Strasbourg comment: Free movement of workers

Free movement in the EU just isn't working, and this directive seeks to address the core problems preventing it, explains rapporteur Edit Bauer

By Edit Bauer

13 Mar 2014

Free movement of citizens has been one of the core values of the European Union since the very beginning. After 60 years, however, we have to admit that the free movement of workers in the Union is still not smooth. According to the commission´s statistics, 97 per cent of EU citizens don´t move for work, while the other three basic freedoms are much more widely applicable, having in mind the free movement of goods, services and capital.

What is the problem with free movement of workers? Why does the regulation in force not solve the situation? The problem is that member states are still discriminating workers who come from other member states and face unjustified obstacles. Recognising the problems in this field the commission decided to propose a directive in order to facilitate the free movement of Union citizens by enforcing the existing regulation.

"Proper implementation of this directive could even conclude in the elimination of social dumping"

The directive calls for closer and more intensive cooperation between national authorities, both at national and European level. In order not to put further burden on member states, they do not have to establish new bodies whose task is to coordinate or facilitate the free movement of workers. What´s more, member states can choose whether more than one body will be in charge of this issue. However, we found it essential to include within the text that in the case that more than one body is responsible for free movement, then it has to be clear who is in charge of coordination. On the other hand, we cannot fight discrimination only on national level. Member states need to cooperate at every level. Having this in mind we called for establishing a network of contact points, whose task will be to clarify questions and improve mutual understanding. I believe that if member states use this network, many obstacles can be avoided or solved and it will lead to real facilitation of free movement of workers.

Finally, the essential element of this directive is the access of citizens to free, easily understandable, comprehensive and up-to-date information and assistance, wherever and whenever needed.

This directive is aiming the proper implementation of Article 45 of the Lisbon treaty, including court decisions, while not changing the Regulation 492/2011, which remains unmodified and is still in force. That means, it does not launch any new right; the sole aim of the directive is to facilitate the application of free movement of workers by different measures and combat discrimination on the ground of nationality.

Proper implementation of this directive could even conclude in the elimination of social dumping.

The European Union is the biggest and most prosperous market of goods, services and capitals in spite of the on-going crisis. If we want it to be prosperous to a full extent, we have to ensure, that all Union workers have access to this huge European labour market and every Union worker is treated equally, no matter, which member state they are coming from.