Sweden ‘unlikely’ to restrict new EU workers

Sweden said Friday it did not plan to introduce restrictions on migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania when the countries join the European Union next year, in contrast to Britain and Ireland, which are considering limiting the rights of workers from the two countries.

“The Swedish government is unlikely to introduce restrictions on Bulgarian or Romanian workers,” a spokeswoman for Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Roberta Alenius, told AFP.

Sweden, together with Britain and Ireland were the only members of the EU to welcome workers from the 10 countries which joined the club in 2004.

“Sweden did not impose restrictions for the last 10 countries. It should be the same for these two countries. Fredrik Reinfeldt has not yet made a formal decision but due to these two countries being even further away than the others, it is hard to envisage restrictive measures,” Alenius added.

While unable to provide specific data, the 2004 expansion to include former Soviet-bloc nations plus Cyprus and Malta had not affected Sweden, Alenius said. According to figures from the Swedish Migration Board, only 10,000 citizens of the ten new EU countries applied for Swedish residency in the year following their accession to the union.

“Few migrant workers have arrived to take advantage of the Swedish welfare system,” Alenius said.

EU treaties give European migrant labour the “right” to work throughout the bloc.

Britain and Ireland have indicated they may change their policy when Bulgaria and Romania join.

In September, EU Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said he hoped any change in British and Irish policy would not have a knock-on effect in the other EU states.

The European Commission on September 26 gave Bulgaria and Romania the green light to join the EU on January 1, 2007.