On 30 April the workers of Eastern Europe almost celebrated an early '1st of May'. As a matter of fact, the majority of 'old' Member States (EU 15) decided to soften or lift restrictions to their free circulation.
While Spain, Portugal, Finland and Greece have now joined the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden, the three countries which immediately opened their labour markets without restriction, others still seem to have doubts.
France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Italy seem more reserved and chose to gradually soften restrictions. The first three softened restricions only for the sectors where labour needs are fierce. And Italy decided to increase its foreign workers quotas to 170 000.
Delays for the others
The Netherlands gave up at the very end, postponing the deadline to end 2006 at the earliest.
Only Germany and Austria kept their barriers to the free movement of workers from the East intact.
As to Denmark, hesitating until the very end, the country eventually decided to soften its restrictions over three years.
The Commission welcomed Member States' efforts. Employment Commissioner Vladimr pidla reaffirmed his conviction that more openness will not increase unemployment rates, but much rather dynamise the economies of the 'old Europe'.