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News 23 Aug 17

Romania, Bulgaria Await French President’s Visit

While the French President is expected to use his Eastern European trip to raise the issue of cheap migrant labour, Romania and Bulgaria hope to use the French leader’s visit to push their own agendas.

Maria Cheresheva, Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Sofia, Bucharest
Romanian president Klaus Iohannis with French President Emmanuel Macron at the European Council in Bruxelles.Photo: presidency.ro

French President Emmanuel Macron is starting his first official visits to Central and Eastern Europe, heading on Thursday and Friday to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, and to Varna, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.

Macron plans to use the trip to press for stricter limits on what he sees as unfair labour competition from cheaper Eastern European workers, Reuters reported on Monday, quoting a senior French official.

At the EU leaders summit in Brussels, the new French President vowed to protect French workers from what he terms “social dumping” - the employment of workers from poorer Eastern European countries at lower wages.

He touched on the issue during his election campaign earlier this year and discussed it with several EU Central European leaders at the European Council that took place in Brussels in June.

Macron has faced criticism from the s0-called Visegrad Group, comprising Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, however, which defend their right to compete on lower wages.

In Romania, on Thursday, Macron will meet President Klaus Iohannis, who he also met on the sides of the EU summit, and the Social Democrat Prime Minister, Mihai Tudose.

While Macron is expected to raise the cheap labour issue, Romania is eager to discuss trade and investment, as well as its strategic partnership with the West at a sensitive time.

In 2016, Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, opened a 52-million-euro Airbus plant at IAR Ghimbav, in central Romania.

This year, with relations now closer between Romania and the United States and with ongoing negotiations between Bucharest and Bell Helicopters, the French face tough competition.

Romania has offered the same IAR Ghimbav platform to produce US Bell Viper attack helicopters.

The French company hinted last year that it will withdraw its investment if Romania’s government strikes a deal with Bell.

After Bucharest, Macron will stop over in Varna, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea, and meet President Rumen Radev on Friday.

Bulgaria expects a discussion with Macron on the future of Western Balkan countries, on protection of the EU's eastern borders as well as bilateral cooperation between Bulgaria and France.

Boyko Borissov with Emmanuel Macron in Paris in June. Photo: Bulgarian government press service

Later on Friday, Macron is due to meet Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, at the old royal residence at Euxinograd near Varna.

Borissov said Bulgaria will try to take advantage of its upcoming EU presidency next year and of its good relations with France to push for its acceptance into the so-called “waiting room” for the euro-zone – the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. 

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