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European Commission welcomes the decisions by Belgium and Denmark to open their labour markets

29/04/2009 European Commission welcomes the decisions by Belgium and Denmark to open their labour markets

The Belgian and Danish Governments have decided to open their labour markets to workers from eight EU Member States in Central and Eastern Europe for the third and final phase of the transitional arrangements from 1 May 2009.

Germany and Austria have informed the Commission that they intend to continue to apply transitional measures on labour market access until 30 April 2011. The United Kingdom continues to apply its Workers Registration Scheme. Denmark will also open its labour market to workers from Bulgaria and Romania.

1 May 2009 marks the beginning of the final two years of transitional arrangements that allow EU countries to restrict the free movement of workers from eight of the ten states that joined the EU in 2004. The transitional arrangements apply for a total period of seven years and started on 1 May 2004. Unless a Member State communicates to the Commission that it is experiencing a serious disturbance of its labour market, or threat thereof, the transitional measures end on 30 April 2009 and Community law on free movement of workers applies (in other words, no restrictions apply).

Belgium and Denmark have now decided to end restrictions for workers from the EU-8 Member States; in Denmark the labour market will also be open to workers from Bulgaria and Romania.

Freedom of movement is a right for every EU worker and is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union. At the signing of the Accession Treaty in 2003, all EU-15 Member States undertook to move as quickly as possible towards the full application of the acquis communautaire (EU law) on free movement of workers.

Five years after accession, only Germany and Austria have requested that workers from the EU-8 Member States continue to apply for a work permit before taking up employment. The Commission is currently examining their notifications. This will take several weeks. In the United Kingdom, EU-8 workers have to register with the Workers Registration Scheme within 30 days of commencing employment. The transitional measures will end on 30 April 2011 at the latest when all Member States must apply Community law on free movement for workers from the EU-8 Member States.