Asscher Wants Reduction Eastern European Migration

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The European Union should create new rules to tackle the excesses of the free movement of workers from Eastern Europe to the West. This migration has a disruptive effect on poorer and less educated citizens in richer EU countries. Their work and income are threatened by newcomers, who are used to much lower wages and who didn’t experience the welfare state yet. Minister Lodewijk Asscher (Social Affairs) and the English writer David Goodhart say this in a letter which they sent to the Volkskrant and the British newspaper the Independent.

They announce "Code Orange" on the situation on the European labor market: some of the dikes are almost breaking. “Our weakest citizens can’t compete on the labor market with more skilled people from elsewhere,” argue Asscher and Goodhart. If nothing is done, the atmosphere will be poisoned and xenophobia will be fueled, they think.

Asscher wants new agreements to shape 'social Europe'. The free movement of workers is too much and this brings an exclusive advantage for employers. The minister proposes, for example, to exchange more information on companies who deal with the recruiting.

In the richer EU countries have local people who must now compete with newcomers that are used to much lower wages and poor working conditions. The newcomers on their part 'are sometimes exploited by unscrupulous employers. "Too often, employees get paid too little (sometimes even less than the statutory minimum wage), they have to work too long and sometimes pay a lot for rent of lousy shelters."

Asscher wants to put the negative aspects of the free movement of workers on the agenda for a joint approach. He points out that he fights the problems in the Netherlands, by raising higher fines for employers who go wrong. Also he appointed inspectors who focus on fraud and unscrupulous employment agencies. "No country can nevertheless have to address these forms of abuse on his own. We must do this together."

Workers from the new EU countries can come to the Netherlands since 2007. England, Ireland and Sweden opened their borders already in 2004. The Netherlands was counting on about 18 thousand newcomers. Now their number is estimated to be two to three hundred thousand, from which 150 thousand are from Poland. For Bulgarian and Romanian workers the borders will be opened in 2014. Asscher holds the door still closed to workers from Croatia, which became in 2013, on July 1, a member of the EU.

Asscher and Goodhart explain the migration by the prosperity gap.

Asscher has already long time concerns about migration flows within Europe. Previously, he wrote to the House: "There are limits to what a society can handle, the absorption is not unlimited. To avoid uncontrolled immigration, a restrictive migration is necessary."