Germany opens door to Baltic workers

  • 2007-08-27
  • By Mike Collier
BERLIN 's German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that her country is to open up to Baltic workers.

Restrictions preventing workers from the Baltic States and other eastern European nations seeking work in Germany will be removed in order to address a labor shortage being faced by the German economy. However, the liberalisation will only apply to certain specific areas of the labor market, beginnning with mechanical and electrical engineers.

Merkel announced the measure Aug. 24 as part of a policy package she said was designed to "consolidate our economic growth."

The move represents a partial reversal of a 2004 policy designed to stop the German labor market being "flooded" by migrants from the east. Restrictions were put in place that were intended to last for seven years 's effectively suspending the free movement of labor supposedly provided as a right by EU membership 's but are now being repealed after only three.

As a result of Germany's original protectionist stance, Baltic workers have been filling vacancies in countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland which did not impose additional conditions on the EU's newest members.A black market in cheap foreign labor - mainly from Poland - quickly developed in Germany.

Despite being welcomed by German industry, the liberalisation of the German labor market may come too late to have a major impact. With large numbers of migrant workers having already left for foreign shores, many accession states, including the Baltics, are experiencing their own labor shortages and are being forced to import workers from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.