Real Freedom of Mobility
Thematic priority adopted by Eurocadres Executive Committee 19th of November 2015
The free movement of people within an open labour market is a corner stone of the European Union. Especially labour mobility of high-qualified professionals and managers, makes a vital contribution to a knowledge-based European economy and society that is consequently, enhancing Europe’s competitiveness. For individuals, mobility experiences should lead to personal and professional enrichment and foster career opportunities. Some career paths even require work experience and education abroad.
As a representative of professionals and managers, Eurocadres aims to promote mobility in Europe, from one task or job to another, across branches and across countries. We unconditionally defend free movement along with decent and equal working conditions, employment according person’s qualifications (avoiding brain waste) as well as equal labour rights, easily accessible and equal social rights (e.g. pensions, unemployment benefits) as well as transparent income taxation rules. All this is unfortunately not yet achieved in a complete and coherent scope in the EU.
Thus, it is not surprising that labour mobility within the EU is still low. We need more incentives for people to make use of their freedom to move across borders and thereby minimising the labour gap and skills mismatch. We regret that the political discussion in Europe is focused on benefit tourism. Data shows that Europeans move to other EU countries for work reasons and not for (ab)using social security systems.
The reasons for low mobility are certainly manifold and often geographic mobility is perceived rather negative. Economic hardship and bad working conditions can often be strong motivators for mobility. However, if these are the only reasons for the individual to leave the country, these negative conditions can lead to brain drain. This can be observed in the current economic and financial crisis. For that reason, mobility must be a free choice of the individual.
Therefore, Eurocadres is promoting a code of conduct of fair mobility which addresses practical and psychological obstacles to mobility and calls social partners to deal with those obstacles. Further, mobility already starts when looking for employment opportunities abroad. Collecting relevant information on conditions and requirements for the individual for example EURES and the recognition of professional qualifications. But this also applies to family members with regards to admission to schools, etc.. Mobility is not a one-way path. Measures need to be in place when returning to one’s home country, also for family members.
The involvement of social partners in mobility aspects is essential. That is to ensure that mobile employees are part of collective agreements, either national or transnational. The social partners, on both sides, employers and trade unions, on national but also on European level, have to assume their responsibility towards employees coming from abroad and guaranteeing equal treatment and equal rights at the workplace and in education.
Recognition of Qualifications and Competences
Recognition of professional qualifications acquired in any Member State is the key to enable further movement to capitalise knowledge and experiences acquired over time everywhere in Europe and to create a harmonised and integrated European system.
One of the key legal initiatives is the European Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications. Eurocadres supports this directive and is concerned about the insufficient implementation of the Directive. The governing bodies (Regulatory Committee, Coordinators and Competent Authorities) of the Directive exclude social partners and to some extent professional associations. Eurocadres strongly promotes common European platforms that allow a wider range of relevant stakeholders, foremost professional associations, to define the set of qualification criteria for their profession.
The revision of the Directive brought about the introduction of a European Professional Card. Eurocadres will monitor current procedures and will support new serious initiatives. However, the card itself should not create a division on the labour market between the holders of the card and the non-holders. Further, it should be linked to the European Qualification Framework and include formal education and training, informal learning in personal and professional life and knowledge gained through work experience. Nevertheless, the issuing procedure of the card should not impose unnecessary administrative burdens for the applicant.
In general the mutual evaluation of regulated professions is useful. It is still extremely difficult to access regulated professions with foreign qualifications in some EU countries. A proper balance between free movement of services, sound qualifications and high standards is necessary. A recent initiative by the DG Growth to launch infringement procedures for lack of compliance in the area of regulated professions was an important step.
In the newly published Single Market Strategy the Commission is proposing to address reform needs of selected professions in priority sectors in the context of the European Semester process. It is important that national social partners are involved in the work on possible national reforms in the field and that putting this into the European Semester process does not mean that all stakeholders will have a seat at the table, in particular professional associations who are not so often social partners.
International Trade and Mobility of Professionals
The mobility aspect in free trade agreements is essential for professionals. They should facilitate temporary mobility of professionals and service providers. The agreements could establish a system for recognition of qualifications as well as improved mobility procedures for family members.
Professionals are mobile workers and they could benefit of lower thresholds between the EU and those countries. Trade and interaction between third countries and the EU is not possible without mobility of professionals. However, the process of negotiations of trade related agreements must be transparent and democratic. Trade agreements should not weaken working conditions, education or consumer and environmental protection. Concerning those crucial demands Eurocadres will take the Commission at its word when stating in its recent publication “Trade for all” that it ”makes a clear pledge that no trade agreement will ever lower levels of regulatory protection; that any change to levels of protection can only be upward; and that the right regulate will always be protected"
Migration – Mobility of High Qualified Third Country Nationals
Eurocadres welcomes initiatives to let third country nationals enter the EU labour market. Especially, the exchange with countries outside the EU and the EEA allows a much wider skills and know-how exchange of which both receiving and sending economies can profit by boosting innovation and growth. The Blue Card Directive and the Directive on intra-corporate transfers (ICT) are tools to foster exchange and that regulate the entrance of high qualified third-country nationals to the EU labour market.
However, it can be criticised that the EU migration policy has a two-tier approach with different sets of rights for different groups of employees. Intra-corporate transferees are exempt of the right to apply for a Blue Card and are excluded from the framework Directive on a single permit for third-country nationals. The same exemption is applied for seasonal workers. Equal treatment, especially for employees entering the EU under the ICT Directive, is under pressure since the Directive contains provisions by which those employees would enjoy a protection of rights granted to employees under the Posting of Workers Directive. The past has unfortunately proven that this Directive has bypassed the EU labour legislation and national labour protection.
The main drivers for an EU migration policy are labour shortage in key sectors and the demographic change. Especially, shortage of highly-skilled labour in key sectors needs quick solutions. However Immigration cannot be the only tool to tackle the possible labour shortage in the future. It is only one measure among many others. Member States and the EU need to assume their responsibility to increase the level of investment in research, education and innovation in Europe in both private and public sector which is most important to improve the competitiveness of Europe.
Further, the improvement of working conditions, equality, investments in professional development, reconciliation of work and family life remain as key measures to combat the problems of the European labour market. Finally, migration policies focusing on recruiting high-skilled labour from third countries should avoid brain-drain and economic damages in these countries. It is of utmost importance to establish a real exchange which benefits the individual, the leaving country and the host country. The involvement of the social partners is crucial for assuring this exchange.
 At EU level, the Services Directive prohibits a number of regulations and requires Member States to evaluate whether others are justified and proportionate.
 Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business (COM(2015) 550 final)
 Trade for all: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy (2015)