Commission adopts proposals to update Directives on freedom of movement
In July 1998, the European Commission adopted three proposals aimed at updating existing legislation in relation to the freedom of movement of EU citizens within the countries of the Union. The proposals are designed to support the European employment strategy and in particular to reinforce the principle of equal treatment for EU workers and clarify and simplify the rules concerning rights of residence. A third proposal aims to merge two existing tripartite consultative committees in the area into a single body.
Three legislative proposals adopted by the Commission on 22 July 1998 aim to update and clarify the rights of EU citizens in relation to freedom of movement within the Union in order to take up work. The first two proposals modify and update the two core pieces of legislation which have guaranteed freedom of movement for the past 30 years; Council Regulation (EEC) 1612/68 on freedom of movement of workers within in the Community; and Directive 68/360/EEC on the abolition of restrictions on movement and residence within the Community for workers of Member States and their families.
Speaking in Brussels on the day of the launch of the new proposals, social affairs and employment Commissioner Pádraig Flynn said that: "the freedom to go and work in any Member State is one of the most fundamental rights granted to European citizens by the Treaty. But even today, people find their attempts to work in another Member State frustrated by legal, administrative and practical obstacles. These proposals are designed to overcome these problems and improve citizens' rights. In particular, these proposals will promote the implementation of an effective European-wide space of professional mobility as a contribution to the European employment strategy."
The two proposals follow the recommendations made in November 1997's Action Plan for the free movement of workers (EU9711165N) and the 1997 recommendations of the "Veil group" (on the free movement of workers). The proposals contain the following key elements.
- Clarification and simplification of the rules on rights of residence for EU workers: while current legislation provides that EU nationals can take up work in any Member State and be granted residence permits on production of proof of employment, the new proposals clarify these rights in line with European Court of Justice case law. They clarify that: EU nationals also have the right to go to another Member State to seek work or take up vocational training; and EU jobseekers have an automatic right of residence for six months and can stay beyond that if they can prove that they are actively seeking work and have a reasonable chance of finding a job. The rights of EU nationals working in another Member State on fixed-term contracts are also improved by the new draft legislation, once they have worked for 12 months in an 18-month period.
- Guaranteeing equal treatment for EU nationals: the draft legislation clarifies rights to equal treatment in relations to conditions of employment and work, tax and social advantages etc.
- Encouraging a"European space of professional mobility": new provisions seek to strengthen rights in relation to the recognition of professional experience acquired in another Member State. Specific provisions are also introduced in relation to cross-frontier workers.
- EU workers' families: new proposals remove the age and dependency criteria previously in place in relation to families joining an EU worker employed in another Member State.
- Improving the rights of family members: new proposals confirm that family members joining an EU worker in another Member State should enjoy rights to equal treatment in regards to all economic, fiscal, social, cultural or other benefits. They also clarify the right of family members to take up self-employed activity.
- Non-discrimination: a clause outlawing discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex, age, disability and sexual orientation when workers exercise their right to free movement is proposed. This is in line with the Action Plan against racism which recommended that non-discrimination clauses should be included, where appropriate, into new or amended proposals.
Following requests from the social partners to rationalise the operation of the existing tripartite advisory committees on freedom of movement and on the coordination of social security schemes (EU9806110F), it is proposed to merge these forums into a single tripartite body.