On 1 May 2007 the Dutch labour market was opened up to workers from eight of the ten Member States which joined the European Union in 2004 (the exceptions being Malta and Cyprus which had never been subject to restrictions). According to the Dutch Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, any further delay could have been harmful to Dutch companies, as the number of job vacancies is at an all time high. It could also have damaged relations with the Member States involved.
The Dutch Government put in place a number of measures to try and ensure a smooth transition to a free labour market. There were, for example, agreements in place to ensure equal pay for equal work for workers arriving from the new Member States. Any employers found to be paying less than the national minimum wage will be subject to a fine of up to €6700.
The Netherlands joins Portugal, Spain, Greece, Finland and Italy which all recently removed any barriers to workers from the same eight countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The UK, Ireland and Sweden never placed any restrictions on the free movement of such workers.
The German Government on the other hand has indicated that it will extend the restrictions it put in place on such workers until 2011. It can lawfully do this, as Member States were allowed to place restrictions on the free movement of workers from Central and Eastern Europe for up to seven years after their joining the EU.