EU ministers in Moravian spa town to discuss labour market reforms

Carsten Pillath (left), Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

The EU's Labour and Social Affairs ministers have been meeting in the Moravian spa town of Luhačovice to discuss further liberalisation of Europe's labour market. That continues to be something of a thorny issue, as citizens from the 10 countries that joined in 2004 - including the Czech Republic - still can't work everywhere in the EU. The meeting, chaired by Czech minister Petr Nečas, is aimed at persuading those countries that still restrict their labour markets - chiefly Germany and Austria - to lift those restrictions sooner rather than later. Rob Cameron is in Luhačovice – and has more:

Photo: CTK
“The main focus of the talks here in Luhačovice is labour mobility, and that’s broken down into three broad categories: professional mobility, geographical mobility and mobility of people on the fringes of the labour market. And what mobility essentially means is the ability of people working in one member state to go and work either in another country or in a different profession. And that is obviously a really important issue for countries such as the Czech Republic, because Czech citizens and Slovaks and Poles and Hungarians and so on, can’t work freely everywhere inside the European Union as yet. There are still a small number of countries which restrict their labour markets to citizens of the newer members of the EU, chief among them Germany, Austria, Denmark and Belgium. And the talks really, under the baton of the Czech labour minister Petr Nečas, are focusing on getting those countries to lift those restrictions and not keep them in place, which is their right, until April 2011.”

Carsten Pillath  (left),  Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
Okay, but can we actually expect any concrete outcomes or conclusions from these two days of talks?

“That is rather unlikely. The meeting is an informal meeting of EU ministers, which means that there is no binding declaration signed at the end of it. There is a statement made by the chair of this meeting, which is in this case Minister Petr Nečas, but nothing concrete will come out of it. That will happen later on in the year at a formal meeting of the same ministers and the European Commission, and that will take place in Brussels.”

And finally, how is the town of Luhačovice actually coping with this invasion of EU ministers and their coteries?

“Well, coping rather well, it has to be said. It is one of Moravia’s best-known spa towns, but it is also very much out of season at the end of January. I am just standing on a bridge right now between two of the spa houses – the main building where all of the delegates are, and the spa clinic and the spa patisserie over the river which divides the town. And it is very quiet indeed, there aren’t many guests. During the rest of the year they have people coming from all over the world, from Israel, from Russia, from Austria. But right now it is very quiet, so the town is pretty much unaffected by the arrival of 27 ministers, their assistants, their assistants’ assistants, security, and of course, many, many police.”