Free Movement of Workers in the Member States of the EU, the EEA and Switzerland
Entry and residence of Czech citizens in Member States of the EU, the EEA and Switzerland
Entry and residence of citizens of the EU, the EEA and Switzerland in the Czech Republic
1) Free Movement of Persons
Free movement of persons is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the internal market. Free movement of persons implies the elimination of all legal or technical barriers that might prevent people from migrating to another Member State, whether for work, business, study or even tourism. Identical rules apply to the free movement of persons throughout the European Union, as well as to the countries of the European Economic Area (i.e. in the EU member states and Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein). The Swiss Confederation has concluded a separate bilateral agreement with the EU that has a similar content.
The basis of the free movement of persons is the free movement of workers, because European integration, through the creation of a single market, began with this group of people. Free movement of workers means that citizens of European Union member states and their families (provided the EU or EAA citizen from whom they derive their rights, applies the right of free movement) have the same access to the labour market in any other Member State as the citizens of that state, meaning without any restriction, need for authorisation or other conditions that do not apply to citizens of the host Member State. Equal treatment does not only concern access to the labour market, but also covers conditions for jobseekers, assistance from the host state's employment offices or remuneration and dismissal terms.
The Czech Republic's accession to the European Union on May 1st 2004 entailed the immediate adoption of the rules on the free movement of persons, with a derogation to the legislation on the free movement of workers, i.e. Articles 39-42 of the EC Treaty and also Council Regulation (EEC) 1612/68 in cases where an existing Member State decided to apply a transitional period for the free movement of workers. Certain of the EU Member States introduced a transitional period for the new states, with the exception of Cyprus and Malta, in order to protect their domestic labour markets. The labour markets of the new Member States (Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Cyprus) were opened to Czech nationals (with the exception of Malta, which has a system for the automatic issuance of work permits).
2) Free Movement of Workers
The right to free movement of workers is enshrined in the EU´s founding treaties and in particular in Council Regulation (EEC) no. 1612/68 on the free movement of workers within the Union. This is directly applicable to the Czech Republic and does not require to be transposed into national legislation.
Nonetheless, for reasons of clarity, Act no. 435/2004 Coll., on Employment places EU citizens (nationals of EU Member States) and their family members at the same level as citizens of the CR. Family members of EU citizens enjoy free access to the labour market, regardless of their nationality.
The following are regarded as family members having free access to the labour market:
- a spouse or registered partner
- a child under the age of 21
- a child of the spouse of an EU citizen, where this child is under the age of 21
- a parent of an EU citizen, where this EU citizen is under the age of 21
- a dependent relative in an ascending or descending line
- a dependent relative of the spouse of an EU citizen in an ascending or descending line
- a person living with an EU citizen in a common household
- a person who, for health reasons, is unable to look after himself without the personal care of the EU citizen.
Citizens of the EEA and Switzerland
Citizens of Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland, belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) and their families have the same legal rights as citizens of the Czech Republic, as do Swiss nationals and their families.
Access to the Labour Market for EU, EEA and Swiss Nationals and their Families
In the event that a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, or a member of his family whose rights derive from him is applying the right to free movement, that citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, or his family members, do not require a permit to work in the CR.
A family member who is neither a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, should submit documentation proving that he is a family member of a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland to the appropriate employment office.
The EURES service in the European Union and the European Economic Area
The mission of the EURES service is to facilitate cross-border mobility of the workforce. EURES (European Employment Services) provides services to workers, applicants and jobseekers, as well as to employers, in fact to all citizens who wish to apply their right to the free movement of persons. The EURES network offers employment services in all 25 EU Member States, as well as in Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, which form part of the EEA. Switzerland has also agreed to participate in the EURES network.
The actual provision of EURES services in each Member State is carried out by EURES consultants, trained specialists who are able to provide information on employment opportunities in other EU or EEA Member States. The EURES consultants in the CR work in accredited employment offices (EU) in regional centres.
General information on offers from the EURES network can also be obtained at each EU from the EURES contact persons. The EURES contact person will inform you of the principles behind the operation of the EURES network, provide you with informational documentation, inform you of the EURES portal and the national EURES website and supply serious candidates for work in other EU/EEA member states with a contact to the EURES consultant.
3) Transitional Period for the Free Movement of Workers
After lengthy and complex discussions on EU accession, the Czech Republic finally consented to a transitional period for the free movement of Czech workers to EU Member States. The amendment concerning the transitional period is set out in Annex V to the Act concerning the Conditions of Accession of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Poland, the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovak Republic to the European Union and adjustments to the treaties on which the European Union is founded.
