Select Committee on European Union Fifteenth Report


26 February 2002

By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.



6453/01  Communication from the Commission to the Council: New European Labour Markets, Open to All, with Access for All


1. This report is produced in response to the Commission's Communication on "New European Labour Markets, Open to All, with Access for All" (Document 6453/01), submitted to the Stockholm European Council in March 2001.

2. The principle that, as a single market, the European Union should comprise an area without internal frontiers is long-established. One of the Community's key objectives is the abolition of obstacles to freedom of movement for workers and services between Member States. Furthermore, free movement within the Union is a right of EU citizens, added by the Maastricht Treaty and reiterated recently in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. While a number of steps have been taken to secure the free movement of workers, it is clear that barriers inhibiting their mobility still remain.

3. The Communication identifies the opening up of European labour markets as one of the ten key areas for policy action in consolidating and extending the strategy agreed at the Lisbon European Council in spring 2000. At the Stockholm European Council it was agreed to create a High Level Skills and Mobility Task Force. The Task Force was established in June 2001 and published its final report in December 2001. The Commission will present an Action Plan, based on the Task Force's report, to the Barcelona European Council in March 2002.

4. The Commission's objective is to ensure that European labour markets are efficient and open and accessible to all. It also aims to deliver full employment in a dynamic, competitive, knowledge-based economy, in line with the EU's Lisbon strategy. The Commission has therefore decided to focus efforts on policy initiatives to remove the remaining barriers to freedom of movement and to increase the level of skills and their transferability from one country to another, thus ensuring the effective development and utilisation of the potential European workforce.

5. The Task Force set up by the Commission considers that greater labour force mobility, both between jobs (occupational mobility) and within and between countries (geographical mobility), will contribute to meeting all of these objectives.

6. In this Report, we[1] investigate these two types of labour force mobility, examine how they relate to the Commission's aims, and analyse the policy proposals.

7. We first scrutinise the level of geographical mobility in the EU (Part 2). We examine the relative importance of geographical mobility against other elements of a flexible labour market; we consider whether there is a benchmark for an appropriate level of geographical mobility in the EU; and we assess the quality of the data on which policy decisions are being made.

8. We then look at some of the perceived barriers to geographical mobility (Part 3): the economic and administrative barriers; the need for mutual recognition of qualifications; the language barrier; and social and cultural barriers.

9. We then consider occupational mobility (Part 4). We examine the need to improve people's level of basic skills; the provision of lifelong learning; and the recognition of informal and non-formal learning. Finally, we study the availability of information for those who wish to be mobile (Part 5).

10. Part 6 gives our overall conclusions. Our four key policy recommendations are

  • the Commission and Member States need to assemble significant statistical information on the factors influencing people's decision whether or not to move;
  • the Commission should prioritise the development of a framework for the mutual recognition of all academic, professional and vocational qualifications;
  • the UK Government, in consultation with the teaching profession, should progressively develop the National Curriculum so that it is in line with the Task Force's recommendation that the teaching of the first foreign language to all pupils start from age 8 at the latest and continues to age 16; and
  • the UK Government should follow the Task Force's proposal and extend the right to free compulsory education so that it includes free access to basic skills for all citizens, regardless of age.

1   Our membership is listed in Appendix 1. Our witnesses are listed in Appendix 2: we are grateful to all of them. Back

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