job or social advantages or with their working conditions. A September 2011 Eurobarometer poll indicated that 15% of EU citizens would not consider working in another Member State because they feel there are too many obstacles. Obstacles include:

· different recruitment conditions

· nationality conditions to access certain posts

· different working conditions in practice (such as pay, career prospects and grade)

· problems with access to social benefits which are subject to conditions are more easily met by nationals than by EU citizens (e.g. a residence condition)

· professional qualifications and experience acquired in other Member States not taken into account or taken into account in a different way.

As well as having professional and personal consequences for the individuals concerned, these obstacles also adversely affect their integration into the labour market and society of the host country.

The right of EU citizens to work in another Member State, laid down in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), includes the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of nationality as regards access to employment, pay and other working conditions. Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 details the rights derived from free movement of workers and defines specific areas where discrimination on grounds of nationality is prohibited, in particular as regards:

· access to employment

· working conditions

· social and tax advantages

· access to training

· membership of trade unions

· housing

· access to education for children.

Both Article 45 TFEU and Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 are directly applicable in the Member States but the new proposal aims to improve and reinforce the way in which they are applied in practice. The proposal would do this by establishing a general common framework of appropriate provisions and measures for facilitating better and more uniform application of rights conferred by EU law on workers and members of their families exercising their right to free movement. Independently of this proposal, the Commission, as guardian of the Treaty, will also continue to pursue infringement procedures where necessary against Member States in cases where national law is not in line with the Treaty and the Regulation.

Labour mobility in the EU benefits not only the workers involved but also the Member States' economies. It benefits host countries because it allows companies to fill vacancies that would otherwise not be filled - there is no evidence that migrant workers take jobs away from host country workers - and so produce goods and provide services that they would otherwise be unable to do. And it benefits migrants' countries of origin because it allows workers that would otherwise be less able to work to find jobs and so ensure financial support to their family back home and acquire skills and experience they would otherwise lack. When migrant workers subsequently return to their country of origin they then benefit from that experience.

For example, a 2011 study on migration from eight new Member States (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia) indicated that Ireland's GDP was boosted by 3%, and the UK's GDP by 1.2%, in the period 2004-09 as a result of migrant workers from these eight Member States.

For more information


News item on DG Employment website:                                        

László Andor's website:

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© 2011 Law School, Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Faculty of Sciences and Arts, Cluj-Napoca

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