The European Liberal Forum in cooperation with the Institute for Politics and Society held on 27th April 2018 a morning seminar on the topic of “On the Move or at a Dead End?” The invitation was accepted by Martina Dlabajová, Member of the European Parliament, Member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), ALDE/ ANO, Vice President of ELF; and Marek Benio, Vice President of Labour Mobility Initiative. Jan Macháček, Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute for Politics and Society, moderated the discussion.
Jan Macháček opened the program by mentioning the introduction of the Mobility Package by the European Commission, which imposes more restrictions on the road transport sector within the Single European Market. While implementing this package, the main questions remain: What will be the real consequences of its adoption for the European market? Who will benefit from the package? What can be done to protect small businesses for which the Mobility Package poses the biggest risk?
According to Martina Dlabajová, the project of the European Union was successful, particularly thanks to the opening of borders between its member states, and the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. In her view, freedom of movement is one of the greatest benefits the country receives when joining the Union. In the context of economic globalization and European integration, many efforts have been made to unify national working environments. These efforts, however, are accompanied by a major problem, which is expressed in the existence of many differences in the member states´ labor markets, especially in wage differentials. According to Martina Dlabajová, Europe is now divided into Western and Eastern part by the efforts of governments in some member states to protect their domestic markets from foreign competition. This division stems from the European Commission’s effort to implement so-called principle of equal pay for equal work at the same place that should be applied to all workers posted to another EU country in reaction after introducing a minimum wage for all foreign workers in countries such as Germany and France. The European Commission has begun to address this issue, but has not yet achieved any results. Martina Dlabajová consider that the biggest achievement is, in particular, a compromise that excludes the transport sector from the Mobility Package, which was also her personal priority as the transport sector is highly mobile and it should have its own specific rules.
Vice President of Labour Mobility Initiative, Marek Benio expressed his agreement with Martina Dlabajová that the biggest success of the European Union was the introduction of four fundamental freedoms. He spoke about the fact that for countries of Central and Eastern Europe, their accession to the EU meant an advantage mainly due to the freedom of movement, which allowed people of these countries to travel and to work in the territory of any member state of the Union. For other countries which were already members of the EU, accession of these countries meant access to cheap capital and new markets for the sale of their products and services. According to Mr. Benio, the most important capital of Central and Eastern European countries is the human capital thanks to skilled workers and their working ethic, which is twice as high when people work abroad. Although freedom of movement is considered by Marek Benio to be one of the EU’s greatest achievements, he also talked about the negative effect on the domestic economy, which is manifested in the outflow of skilled workers, so-called brain-drain. As an example he mentioned countries such as Romania and Bulgaria where is the alarming shortage of skilled workers with the exception of some larger cities. He said the Mobility Package was a project where instead of strengthening the existing rules they changed these rules, what he sees as a major political mistake.
According to Martina Dlabajová, the posted workers represents 0.7% of the total labor force. Although it may seem like a negligible rate, the political debate opened to this issue is much more important. Marek Benio, in response to Martina Dlabajová, said that the actual number of posted workers is not 0.7% but only 0.2%. He argued that the total number of A1 forms, that certify which social security legislation applies to the holder of the form, is included in the rate of 0.7% and it is necessary for each posted worker. The number of A1 forms is not equivalent to the number of posted workers, because some workers can come to another member country several times a year and always need to fill in a new A1 form.