TALLINN - Finland, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Iceland opened their borders to the free movement of labor on May 1, in a welcoming gesture to new EU members, the Social Affairs Ministry reported. Meanwhile, Belgium and France are planning to open their labor markets in certain spheres depending on the employment situation. Great Britain, Ireland and Sweden already lifted their borders in 2004, while the remaining EU members have left some limitations in force.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet welcomed the move, calling the free movement of labor "one of the main freedoms of the European Union."
"We have again moved a step closer to equalizing the opportunities for citizens of new and old member states," the foreign minister said.
He expressed hope that the opening of borders would not lead to an outflow of Estonian labor, but rather the acquisition of foreign experience to apply at home.
Paet said that it was in Estonians' interest to find good jobs, above all, at home.
Last year about 8,000 Estonians received permits to work in Finland. Despite the northern country's decision to open its labor market, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said the number of residents leaving to work in Finland should not significantly increase.
According to a migration poll carried out in Estonia in 2003, 42 percent of the working-age population were interested in working abroad, but only 3 percent had serious intentions. Most of those interested wanted to work abroad temporarily