Speech: Free movement of workers
European Commission - SPEECH/14/21 15/01/2014
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European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Free movement of workers
Statement, plenary session
European Parliament - Strasbourg, 15 January 2014
Honourable Members, Minister,
The free movement of workers is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union and a cornerstone of the EU Single Market. Free movement of workers benefits the individual workers by giving them access to a greater range of job opportunities and experience and it benefits the economies, and the welfare systems, of the host countries.
In order to ensure that EU workers are better able to exercise their rights to free movement in practice, the EU Treaty also includes rules to ensure that they do not face discrimination in terms of access to jobs or working conditions. These rules include coordination of social security as it is necessary to give workers from other Member States equal treatment with nationals in terms of other social benefits and tax advantages.
The EU also offers help to people interested in working in another Member State, for example through the EURES job search network that we will be proposing later this week to upgrade.
End of transitional measures
The free movement of workers has been subject to transitional measures in five out of seven enlargements. On 1st of January 2014, the transitional measures concerning the freedom of movement for Romanian and Bulgarian workers ended. Those 9 Member States which were still applying restrictions in 2013, have now lifted them.
The Commission is monitoring this process also to ensure that rights are not violated and all questions receive an answer.
Concerns have been expressed, even by some members of this Parliament, about the risk that increased flows of people will put an excessive burden on the social security systems of some Member States. But the evidence shows that people go where they find jobs, not benefits.
This is confirmed by a recent report published by the Commission and previous experience. Because EU migrants are more likely to be economically active than nationals of the host Member States and less likely to claim social benefits, they are net contributors to the host country welfare system in the vast majority of Member States.
In this context, let me express my satisfaction for the agreement reached at trilogue level concerning the proposal for a Directive on measures facilitating the exercise of the right of free movement of workers.
This Directive is aimed at ensuring better national enforcement of the EU rules in the field of free movement of workers. It provides for the existence of at least one body in every Member State to provide assistance and information to EU workers and their family members on their EU rights.
Thanks to amendments proposed by the Parliament, it will also be empowered to liaise and cooperate with similar bodies in other countries. I am confident that the adoption of the Directive will lead to all-round better support concerning the rights of migrant EU workers.
Benefit tourism / November Communication on free movement/ Practical Guide on Habitual Residence Test
Vice President Reding recalled the Communication on free movement of EU citizens and their families, the Commission adopted last year.
Amongst the five actions foreseen by the Communication, one concerned the publication of a practical guide on the Habitual Residence Test. This guide has been published on Monday (13 January) and it will help Member States to apply EU rules on the coordination of social security and to safeguard against abuse.
This guide has been jointly drafted by representatives from Member States and the European Commission
There are clear safeguards in EU law to prevent people from abusing social welfare systems of other EU countries – and this guide will make it easier for national and local authorities to apply the Habitual Residence safeguards in practice – with the objective of facilitating the free movement of people throughout the EU. It is also useful to recall that no Member State has provided any evidence of widespread or systematic abuse of social welfare by people from other EU countries.