2006-09-22 Iulian Muresan
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Romanian workers may not be welcomed in the UK

Paradoxically year 2006 was declaread the European year of Workers MobilityParadoxically year 2006 was declaread the European year of Workers Mobility
Romania and its neighbour Bulgaria, will most probably join the European Union on January the 1st , 2007. Many Romanians support membership because it will allow them to work and gain experience abroad, preferably in the UK. But Radio Romania International explains that the UK may curtail its open doors policy.

Romania is one of the poorest countries to join the European Union. The country’s GDP amounts to 30% of the EU average. The prospects of higher earnings and a legal status after accession as migrant workers, make the UK a very attractive labor market for Romanians and Bulgarians. Just like the more than 200,000 Poles who have registered for work in the UK in the last two years, Romanians are very well appreciated. Eugen Urcan has been working in Ireland for 7 years:

Soundbite: “I can tell you that Irish people are so satisfied, happy with Romanian workers because Romanian workers are working very hard and very well. The competition will be higher and they will save on costs.”

Famous "Polish Plumber" poster, trying to debunk the fear of cheap workforce in old EU member statesFamous "Polish Plumber" poster, trying to debunk the fear of cheap workforce in old EU member states
In recent weeks there have been a lot of debates in the UK about the impact of the potential inflow of Romanians and Bulgarians on the British labor market after these countries join the EU, most probably in January 2007. Despite voices from the business community in the UK, which advocate an open doors policy, it seems that there is a strong case amongst cabinet ministers to impose restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers looking for work in Great Britain after the country joins the EU.

Romanians and Bulgarians follow 3 years after the 8 East European countries that joined the bloc in 2004. In the last two years, these countries have exported more than 400,000 workers to Great Britain. And this figure is 20 times higher than initially estimated. A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK told me that the 8 countries which joined in 2004 have had a broadly positive effect on the UK labor market. But the chairman of Migration Watch UK, Sir Andrew Green, fears 200,000 Romanians and 80,000 Bulgarians estimated to seek work in Great Britain after the two countries’ integration might be more than the UK can take.

Soundbite: “What is clear is that the numbers are very large and they’re starting to have an impact on employment and also on housing, so there is some concern in Britain that the total flow of immigration is already too high.”

Reporter: “Is this concern backed by economic figures? Do you think there’s an economic case for migration?”

Flags of newly accessing statesFlags of newly accessing states
“There is an economic case for limited skilled migration. There is no economic case for large scale migration. So our view would be that any additional immigration from Romania and Bulgaria should be postponed. That is to say that we should apply transitional arrangements in accordance with the treaties, as has been the case for most countries in Europe in respect of the first 8 new members.”

The plans by British ministers to introduce a work permit scheme to restrict the number of Romanians and Bulgarians seeking jobs in the UK have triggered the reaction of Romanian president Traian Basescu, who said Romanians will not be treated as second class citizens of the EU. He also warned countries that choose to apply this system, that Romania will apply similar measures to their citizens. However president Basescu is known to like popularity and few actually believe it will ever come down to that.

The home office in London is reserved. They are still analyzing the matter while postponing any decision. According to their spokesman, a final decision will be made once Romania’s accession date is confirmed. And that might happen on September the 26th when the European Commission is due to publish a decisive monitoring report on Romania and Bulgaria’s preparedness for EU accession.

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