Labour mobility in the EU – László Andor

The speech of László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion about Labour mobility in the EU took place on the University of Ghent on 25th of September 2014 in Brussels.

“Along with free movement of goods, services and capital, free movement of citizens, including workers, is one of the four fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Treaties and underpinning the Single Market. However, free movement of citizens is under attack today in some Member States.

Recently, and particularly during the European Parliament election campaign earlier this year, terms such as “benefit tourism” and “poverty migration” have been used. Sociologists refer to this kind of debate as “welfare chauvinism”: a populist discourse in the country of destination aiming to restrict access to welfare systems and public services for citizens from other EU countries. In addition, such political claims tend to portray foreigners as somehow less-deserving or even dangerous.

Let me stress that, under the EU Treaties, discrimination based on nationality is prohibited. The European Union consists of 28 countries whose citizens are equal and have equal rights, including the right to free movement, subject to the application of jointly agreed rules.

In addition, welfare chauvinism, as shown by some political parties and some tabloid press, goes against the values on which the European Union is founded, such as respect for human dignity, equality and respect for human rights.

Finally, recent discussions in Germany show that a sensible approach – in line with EU fundamental values and legislation – is possible. Although the number of workers moving to Germany has increased over the last few years – thereby contributing to Germany’s economic success – labour mobility has recently been under attack over what some people perceived as “poverty migration”.

If you look at the situation on the ground, it is true that some cities have to deal with high numbers of incoming migrants. Cities such as Duisburg report unacceptable living conditions, exploitation of workers, high numbers of children not attending school, and difficulties in providing healthcare.

In order to have an objective, fact-based discussion, the German Government set up a Committee of State Secretaries to look into the impact of labour mobility on national welfare systems. The report was presented on 27 August. The Commission welcomes that Germany reaffirmed its commitment to free movement of workers. The report includes useful proposals to tackle situations of abuse and to help municipalities faced with difficulties. The Commission is currently looking at these proposals to ensure that they are in line with EU law.”

 It consists of three parts:

 I PART: Intra-EU Labour Mobility
“Now, I would like to tackle three myths which have been relayed by some political parties and tabloid press.
The first of such false claims is that there are huge flows of EU citizens between EU Member States.
The second is that flows of workers between EU countries have substantially increased during the crisis.
And the third is that migrants place a huge burden on the welfare systems and public services of the host countries.”;

II PART: EU Policy for supporting Labour Mobility

“EU policy on labour mobility pursues three main aims:

  • Removing obstacles to labour mobility;

  • Supporting labour mobility and cross-border matching of jobseekers and job vacancies, and

  • Tackling economic and social challenges related to labour mobility.”

III PART: EU Policy for supporting Roma inclusion


Ladies and gentlemen,

Cross-border labour mobility is not a cure-all for the widening divergences between Member States in terms of labour market performance. However, it can help boost employment and economic output.

Free movement is first and foremost a right. People should not be forced to move to another country for economic reasons, nor to escape discrimination and exclusion in their home country. However, the EU should support people who decide to move to another Member State to work or look for work.

I think that all of us – the EU, the Member States and local authorities – should counter false claims about labour mobility, while dealing with the challenges it raises and ensuring what I would call “fair mobility”. And we should all work together to put an end to the continuing exclusion of Roma – Europe’s biggest minority – to improve their lives on the ground across Europe.

You can read hole article  here SPEECH-14-622_EN.


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