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Germany, Greece limit labor market access for Romania, Bulgaria

Germany and Greece said they will not allow workers from Bulgaria and Romania free access to their respective labor markets when the Balkan countries become fellow European Union nations on January 1.

Greece, which joined the bloc in 1981, will allow workers from the two new EU members to pass its borders freely only after a two-year „transition” period, Greek Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said after a meeting yesterday with the industry association of northern Greece, which borders Bulgaria. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet passed regulations also limiting access for two years. German joblessness is falling „but it remains the aim to reduce unemployment even more clearly,” government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said at a regular briefing in Berlin.
„Therefore the access of workers from the two new members states has to be checked, especially the uncontrolled flood of temporary workers” seeking low-paid jobs. GDP per capita in Bulgaria and Romania is a third of the average of the current 25 EU members, compared with 84% in Greece. „Northern Greece has a very large number of workers from neighboring countries,” Yiannis Stavrou, an official with the northern Greek industry federation, said in a statement. Bulgarian and Romanian accession will give Greece its first land border with another EU country.

In October, both the UK and Irish governments said they would restrict migration from Bulgaria and Romania. The UK and Ireland, along with Sweden, allowed unfettered access to workers from the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004. EU member states Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Finland have all said they'll allow Romanian and Bulgarian workers access to their labor markets.
The entry of Bulgaria and Romania, countries with a combined population of 30 million, will mark the EU's second expansion into the former Soviet bloc to establish market-based rules for industries ranging from energy and transport to telecommunications and banking. People from Romania and Bulgaria join workers from Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia - all of which joined the EU on May 1, 2004 - in not being allowed to work in Germany, Europe's largest economy, without restrictions. Nationals of Cyprus and Malta have unrestricted access to the country's labor market.

Germany, like all EU states, has the right to twice again extend the two-year time frame for all the countries, by three and two years respectively, Wilhelm said. Germany on November 24 became the last of the EU's existing 25 member states to ratify Bulgarian and Romanian accession, clearing the way for both countries to join the EU next year. „We thank all member states for the support they have given us, both in the process of preparation and in the ratification,” Romanian government spokeswoman Oana Marinescu said the same day.
Merkel's Cabinet also decided today to limit cross-border services in the construction industry, in building cleaning and interior decoration, Wilhelm said. The number of people out of work in Germany, adjusted for seasonal swings, was 4.24 million last month, the lowest since November 2002. The adjusted jobless rate fell to 10.2%, a rate last recorded in December 2002, the Nuremberg-based Federal Labor Agency said on November 30. Greek unemployment - according to a different measure using European Central Bank data - stood at 9.9% last year, the highest rate among the 12 nations sharing the euro. No-one was immediately available for comment in the Bulgarian Labor Ministry in Sofia. (Bloomberg)