Eastern European ‘problem’ not over: MPs

Social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner is underestimating the problems being caused by eastern European workers in the Netherlands, MPs said during a debate on further opening up Holland’s borders on Wednesday.

A majority of MPs remains opposed to plans to open the borders to people from Romania and Bulgaria on January 1 2009. At the moment they need a work permit to get a job.
‘There is a clash between the cabinet’s macro world and the micro world that people themselves experience,’ Labour (PvdA) MP Hans Spekman said.
Donner told MPs that migrants from central and eastern Europe deliver a valuable contribution to the Dutch economy. The cabinet would not scrap the work permit requirement if it considered that to be a risky move, Donner said.
He also refused to consider any more moves to tighten up controls on gangmasters and illegal staffing agencies which rely on illegal labour, especially from eastern Europe.
Housing minister Ella Vogelaar said efforts were being made together with local councils to improve the provision of housing for new arrivals – one of the main areas of concern. These included new legislation to allow empty offices to be turned into housing accommodation.
But she again rejected calls from some MPs that eastern European immigrants be forced to take integration courses, saying this was not possible under EU rules.
The Liberal party claims 330,000 eastern Europeans live in the Netherlands, the cabinet puts the number of recent arrivals at 100,000.
The cabinet will decide in November whether or not to open the borders fully, Donner said.

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