Implementation of National Measures
Under the terms of the provisions concerning the transitional period, Member States of the EU-15 have the option of restricting access to their labour markets by Czech workers for a period of up to seven years (in 2+2+3 year stages – see below). The introduction of a transitional period is an internal matter for each Member State and it is entirely their decision as to whether to restrict access by nationals from new Member States by adopting "national measures" (national legislation). Should any Member State have already applied national measures, it can decide to suspend their application, thereby opening its labour market to all EU citizens (as well as to certain of the new Member States). The full opening up of a national labour market is conditional on the implementation of essential amendments to the legislation of that particular state. Czech nationals may only enter the labour markets of those Member States that have applied the transitional period with a valid work permit. Some EU Member States have introduced transitional periods for all the new Member States (EU-8) with the exception of Cyprus and Malta.
The Transitional Period is divided into three Independent Stages:
The basic transitional period has been set for a term of two years (i.e. until April 30th, 2006) and, if certain conditions are satisfied, this may be extended for a further three years (i.e. until April 30th, 2009). In order to extend this restriction, each Member State had to inform the European Commission before April 30th, 2006, whether it had decided to continue to apply national measures to workers from the new EU Member States (with the exception of Cyprus and Malta), or whether it would only apply Community law in future. In exceptional cases, it will be possible to further extend the system of national measures for a maximum of two years (i.e. until April 30th, 2011), should serious disturbances still affect national labour markets by April 30th, 2009. By May 1st, 2011 at the latest, free movement of workers will be introduced throughout the EU, and Czech nationals will have unlimited and unrestricted access to the labour markets of all the Member States.
The Transitional Period as a Means of Regulating and Protecting National Labour Markets
The transitional periods set forth in the Accession Treaty only apply to the access of EU nationals and their family members to the labour market in EU Member States (if the EU or EEA national, from whom the family member derives his rights applies the right to free movement), and apart from certain types of services, do not apply to migration for the purpose of business or study. In no way do they affect other aspects of the free movement of persons within the European Union (i.e. the mutual recognition of qualifications, voting rights, etc). Neither do they affect access to the system of social services in their wider sense (the system of social insurance, state social support, social care, employment or health care benefits). The transitional period cannot be used to prevent the migration of nationals of other EU Member States, but can only be used to regulate their access to national labour markets.
The transitional periods are a means of protecting national labour markets not only for the original, but also for the new EU Member States. The Accession Treaty allows the Czech Republic the opportunity to introduce similar reciprocal measures against those Member States that have applied a transitional period, thereby protecting their labour markets against a potential or actual influx of migrant workers. Notwithstanding this, when a migrant worker receives a work permit, he is also entitled to all the related advantages (including access to social, tax and other benefits).
Where a Member State decides to adopt a transitional period, it always applies that EU citizens (whether they be from original or new Member States) take precedence over citizens from third-countries when jobs are being filled (according to the principle of community precedence).
Should a Member State not apply a transitional period, the standing of any EU citizen on the labour market of the host Member State is identical to that of a citizen of the host Member State.
Free Movement of Workers within the EU Member States
Eight Member States of the EU-15 do not currently restrict access for workers to their labour markets (Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Finland, Greece and Italy). The other Member States of the original EU-15 have either decided to retain their present system of transitional measures (Germany, Austria and Luxemburg), which came into effect on the date of accession of the new Member States to the EU, or have decided to partially open their labour markets to "wanted" professions (Denmark, France, Belgium and Holland).
Free Movement of Workers in the New EU Member States
The national labour markets for citizens of the EU-8 were immediately opened by mutual agreement between the eight new EU Member States (despite the fact that the Accession Treaty contained a mechanism that allowed restrictive measures to be applied in practice). This means that from May 1st, 2004, Czech nationals are free to apply for jobs in Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The Cypriot labour market also allows unrestricted access to Czech nationals (Cyprus has not even included the transitional period mechanism in its Annex to the Accession Treaty). Malta has a system whereby it automatically issues work permits.
Free Movement of Workers in the European Economic Area (relates to the EU Member States and Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland).
The Agreement creating a European Economic Area enables members of the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein - participation in the EEA was rejected by Switzerland in a referendum) to share in the internal market of the EC. The CR became part of the internal market of the EEA countries following the conclusion of the Agreement on the Participation of the Czech Republic, Estonian Republic, Cypriot Republic, Latvian Republic, Lithuanian Republic, Hungarian Republic, Republic of Malta, Polish Republic, the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovak Republic in the European Economic Area on October 14th, 2003. More detailed information is available from euroskop.
