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Germany opens labor market to top engineers from Eastern Europe

Germany opened its doors Thursday to certain highly qualified engineers from the eight Eastern European countries that joined the European Union in May 2004.

The Labor Ministry in Berlin confirmed that the “priority test” that job applicants from these countries previously had to undergo had been dropped. German companies can from Thursday appoint skilled workers from electrical and mechanical engineering sectors without giving priority to German applicants. The countries affected are: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. On September 19, the German government announced a decision to open its labor market partially to alleviate skills shortages that had arisen as a result of the current economic upswing. The new rules also allow students from these countries who have studied in Germany to remain in the country on completion of their studies.

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. A final possible extension to 2011 is a hotly debated topic in Germany. Britain, Ireland and Sweden opened their labor markets immediately, and most other “old” EU members have since followed. (m&