Bucharest House of the PeopleIt looks like the inevitable will happen – the UK government will impose restrictions on freedom of movement for Romanians and Bulgarians once those countries join the EU in 2007 – news from The Guardian here. There’s much smoke and little fire in this debate, and it really infuriates me.

The starting point in the press is that Romanian and Bulgarian citizens should not be allowed to work in the UK because so many Poles, Lithuanians etc. have already arrived here, and that unemployment has edged up recently. That’s the wrong place to start from.

Instead, think about the EU as a whole, and specifically the 15 member states in the EU prior to enlargement. The major reason why so many people from the new Member States have come to the UK (and Ireland and Sweden) is because the rest of the EU has not opened its labour markets. If France and Italy were willing to open up, there would be little or no pressure on the UK – cultural and linguistic links, especially for Romania, would mean more people would choose to go there. I’ve been proud of the UK position – we have been good Europeans for once with regard to the new Member States.

The UK is now paying for its previous honesty – it has allowed citizens of the new Member States to come and work legally. There are stats on the numbers that have come in. Whereas in the rest of Europe, there are plenty of people from the new Member States, but mostly working on the black – a problem that politicians can sweep under the carpet.

So, the next time you hear some government minister whining about potential hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians, think of what the reaction should be: to work for a collective European approach to all of this, for an easing of restrictions for all new Member States, in all of the old 15 Member States. I wish the government would work towards that goal, and state this publicly, rather than pandering to fears of middle England.


  1. vasile marchis

    It is so sad to hear so much unfounded paranoia among the British people in regard to Romania and Bulgaria. What everybody forgets to mention is that 2/3 of the housing market both in Bulgaria and Romania is under British occupancy. If these countries are so bad what are the british doing in these countries buying all the available estates. Morever, can you imagine that Romanians had no chance to compete on the housing market and in few years from now we will be buying homes from British owners at Western prices. So, who is going to win out of this?

  2. Olimpia

    Hi David! I’m Romanian and I believe my country deserves a better chance for living. It’s true that poverty is high and the gap between rich people and poor people is huge. Generally in my country, corrupted people are the rich ones. There are many gipsies, too, but maybe 800 years ago when they came here from Indian subcontinent they thought no other country is better than Romania, so maybe 800 ago my country was more developped than yours. Otherwise they would have come there…This is as a joke. Do you think we shouldn’t have joined EU just because we are poor and gipsy population is high? Hungarians are not isolated, they want to be isolated, they are trying to have Hungarian University, Hungarian Party and special rights, a small “country” in Romania. This should not be allowed. I presume you’re British, so would you like a Greek ethny for example to settle there and want their own Governement, Greek Universities, to enter thpse cities and see only Greek language written on buildings? In my journey to the center of Romania, I had crossed those Hungarian cities. Everything is written in Hungarian, Police Dept, School, Library, everything, even the name of the city. So, I don’t agree, they live here, but they should obey to Romanian laws and learn this language. You say Eastern side of Romania is poor and that you shouldn’t travel alone. I’m Eastern Romanian, I had travelled alone many times till now and nothing happened to me. You’re exaggerating. British people for example are well known in Europe as being drunk and violent huligans. Should we also make a general statement saying all British are like this and exclude them from all Conferences saying they can not judge correctly cause their behaviour is not the right one? Same in Romania…there are gipsies, there are uneducated people, that doesn’t mean Romania is full of such species. Being poor is not a reason for u to think we shouldn’t have joined EU, we’re not poor cause this country hasn’t enough possibilities, but the people who lead our country are the ones to be blamed. Cause none of them cares for the better living of all citizens, they only care for them to get richer, to steal as much as they can without being caught (cause a politician is never caught, he pays hight to make his illegal stuff be legal) cause they think “I’m deputee for 5 years only, that’s my term, till then I have to be rich”…He doesn’t think “I have to do something useful for my country and for my people”…

  3. David get some good knolwedge before making a stratement and watch less television!

  4. I have been to Bulgaria 3 times ( my wife is bulgarian ) and I can tell you that Bulgaria is a poor but generous country. It has got a lot of potential and I am sure it will be able to overcome its current problems with crime and curruption. But please, do not believe what you read in the papers as if it is the absolute truth.
    Visit Bulgaria especially the countryside and the coast. You will never regret it.

  5. Hi Fabio,

    I know Romania far better than I know Bulgaria – I’ve only spent a day in Sofia and that doesn’t give a fair impression! Simply put, I am very welcoming of any European countries into the EU, providing certain standards are met. This entry is no way a criticism of Bulgaria or Romania – it’s far more a critique of the old EU Member States!

  6. I had the opportunity to witness the situation in Romnania during my 14 days visit this August,and I was quiet worried about the country’s entry to the EU. There is a great amount of hypocrisy in the Romanian policy towards the EU. First, the country has to deal with the issue of an ENORMOUS POVERTY of its population (It is even worse than in Serbia or Bosnia). John, visit the country, and in particular the eastern part, and I can gurantee you that you will have similar feelings too (do not go with train and do not go alone). Romania has got 20 million inhabitans, but noone in the country is mentioning the 3.5 million gipsies, their unbearable life-situation, as well as the ISOLATION of the 2.5 million Hungarians living in the country.

  7. Sorry, David – I completely disagree with you. I’ve been to Romania 3 times before, travelling all over the country, each time on my own and each time by train. I’m actually going to Romania next week for work as well, although only to Bucharest. There is plenty of poverty, and plenty of problems, but there are plenty of positives too.

    But think of it this way: if Romania is not ready to join the EU, it should not join. Simple. But when it does join, Romanians should be entitled to what other EU citizens are entitled to. By imposing all the controls on movement, we’re just further drawing out the process of accession and I think that’s wrong.

    Further, my entry here was far more about the UK reaction than the actual application of Romania and Bulgaria to join the EU.

  8. Spain, Portugal and Greece opened their economies without restriction to the eastern europeans on 1 May 2006. France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium eased restrictions for jobs like catering, kitchen staff etc. Only Germany and Austria have full restrictions in place.

    My feeling is that the discussion on Romania and Bulgaria is premature. The Commission has not yet signed them off on the accession criteria – they will report in Sept. Then the Council has to agree, and it looks like Germany and Austria have concerns, and might veto – neither country has ratified the accession yet in their domestic parliaments either.

    I think Romania might be let in, but Bulgaria will be delayed. It might be for the best, it will give UK unemployment time to drop, which should draw the hostility to the newcomers somewhat.

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