Derogation from the Free Movement of Persons between the CR and the Swiss Confederation
A similar system of free movement of workers also applies in the relationship with the Swiss Confederation, and is based on the Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community and its Member States of the one part and the Swiss Confederation of the other, in the name of the European Community and its Member States, concerning the free movement of persons regarding the participation, as contracting parties, of the Czech Republic, the Estonian Republic, the Cypriot Republic, the Latvian Republic, the Lithuanian Republic, the Hungarian Republic, the Republic of Malta, the Polish Republic, the Slovenian Republic and the Slovak Republic, pursuant to their accession to the European Union on October 26th 2004, which entered into effect on April 1st, 2004 (Protocol). The Agreement between the European Community and its Member States of the one part and the Swiss Confederation of the other, concerning the free movement of persons entered into force on June 1st 2002 and was published in the Official Journal on April 30th, 2002 as no. L 114/6 (Agreement). With the entry into force of the Protocol on April 1st, 2006, the Czech Republic, the Estonian Republic, the Cypriot Republic, the Latvian Republic, the Lithuanian Republic, the Hungarian Republic, the Republic of Malta, the Polish Republic, the Slovenian Republic and the Slovak Republic became parties to the Agreement.
With regard to the fact that the Act on Accession grants the Council of the European Union the power to conclude a Protocol on the Accession of New Member States to the Agreement between the European Community and its Member States of the one part and the Swiss Confederation of the other (the Agreement), in the name of the European Community and its Member States, concerning the free movement of persons regarding the participation, as contracting parties, of the Czech Republic, the Estonian Republic, the Cypriot Republic, the Latvian Republic, the Lithuanian Republic, the Hungarian Republic, the Republic of Malta, the Polish Republic, the Slovenian Republic and the Slovak Republic, pursuant to their accession to the European Union in the name of the Member States of the European Union, this is an unusual type of treaty, because it is negotiated by the European Commission in the name of the Member States pursuant to Article 6, para. 2 of the Act on Accession and it is subsequently approved by the Council.
The Protocol, which amends the Agreement, contains a separate transitional period for employees and specific sectors service providers who are citizens of the Czech Republic, the Estonian Republic, the Latvian Republic, the Lithuanian Republic, the Hungarian Republic, the Republic of Malta, the Polish Republic, the Slovenian Republic and the Slovak Republic, pursuant to their accession to the European Union. This transitional period will end on April 30th, 2011 at the latest. The Protocol also contains amendments concerning the purchase of property and other technical adjustments, which particularly affect Annex II to the Agreement (Coordination of Social Security Systems) and Annex III to the Agreement (Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications).
The Agreement contains references to the method of interpreting certain provisions in accordance with the acquis valid on the date of its signature.
Position of the Czech Government on the use of Transitional Periods for the Free Movement of Workers
As regards the position of the government on the transitional period for the free movement of workers, in its resolution no.13 of January 7th, 2004, the Czech government decided that the Czech Republic will not waive the option of introducing a transitional period in advance and that its position vis-a-vis the EU Member States will be based on an evaluation of the current situation in the Czech labour market.
In general, the Czech government supports the abolition of the transitional period in all EU Member States. This position is based on the economic benefits gained from the free movement of workers (growth in GDP, the creation of new jobs), that the opening of the market has brought in Great Britain, Ireland and Sweden (those Member States of the original EU-15 that did not apply national measures from the very beginning). One of the important arguments supporting the abolition of transitional periods is also the justified fear that these restrictions may encourage the growth of an employment black market.
Third Country Nationals
The benefits associated with the free movement of workers do not apply to citizens migrating to the CR from third countries (i.e. countries that are not members of the EU); these citizens remain under the obligation to apply for work permits as before, unless more favourable regulations are applicable viz /web/cz/zvlastni-pripady.
Families of European Union, EEA and Swiss Nationals, on condition they followed or accompanied a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland to the CR, have unrestricted access to the labour market.
Family members of citizens of the EU or EEA are deemed to be: a husband or wife, a partner with whom the EU citizen has entered into a registered partnership recognised under the legislation of their Member State, as well as children of the person referred to above under the age of 21 and all their descendents and ascendants, providing these are economically dependent on them.
The CR is also obliged to support and to facilitate the entry and residence of additional family members, who do not fall under the definition set forth above, where this is in the interest of the family that they should be together and they live in a common household with the EU citizen, or where they are not able to care for themselves for serious health reasons without the personal care of the EU citizen and also partners (common law spouses) with whom the citizen of an EU Member State can prove a long-term relationship.
Provisions concerning the free movement of persons between the CR and the Swiss Confederation are set forth above.
4) Entry to the CR and Residence in the CR
Information on the conditions governing the entry to and residence in the Czech Republic for European Union nationals and their families after the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union can be found on the Interior Ministry webpages.