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EU threatens legal action over cross-border labour obstacles

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission threatened on Wednesday to take legal action against EU countries that throw up barriers to workers on short-term assignments from other member states.

Under an EU law that came into force in 1999, companies can send workers on short-term assignments within the European Union to provide services there, but they have to respect minimum labour standards.

The aim is to prevent companies from avoiding labour laws in countries with more restrictive regulations by temporarily sending workers from EU members with easier rules.

However, the EU's executive arm said it had found evidence that workers sent abroad within the EU on assignment frequently face "unnecessary obstacles" in the form of "excessive" red-tape supposed to check that their paperwork is in order.

While declining to name and shame individual countries, EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said: "The Commission will not hesitate to launch new infringement procedures before the end of the year."

"Member states' checks are important, but the provision of a service should be possible without running up against disproportionate obstacles," he stressed.

"If a worker spends two weeks in Germany, followed by 10 days in France and a month in Spain, it's exaggerated for example to demand legally certified translations of the work contract and bank details," he said.

According to a Commission estimate, there are slightly less than one million EU workers on such assignments in the 27-nation bloc, representing about 0.4 percent of the workforce in 2005.

Communication on the Posting of Workers in the framework of the provision of services


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