I'd like to bid a nervous welcome to the new workers joining the European Union's labour force tomorrow.
Ivan Lewis, the minister for skills, is hoping that the arrival of tens of thousands of skilled eastern Europeans will offer an instant solution to the UK's construction skills shortage (see news). If thousands of happy hard-hats do materialise, they will no doubt be welcomed with open arms, not just for their skills, but also for their low wage expectations and lack of union representation. And for firms that have a toehold in eastern Europe, there will no doubt be many deals to be done as money in the European Commission's budgets for infrastructure and regeneration flows east and private investors line up their development opportunities.

There is, however, some debate about whether or not this extended community will ultimately be good for UK construction. For a start, if the accession countries do receive large flows of direct inward investment, will skilled workers really want to leave their friends and families and migrate to Britain? And what about those migrants already employed in the UK? Won't they copy the Irish and return home at the earliest opportunity? Worse still, when it comes to dishing the dosh for regeneration, the inclusion of 74.5 million people with a standard of living half that of the EU average is bound to mean Liverpool and parts of Yorkshire get elbowed aside.

Still, our new neighbours will be receiving structural funding to upgrade their "trans-European networks". And with access to all these developing markets, this should be an opportunity for UK firms to export their PFI expertise. Once again, however, there is an entry in the debit side of the ledger, at least as far as the government is concerned, since it would draw capital away from the UK's PFI schemes. And, as we report on pages 40-44, healthcare and education projects are already struggling to find bidders. So, the enlarged EU may not be quite the simple solution that Lewis thinks, but it does give our economic managers more risks – and more ways of winning.

E pluribus unum

Interdisciplinary working is back at the top of agenda when it comes to developing new settlements and regenerating existing ones (pages 56-58). In his review of the skills needed to create sustainable communities, Sir John Egan has identified more than 100 occupations involved. So at last it has been recognised that creating a diverse society calls for a diverse collection of entrepreneurs, officials and consultants, from community workers to developers, from health officials to consultant architects, from highway engineers to high-street restaurateurs. At the same time, Egan has spotted that interdisciplinary working comes with an inherent problem. This is not, as his Skills for Sustainable Communities review suggests, in training professionals. It is in engendering a shared language and value system so that the professionals can talk to each other and interact productively. The alternative is not just a professional Babel but settlements that will fall apart as quickly as they are developed.