Germany has no plans to ease work restrictions on citizens from new EU states owing to the global economic slowdown, Employment Minister Olaf Scholz told a German newspaper.
Scholz said Germany would not invite more potential employees into the country
As pressure increases on national governments to protect their employees' jobs, Scholz said Berlin was not prepared to allow workers from the European Union's newest members to look for work in Germany.
"Jobs are under threat," Scholz told the Bild newspaper on Monday, Feb. 23. "Now is not the time for a rapid opening of our labor market to all workers from the new European Union member states.
"It's not about closing our market ... it is logical to open our labor market gradually," he added.
Four countries retain restrictions
Germany's Scholz isn't alone in keeping out eastern European workers
Germany's position puts it at odds with the Czech Republic, which has put liberalizing the European job market among its priorities for its six-month EU presidency.
Germany, Austria, Belgium and Denmark are the only nations in the 27-member bloc that still impose restrictions on workers from the 12 countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Restrictions forbidding workers from Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the bloc in 2007, will remain in place in several nations, including Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, until the end of 2011.
Germany does, however, grant work permits to the new EU members' citizens in sectors suffering from a lack of trained job applicants.
Figures published in January by the German labor office show almost 3.5 million people are out of work in Europe's largest economy.
Author: Sean Sinico with afp
Editor: Nick Amies