World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Why the EU isn’t working: immigration and linguistic rules

Why the EU isn’t working: immigration and linguistic rules

The European Union remains a strong influence on the lives of its citizens – regulating the flow of labour across national borders, employment rights and access to jobs. However, employers are now being called upon to act as border guards of last resort and the nationalistic linguistic policies of many EU member states remain a major problem.

On July 1st 2013 Croatia will become the 28th member of the European Union (EU). The EU continues to expand its membership, but it also becomes increasingly open to immigration of nationals from across the world. Today Germany became the latest EU member state to introduce the EU blue card system - allowing highly qualified workers to enter the country and take up well paid positions.

The EU has also just signed an addendum to the current visa facilitation agreement with Ukraine which extends the categories of individuals qualifying for the simplified procedure for obtaining visas to travel to EU member states. The amendment covers those visiting relatives, an increased list of qualifying professions and provisions for those participating in cross-border cooperation programmes.

Although EU countries are happy to welcome highly skilled migrants it is also tightening up its controls on illegal immigration. In July The Italian Council of Ministers approved draft legislation to transpose EU Directive 2009/52/EC into national law, increasing sanctions for those who illegally employ third country nationals. The decree introduces a fine of 1000 euros per illegal worker, in addition a requirement to meet the full costs of unpaid taxes and social security contributions.

A new Polish Act requires companies to ensure that all non-EU employees, contractors or subcontractors possess valid residency papers before allowing them to work in the country. Previously residence permit issues were solely the responsibility of the individual. The new Act requires that a copy of the employee’s right of residence is retained by the employer for the duration of the employment or contracted work period. Any company employing non-EU individuals when the new law comes into effect is required to obtain a copy of the right of residence within 45 days (effectively by September 4th 2012).

Established EU countries have also largely removed barriers to the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania, the latest EU accession states. Although Ireland’s recent decision to end restrictions was largely the result of a sharp reduction in the number of work permit applications received from nationals from both states.

Moving against this trend is Spanish government – as it struggles to cope with record levels of unemployment. Not only has Spain re-applied restrictions on the movement of Romanian workers, but it is also tightening up residency procedures for all other foreign EU nationals. EU citizens living in Spain for longer than three months must now produce employment, financial, social security and/or medical insurance documents when completing the required in-person registration at their local immigration office or police station.

The biggest barrier to mobility within the EU remains its many linguistic divides and it has normally taken the courts to remove the impractical and often unjust nature of linguistic restrictions imposed on companies.

In France all employment contracts and employment policy documents must be made available in French, even if the lingua franca of a company is not French. Until recently employers in the Flemish Region of Belgium were also required to use Dutch when writing the employment contracts of foreign nationals. It has taken a ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to challenge this Flemish decree. Advocate-General Jaaskinen advised the Court that there is no pan-EU rule harmonising the use of languages in employment contracts. Further to this, the ECJ decided that a law such as the one is question might well discourage applications from job candidates residing outside Flanders or the Netherlands (C-202/11).

The French Supreme Court has also intervened to remove the automatic obligation on international employers under French law to offer redundant employees vacant positions in another country, even if the employee concerned could not speak the native language of the country where they would be redeployed.

In spite of these interventions EU governments continue to introduce laws that discriminate against foreigners and linguistic minorities and in favour of their own mainstream country nationals. For instance, in Latvia a recent parliamentary Bill (now awaiting Presidential approval) removes the right of employers to require an employee to speak a particular language other than Latvian.

According to Robin Chater, Secretary-General of the Federation of European Employers (FedEE), “Employers are being burdened by often well-intentioned legislative changes at an EU level designed to prevent illegal immigration. These both impose more duties on employers to police the labour market and penalise employers if they fail to act as effective border guards of last resort.“

“Similarly employers have to live with the increasingly tendencies of EU member states to use linguistic requirements to favour the employment opportunities of their nationals., even to the cost of their own minority groups. The EU should therefore place the burden of illegal immigration on the shoulder of member states rather than let it be offloaded onto employers. It should also seek to guarantee all enterprises the right to operate in whatever EU language they choose – without the imposition of petty local language rules.”

What is FedEE?

The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) is a leading organisation for multinational companies operating in Europe. It was founded in 1989 with assistance from the European Commission and has its head office in London, UK.

For further information visit


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Covid-19: Vaccines Donated Next Year, ‘Too Late For Those Who Are Dying Today’

Millions more COVID vaccines need to be donated now to save lives and help the UN health agency reach the key global target of having 70 per cent of all national populations vaccinated, by the middle of 2022... More>>

UN News: Landmark G7 Agreement Pledges 870 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses, Half By End-2021

A senior UN official welcomed on Sunday, the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations’ commitment to immediately share at least 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, supporting global access and helping to end the acute phase of the pandemic... More>>

OECD: G20 GDP Returns To Pre-pandemic Level In The First Quarter Of 2021, But With Large Differences Across Countries

Gross domestic product (GDP) of the G20 area returned to pre-pandemic level in the first quarter of 2021, growing by 0.8% compared with the fourth quarter of 2020. However, this figure conceals large differences across countries... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

COP26: Progress Made As May-June UN Climate Change Session Closes

The May-June Climate Change Session, the first to have been held virtually to prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held at the end of the year in Glasgow, Scotland, closed today... More>>

UNFCCC: Halving Emissions By 2030 Is New Normal - Race To Zero Anniversary
Over 4,500 non-state actors from across the global economy have committed to halving emissions by 2030, joining the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign... More>>

UN: Tackling Biodiversity & Climate Crises Together And Their Combined Social Impacts

Unprecedented changes in climate and biodiversity, driven by human activities, have combined and increasingly threaten nature, human lives, livelihoods and well-being around the world... More>>