Wednesday, October 26, 2011

EU lawmakers want job markets open to Bulgaria, Romania

* Call for full labour market access for Romanians and Bulgarians

* Call for investigation of infringements of labour market

* Foreign workers generated 1 pct of EU growth

By Christopher Le Coq

BRUSSELS, Oct 25 (Reuters) - European lawmakers called on Tuesday for Bulgarian and Romanian job-seekers to be granted unrestricted access to all European Union member states' labour markets by the end of this year.

Citizens of both countries currently face labour market restrictions in 10 of the 27 EU member states, which will only be lifted after 2013.

Members of the European Parliament also called on the European Commission to investigate whether labour market restrictions imposed on foreign EU workers infringed EU laws.

"Official figures ... proved that workers from Eastern Europe did not generate unemployment and did not put pressure on the social welfare systems," said Romanian EU lawmaker Traian Ungureanu, a member of the European People's Party, the largest political grouping in the European Parliament.

"On the contrary, the influx brought economic growth in the destination countries evaluated at around 1 percent of the GDP," added Ungureanu, who led discussions in the parliament on the issue.

About 2.3 percent of EU citizens currently reside in another member state, and roughly 10 percent have lived and worked in another country at some stage in the past, according to an EU Commission survey.

Work permits are still required for Bulgarians and Romanians in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Britain.

Spain, which has been hit hard by unemployment and an economic downturn, imposed work restrictions on Romanians in August, arguing it needed to protect its citizens from foreign competition on the local job market. Those curbs will be in place until end-2012.

Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, have run into other obstacles in their aim to more fully integrate into the bloc.

In September, both countries failed to persuade other EU member countries to allow them to join the Schengen passport-free travel zone, with opponents citing concerns over corruption and organised crime. (Reporting by Christopher Le Coq; editing by Rex Merrifield and Belinda Goldsmith)

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