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IN SHORT

Austria to keep its labour market closed

AUSTRIA is unlikely to join those European Union member states that plan to open their labour markets to the new member states that entered the union in 2004, Austrian Parliamentary Speaker Andreas Khol has said.

Khol told Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pál Csáky during his visit to Bratislava that the Austrian government would take another look at the issue after the country's general elections in November.

Slovakia is ready to discuss the issue at any time, Csáky told the TASR news wire.

"If new EU members collectively oppose labour market restrictions, the older EU members will be unable to resist the pressure," Csáky said.

During talks with his Slovak counterpart, Béla Bugár, Khol said that Austria, which is struggling with its highest unemployment rate since 1945, is making every effort to prepare for the free movement of labour. It is in fact not an issue between Slovakia and Austria, according to Khol, given that the two countries have a mutual free exchange of labour wherein some 40,000 Slovaks now work in Austria.

"We can shorten the transition period [lift the restrictions on labour movement] only if we bring our own unemployment rate under control with respect mainly to the unemployment of foreigners," Khol said.

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