Austrian official backs changes to EU right to free movement
BERLIN (AP) — Austria’s vice chancellor is suggesting that the European Union should consider changes to rules allowing its members’ citizens to work in all 28 EU countries, arguing that it would benefit both eastern and western European nations.
Many workers from ex-communist eastern countries that joined the EU since the mid-2000s have sought work in richer western nations, where there has often been resentment over competition from cheap labor.
Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, whose far-right and traditionally EU-skeptic Freedom Party joined Austria’s government in December, said Tuesday night: “We must discuss openly that it is not good for European development to strip away the entire intellectual, well-trained potential of eastern Europe for western Europe.”
“If I see that this on one hand isn’t beneficial for eastern European countries, but on the other hand also leads to a displacement process here ... then those are areas where we should discuss whether this is a smart rule, or whether we shouldn’t consider at least in part finding adjustments to do this better in everyone’s interest,” Strache said, the Austria Press Agency reported.
Austria will take over the EU’s rotating presidency for six months in July.
Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government has generally taken a hard line on migration, particularly of asylum-seekers.
Earlier this week, the government agreed that welfare benefits should be capped at 563 euros ($654) per month, rather than the standard 863 euros, for most immigrants who haven’t yet passed a German test. Most immigrants won’t be entitled to the benefits for their first five years in Austria.