Commission adopts Action Plan to further the free movement of workers

In November 1997, the European Commission adopted an Action Plan to improve the conditions for the free movement of workers within the European Union. The Action Plan reinforces previous commitments to completing the single market and aims to improve cooperation between different actors and information about career opportunities in other Member States.

On 12 November 1997, a communication was adopted by the European Commission which presented an Action Plan to improve the conditions for the free movement of workers within the European Union (EU). The right to free movement of workers within the European Union was originally set out in Article 48 of the Treaty of Rome and includes the right for any European citizen to enter the territory of any Member State in order to work or look for work. However, despite the fact that the right to free movement for workers has one of the most developed legal frameworks in EU law, there exist gaps and flaws which were highlighted by the "high-level panel" on the free movement of people in March 1997.

The Action Plan builds upon the recently published Commission proposal for Guidelines for Member States' employment policies for 1998, which stresses the crucial role of labour mobility in the proper functioning of the single market and in the promotion of a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce. The Action Plan also reinforces the commitments agreed at the European Council meeting in Amsterdam in June 1998 concerning the full implementation of the single market (EU9706133N).

The commissioner responsible for employment and social affairs, Padraig Flynn expressed his support for the Action Plan because of the slow progress in labour mobility since the adoption of the main European rules on movement of workers almost 20 years ago. He said that: "We need to take decisive action ... as only 5 million Europeans reside in another Member State and less than 2% of the working age population in the EU consists of people from one Member State working in another ... many European citizens find their attempts to work in another Member State frustrated by legal, administrative and practical obstacles."

The comprehensive approach to free movement of workers set out by the Action Plan has five aspects.

  • Improve and adapt existing legislation to facilitate free movement of workers, notably in the fields of: right of residence; family reunion; equal treatment concerning social and tax advantages; equal treatment and social integration of the worker's family; coordination of social security; education and training; supplementary pensions; and inclusion of third-country nationals in the system of coordination for social security. (The last two issues are already the subject of legislative proposals - EU9710156N and EU9711162N.)
  • Make the labour market more transparent through the establishment, by 2000, of a system of enhanced cooperation among public employment services aimed at offering jobseekers, wherever they live, information on vacancies, training opportunities and working conditions, wherever they would like to move.
  • Developing active cooperation with national authorities so as to ensure the efficient functioning of the existing legal framework, by upgrading administrative coordination and information mechanisms for citizens and enterprises, setting up specific contact points for migrant workers and improving c-operation with the social partners.
  • Make the right to free movement better known among the actors in the labour market, through the existing information structures and campaigns, highlighting the benefits for training and recruitment possibilities of a "single space of professional mobility".
  • Develop innovative projects under Article 6 of the European Social Fund (ESF) Regulation. The ESF will finance projects supporting free movement of workers and a call for projects will be launched in early 1998.

The Action Plan seeks to involve all concerned - such as citizens, national, regional and local authorities and social partners - to participate in the reinforcement of the above mechanisms that will further the free movement of workers.

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