The Slovenia Times

Transitional Period for Croatian Workers Enacted


"The government recognises free movement of labour as one of the fundamental freedoms in the EU, but the situation in the Slovenian labour market is unfortunately worrying," Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Anja Kopač Mrak argued as she presented the measure to MPs on Wednesday.

The bill stipulates that Croatian workers will be treated as non-EU citizens until 30 June 2015. "An immediate free access for Croatian citizens would cause disturbances in the Slovenian labour market, and it would affect the rate of unemployment among Slovenian citizens," the minister said.

She made it a point of underscoring that the measure was not aimed against Croatian workers or the Slovenian economy. "This is the only rational response our country can make considering the strained situation on the labour market and bad economic forecasts," Kopač Mrak told Wednesday's debate.

"This is not egotism, but a necessary and called for care of our own citizens," Ljudmila Novak of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) said, calling on the government to lead an active employment policy by stimulating the economy and create new jobs.

All deputies that took the floor shared the view of the need to protect the Slovenian labour market because of the high unemployment in the country. More than 118,000 were registered as out of a job at the end of May and the outlook is not good.

Unemployment figures in Croatia are even higher, but opening the Slovenian market to Croatian workers upon the country's entry into the EU would importantly affect the situation in Slovenia, "which is why the implementation [of the transitional period] is justified and in the given circumstances necessary," Andreja Črnak Meglič of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) said.

The transitional period will take two years for now, but the government will have the option to extend it. "We expect the government to carefully assess the situation then and, if necessary, protect the Slovenian labour market for another three years," Jakob Presečnik of the opposition People's Party (SLS) said.

Štefan Tisel of the opposition Democratic Party (SDS) and Marija Plevčak of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) meanwhile noted that most of the old EU member states imposed transitional periods for Slovenian workers when Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 even though the economic situation was different then.

"This was done by the very friendly nations, Austria and Germany," Tisel said, while Plevčak noted that the restrictions on Slovenian labour force lasted as long as seven years.


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