Could joining EU club spell disaster for the new members?

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 05 February 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:310
  1. Katka Krosnar
  1. Vilnius

Almost a third of Lithuania's doctors have said they would like to go abroad when the country joins the European Union in May. Health minister Juozas Olekas tells Katka Krosnar how he hopes to keep them at home

Despite his cheerful manner Lithuania's health minister Juozas Olekas faces a serious problem—how to keep doctors in the country.

According to the ministry's own research, 61% of doctors in training and 27% of practising doctors said they wanted to work abroad once the Baltic country joins the European Union this May, along with nine other states. Of those, 15% of doctors in training and 5% of practising doctors firmly intend not to return.

For the new member states, such as Lithuania, being part of the European Union means the axing of borders and therefore free movement of people within the bloc, as well as automatic and unconditional recognition across the union for qualifications and training obtained in their own country. In short, that makes migration easier and, with average wages significantly lower in most of the 10 new member states than in the 15 existing ones, much more likely.

Lithuania may not be the only nation facing a major migration of its doctors, but it is a small country with just 3.5 million inhabitants. It is treating the problem extremely seriously and seeking ways to limit the effects. With average wages just 1400 litas (£277; $503; …

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