‘They will leave as well’: the downsides of the EU’s free movement policy
The Telegraph reports that a Hungarian businessman, Péter Róna, took up a fight against the EU’s free movement policy which is slowly destroying his cheese factory, as his employees keep leaving Hungary.
Having studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania and law at the Oxford University, Péter Róna returned to Hungary to set up his own cheese business at Kisasszond. Today, his cheeserie employs 12 families, and it’s internationally successful, producing award-winning soft and smoked cheeses. He said that he set up this factory for one major reason: he was curious how much would it take to set up such a business in an ‘underdeveloped, disadvantaged, backwater part of the country from scratch’.
However, Róna’s business is slowly getting ruined, as his cheese-makers keep leaving for other countries. Róna says that he’s trained several cheese-makers, but they eventually end up leaving, for example to Switzerland. He told the Telegraph:
‘I don’t mind, I can find somebody else. I can train them – but I know they will leave as well. That’s just how it is.’
It is not only Róna who is unhappy with the EU’s free movement policy, but more and more Hungarian employers. Thanks to this policy, eastern European workers leave their home countries in hopes of making more money in western countries. However, in the case of Hungary, employees cannot be blamed, as the Hungarian minimum wage is EUR 400 a month, in contrast with the UK or Germany, where this sum is around EUR 1,400.
Even though emigrated workers live off better now, the home situation has become grave. Some Hungarian politicians argue that Hungary will face an economic collapse sometime in the next ten years.
Róna argues that there will be no strong sense of solidarity or cohesion within the EU, leading to disintegration, as there is too wide a gap between the wages gained in different nations. He even gives numbers and a concrete example:
“The average real wage of a Bulgarian, for example, is 18 per cent of the EU average.
And the real income of the richest district in the European Union, inner west London, is 600 times the income of the two poorest ones, in Romania and Bulgaria. Those are shocking numbers.”
As it is in most cases when a group of people aren’t pleased with some features of a given system, an EU Wage Union was called into being. It is run by politicians and activists from both central and eastern European EU member states, such as Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.
According to this organisation, the free movement policy is creating a lot of social tension through emigration, tearing families apart.
The EU Wage Union proposed to the European Commission to consider introducing wage-matching measurements, if their campaign declaration is signed by at least one million EU citizens by May 2018. Hopefully, this will temper emigration and workers will return home.
A similar campaign was initiated by the Hungarian government in 2015, named ‘Young people, come home’, but it was a failure, with only 105 people signing up.
It seems that Brexit will prove beneficial in one aspect, after all, as Márton Gyöngyösi, the head of the EU Wage Union campaign and co-leader of Jobbik, argues that Brexit might be able to bring back the issue of ending the brain drain into actuality.
“I think the whole Brexit issue was such a shock to Brussels that they started to think how to listen more to the citizens and individual member states,” – says Gyöngyösi. “Before Brexit, they would say, ‘this is on the agenda and if you don’t follow us I will assign sanctions to you. There was one game in town – federalization and centralization. If Brussels said something you were just there to follow. All of a sudden it’s created a hope for a sensible discussion of our common future.”
The situation has become surreal in Hungary, affecting simple, every-day life. Tamás Bajzik, the president of the Hungarian National Trade Union, presented the issue thus: there is such a grave shortage in professions, that it can take up to even a year to get an electrician check your circuits.
He even redubbed the situation, saying that there is even a ‘hand drain’, not only a ‘brain drain’.
‘Hand-workers’ earn more money in Austria and the UK than in Hungary, so of course, they leave their home countries and there are no professionals to replace them.
According to a recent survey, 90 per cent of children aged 14-18, want to leave Hungary upon finishing high school or their university studies. There are adverts all over the city drawing attention to the EU Wage Union’s campaign, yet not many young people have heard of it, writes the Telegraph.
The Telegraph quotes two young Hungarians: a 20-year-old trainee dentist, who argues that he does not know anything about the campaign, but is supporting it; and a 33-year-old office manager who would like to stay in Hungary, but says that ‘it is tempting to leave when you could earn and achieve so much more elsewhere.’
featured image: http://kisasszondisajtok.hu