- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
On a visit to Bucharest, Britain's Europe Minister has tried to smooth relations - battered by a UK media campaign against a feared influx of job-seekers and welfare claimants.
Britain's Minister for Europe, David Lidington, has tried to put relations with Bucharest on a better footing, following a furor in Britain over likely levels of immigration from Romania in 2014. "Unde-s doi, puterea creste,” ("Two together have more strength," ) he said in Romanian.
”Our relationship is too valuable to allow the immigration topic to become problematic,” he said on Tuesday on an official visit to Bucharest, where he met Prime Minister Victor Ponta.
”I want to be clear. The United Kingdom will open its labour market for Romanians and Bulgarians in 2014. It is our obligation according to the Treaty and we have no intention of doing otherwise.”
Lidington continued: "There will be no discrimination. Our review on access to benefits, housing, health etc covers both EU and non-EU migrants.”
He went on to say that Britain recognizes the importance of business relations with Romania; trade was up by 36 per cent over the last two years, he noted. Around 4,000 UK companies have investments of Romania.
The minister spoke after sections of the British media continue a highly-charged campaign against a feared influx of Romanian and Bulgarian job-seekers and benefit claimants, with some suggesting that hundreds of thousands could arrive in 2014.
From January 1, all remaining restrictions in the UK labour market on Romanians and Bulgarians are to be lifted.
MigrationWatch, a prominent UK think tank that supports tight control of migration, predicts that at least 50,000 migrants from Bulgaria and Romania could head every year to the UK when the labour restrictions end.
But Romanian experts and politicians say fears of large-scale Romanian immigration to the UK are largely unfounded, partly because so many Romanians have already left the country to work in Europe and further afield.
According to UK statistics, some 57,000 Bulgarians and 79,000 Romanians already reside in Britain.
The current UK curbs on Romanian and Bulgarian migration include a so-called accession worker card that requires employers to apply for a work permit on the migrant's behalf. Penalties exist for employers who hire nationals without the cards.
Six different types of permits exist, depending on the type of work allocated, with more relaxed criteria for high-skilled professionals.
Other restrictions are age-based. Romanians who land a job in the UK's food manufacturing sector, for instance, must be between 18 and 30. Students are also limited to working 20 hours a week.
About 3 million Romanians already live and work legally abroad, mainly in Spain, Italy and Germany. Many moved there after Romania joined the European Union in 2007, taking modestly paid jobs.
To keep its reform policy credible for investors, the government must find common ground with the IMF and look for a new arrangement, experts say.