According to this article, Austria's chancellor said that

EU citizens should be barred from taking jobs if a qualified Austrian has applied to the same position [..] accused east European nations of "exporting their joblessness to Austria" and wants local employers to prioritize Austrians unless no other candidate is available.

"That means - only if there is no suitable unemployed person in the country can [a job] be given to new arrivals without restriction," he said.

The same article mentions that this action would "directly clash with the free movement of workers, viewed as sacrosanct throughout much of the EU.". This idea is fully expressed within Freedom of movement for workers in the European Union:

  • Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Community.
  • Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.
  • It shall entail the right, subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health:
    • (a) to accept offers of employment actually made;
    • (b) to move freely within the territory of Member States for this purpose;
    • (c) to stay in a Member State for the purpose of employment in accordance with the provisions governing the employment of nationals of that State laid down by law, regulation or administrative action;
    • (d) to remain in the territory of a Member State after having been employed in that State, subject to conditions which shall be embodied in implementing regulations to be drawn up by the Commission.
  • The provisions of this article shall not apply to employment in the public service.1

As I see it, current context cannot be used to justify an exception based on public security or health, so public policy remains the only criteria to use. From a layman's perspective, public policy can mean anything that a Government can legally do within that country.

Question: how can Austria implement such barring of workforce, while also obeying to EU rules?

  • 4
    Simply put, they can't.
    – user11249
    Mar 22, 2017 at 16:50
  • @Carpetsmoker - theoretically, they can invoke some "public policy" limitation. Or maybe I got it wrong from the "freedom of workers" article.
    – Alexei
    Mar 22, 2017 at 16:54
  • From a procedural point of view, “public policy” is not something Austria can invoke to put aside EU law and be done with it. Ultimately, it's the EU court of the justice that's in charge of interpreting what those words mean. As @phoog explained, what you describe is clearly prohibited by EU law and if the Austrian government would try to go through with it and Austrian court would go along, the EU commission would almost certainly launch infringement proceedings and get the EUCJ to outlaw all this.
    – Relaxed
    Mar 22, 2017 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


Public policy is intended to allow countries to exclude (for example) political dictators or war criminals who are not a direct threat to the country's public safety. It cannot be used to create an exception favoring a country's citizens over those of other EU countries.

For example, directive 2004/38/EC provides, in Article 27(2):

Measures taken on grounds of public policy or public security shall comply with the principle of proportionality and shall be based exclusively on the personal conduct of the individual concerned.

A hiring preference for Austrian citizens cannot be said to be based in any way on anyone's personal conduct.

There's also the prohibition in 27(1) to contend with:

These grounds shall not be invoked to serve economic ends.

Employment restrictions may certainly be considered economic ends.

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