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Germany blocks east European workers to 2011

The German cabinet decided Wednesday to extend a block on workers from new members of the European Union in eastern Europe into 2011.

The cabinet simultaneously decided to ease restrictions on highly qualified workers, effectively opening its borders to those with university or higher technical qualifications from the 10 countries concerned from the beginning of next year.

German employers will from then on no longer have to show that there are no suitably qualified applicants from Germany or other EU members. The restrictions on lower qualified workers from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which joined the EU in May 2004, remain in force until April 30, 2011. In the case of Bulgaria and Romania, which joined at the beginning of 2007, the restrictions will be lifted only from the beginning of 2012.

The cabinet also decided to ensure an adequate supply of seasonal agricultural workers, many of whom come from eastern European countries. Restrictions were also eased for those foreign applicants who could show a knowledge of the German language and culture by having attended German schools abroad.

Germany was one of many EU countries that closed its labor market to the eight Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, along with Cyprus and Malta. The restrictions were imposed for three years and then extended for a further two years to 2009. Britain, Ireland and Sweden opened their labor markets immediately, and most other ‘old’ EU members, including France, have since followed. (m&