Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Enlargement - transitional provisions

Workers from new EU member countries - transitional arrangements

Restrictions on the free movement of workers may apply to workers from EU member countries for a transitional period of up to 7 years after they join the EU. For the moment this concerns workers from:

Individual governments of the countries that were already part of the EU can decide themselves whether they want to apply restrictions to workers from these countries, and what kind of restrictions. However:

  • They are not allowed to restrict the general freedom to travel, only the right to work in another country as an employed person.
  • For the first two years after a country joined the EU, national law and policy of the countries that were already part of the EU determines access to the labour market of workers from that country so that they may need a work permit. If a country wants to continue to apply these restrictions for three more years, it must inform the Commission before the end of the first two years.
  • After that, countries can continue to apply restrictions for another two years if they inform the Commission of serious disturbances in their labour market; all restrictions must end after 7 years.
  • Workers who are subject to national restrictions must be given priority over workers from non-EU countries.
  • Once they are legally employed in another EU country, workers are entitled to equal treatment with national workers of the country where they are working.
  • The countries whose nationals face such restrictions may impose equivalent restrictions on workers from that country.

See individual accession treaties for more details.

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