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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
EU expansion: heading for a two-tier union?
Spain threatened this week to escalate an on-going row about freedom of movement for workers from new EU member countries.

Germany and Austria have been pressing for a ban of up to seven years on these workers entering existing EU countries as they fear they will be flooded with cheap labour.

Spain disagrees with these proposed restrictions and this week its Foreign Minister told his Czech counterpart, Jan Kavan, that their countries might sign a bilateral agreement on their workers' freedom of movement.

Should countries entering the EU allow restrictions on their workers' freedom of movement? Or would that make them second-class citizens?

For this week's Europewide debate, Europe Today's Frederick Dove brought together Marilies Flemming, Austrian People's Party MEP and Zdenek Kavan, Lecturer in International Relations, and brother of the Czech Foreign Minister.


This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Yes, the new members of the EU should allow restrictions on the movement of their workers to the richer countries of the EU(Denmark for example) but not necessarily to the poor countries (like Portugal, Greece, Spain). In return, however, the new EU members have to impose a ban on the citizens from the richer countries of EU to buy property and land in their countries. For the same duration. This way it will be fair for everyone.
Julius, USA

Since EU expansion was not ratified by the Irish Republic, it shouldn't even be happening. In light of that, why does anyone expect the EU to come up with a reasonable deal for the new arrivals, when they don't even respect the views of their current "citizens"? This could all become very, very nasty. As one of millions of increasing dissatisfied "citizens", I urge our Eastern friends not to join at all. Rather, they should seek more bi-lateral agreements, such as the one with Spain, that will guarantee a fair deal.
Russ Moore, United Kingdom


A major challenge for everybody involved

Silvio Sandrone, Germany
We should not forget that the accession of former Warsaw Pact countries is a major challenge for everybody involved: the new EU states, the old EU states, the people and the Union itself. Just think how hard it was integrating the former East Germany into the West - and it's not over, yet. Our American friends should try to imagine what it would mean for them if Mexico's states were to join the United States of America... The EU is not just a free-trade area or an international alliance. It is about a common citizenship and shared values. We will welcome our fellow Europeans from the East into the Union, but it will take time, patience, tolerance and, yes, a bit of luck to do it right.
Silvio Sandrone, Germany

I believe Mr Crawford made an excellent point. Political and economic union will be very difficult to achieve even given the differences within the EU 12. The best one can hope for is that over the next couple of generations, Europeans learn to work with each other without hoping for a perfect solution.
Rita Meier, UK/ India

One of the problems that Europeans are going to have to get used to as they create their own version of the United States of Europe is that people from different cultures don't always get along, and that attempts at accommodation more often fail than succeed. Although most Americans like to believe that we have easy movement of labour, the truth is that our history is studded with riots, racism and rebellion that are directly related to the movement of immigrants and labour. The best thing for Europe to do is try and fail and try again with the foreknowledge that integration is a process of generations, not decades, and that the road will be very bumpy as Europe moves forward. Good luck... you'll all need it.
Alexander Crawford, USA


A precedent has been already set

Michael Mangan, Ireland
It may seem like such an "adjustment period" seems like second-class membership. However, Spanish and Portuguese citizens were subject to the same conditions when the Iberian nations joined up, so in a sense, a precedent has been already set. Also, accession countries have periods of time to adjust to life in the Union, why should the extant membership not be allowed a similar period?
Michael Mangan, Ireland

If the EU continues to expand, of course, these kind of differences will proliferate - to the point, hopefully, where the political goals for the EU itself will become unattainable.
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

Let's see, workers from the "second tier" may be restricted while workers from the "first tier" get to go wherever they want, presumably also to countries of the second tier. So, what's to stop a migration of first tier country workers from taking the even more rare good paying jobs in a second tier country away from local workers? And about the bi-lateral agreement, Spain and the Czech Republic could have arranged a bi-lateral worker exchange agreement without being EU members at all! So, what is the benefit of EU membership again? You're losing your sovereignty, having to compensate for EU failings by engaging in bi-lateral agreements AND you have to endure blatant hypocrisy by the first tier nations? I can only imagine what sort of "special" restrictions the EU will place on say, Turkey if it joins someday! What a lovely outfit.
Stephen, US


The de-nationalisation of Europe in general is deeply disturbing

Carl Findley III, USA
Call me somewhat old-fashioned, but why have we come to represent countries like Germany and Austria as somehow progressively backward simply because they aim to look after the security, the cultural integrity, and the welfare of their own people and workforce? If these countries are afraid of the cheap labour influx that might very well occur because of EU integration, why should we not listen carefully and respect their integrity as individual nations with their own interests and priorities? Their priorities should be to their own citizens, first and foremost. The de-nationalisation of Europe in general is deeply disturbing.

Have your EU; it will mitigate the already far too aggressive influence of greedy US companies, by giving you more bargaining power, but still respect the concerns and autonomy of the individual nations that constitute the EU. Europeans should not be afraid of nor shy away from the central idea that the government of each European nation is beholden primarily to its own citizens and the preservation of its own way of life.
Carl Findley III, USA

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Europe
Job blow for Central Europe
12 Jun 01 | Europe
Hungary breakthrough in EU talks
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