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Slovakia to host EU's new labour agency

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The Slovak capital Bratislava on Thursday won the right to host a new European Union agency to oversee the labour market that is due to start operating this autumn.

Eastern ex-communist EU states often complain that the bloc’s many prominent agencies are overwhelmingly located in Western Europe.

The EU recently decided to move its banking and medicines oversight bureaus to Paris and Amsterdam, respectively, because of Brexit. Poland hosts border agency Frontex.

The case of the European Labour Authority was also sensitive because the proposal to create it came in 2017 as eastern European countries clashed with French President Emmanuel Macron – backed by countries including Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – over a reform of the bloc’s labour laws.

The practice allowing EU workers to work in more expensive parts of the bloc but be paid closer to what they would earn at home has since been curbed.

The richer West saw that rule as undercutting its labour market and workers, while the poorer East has said it should be allowed to help iron out economic disparities.

Disputes over migration and the rule of law are other east-west rifts that have undermined EU unity in recent years.

“Free movement boosts growth, helps businesses find the skills they need and gives everyone the opportunity to make the best use of their talents – but it needs to be well managed,” EU Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said, announcing Thursday’s decision. A narrow majority of EU states chose Bratislava in a first-round vote.

She said the new agency’s task would be to ensure EU labour rules were fair and effectively enforced, and to fight abuse.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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