19 February 13

Conference Criticises “Discriminatory” EU Labour Curbs

Speakers at a conference in Bucharest have attacked temporary restrictions that prevent Romanian and Bulgarian citizens from working freely in several EU countries.

The curbs are due to remain in place until their maximum legal limit expires at the end of 2013 – seven years after the two so-called “A2 countries” joined the bloc.

“Seven years no longer mean restrictions, they no longer mean differentiation – they mean discrimination,” said Vasile Puşcaş, Romania’s chief-negotiator with the EU in 2000-04.

Romanian MEP Renate Weber told the conference, organised under the auspices of the Balkan Fellowship of Journalistic Excellence, that her country had expected the curbs to be lifted sooner.

“When we joined the EU, we agreed to these long-term restrictions, hoping they would be lifted long before the deadline,” she said.

She argued that this would have been logical as European Commission studies had “demonstrated the benefits [to other EU economies] of the Romanian and Bulgarian labour force”.

However, she said, the restrictions had become an “electoral weapon” in the domestic politics of the countries that had imposed them.

Several EU nations – including the UK, Germany and France – have enforced laws that aim to restrict Romanian and Bulgarian migrants to specific sectors of their labour markets. Under EU rules, any such curbs must be lifted by the end of 2013.

The looming deadline has prompted speculation in the media that some governments may look for ways to extend the curbs.

However, speakers at the conference said any talk of prolonging the restrictions was misinformed.

Luminita Odobescu, a senior official from the Romanian Prime Minister’s Chancellery, said her government was confident that its European partners would lift the curbs in January 2014, in accordance with the EU accession treaty.

Weber added that Romania would challenge any member state that “invented reasons or statistics” to extend the restrictions on A2 citizens’ right to work in the EU.

The conference, held on February 13 at Bucharest’s Novotel Hotel, looked at the effects of the curbs on A2 workers as they entered their seventh year. Participants in the debate included Romanian government officials, academics, foreign diplomats and trade union officials.

The conference was prompted by an investigation by reporter Sorana Stanescu that showed how labour curbs have left Romanian builders vulnerable to exploitation in the UK. The investigation argued that the restrictions were in some respects counter-productive, harming indigenous workers by driving down wages and safety standards, as well as depriving the British economy of tax revenue. Stanescu’s report was produced as part of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, an annual bursary for investigative and long-form journalism.

Governments in the UK and elsewhere argue that the labour curbs have protected the domestic workforce and restricted immigration from eastern Europe.

However, speakers at the conference questioned if the restrictions had been effective.

Sean Bamford, a migration expert with the UK’s Trade Unions Congress, said there was “no evidence that Romanians and Bulgarians have threatened the jobs of British nationals”.

“They have however left Romanian and Bulgarians open to extreme forms of exploitation.”

Bamford said the British workforce’s problems were caused by “casino capitalism” and the failure of government regulation, rather than by migration from eastern Europe.

Dumitru Costin, the president of the Romanian National Union Block, said the labour restrictions had benefitted “employers, some employment agencies, lawyers, insurance companies… and last, but not least, those politicians who lack solutions and vision”.

Sociologist Dumitru Sandu said most Romanians in future would choose to migrate to Germany, rather than the UK, because its economy was stronger.

Background information

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence was established in 2007 by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and ERSTE Foundation, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), to promote incisive, cross-border reporting. The first prize-winner of the 2012 edition was Romanian journalist Sorana Stănescu, for her investigation: “Cheap, and Far from Free: The Migrants Building Britain”.

http://fellowship.birn.eu.com/en/fellowship-programme/cheap-and-far-from-free-the-migrants-building-britain.

Fill out my online form.

Latest News and Events

al-jazeera-balkans-shows-birn-film-seven-times

Al Jazeera Balkans Shows BIRN Film Seven Times

Al Jazeera Balkans broadcast BIRN’s documentary ‘The Unidentified’, about the Serbian fighters responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Kosovo war, seven times in December 2016.

internet-offers-income-perspectives-birn-serbia-debate-hears-1

Internet Offers Income Perspectives, BIRN Serbia Debate Hears

People in Serbia are willing to pay for good content on the Internet but there are major issues with clickbait articles, badly-produced news and commercially-led content, a BIRN Serbia debate heard.

birn-cin-begin-montenegro-investigative-journalism-project

BIRN, CIN Begin Montenegro Investigative Journalism Project

Strengthening investigative reporting and the capacities of investigative journalists in Montenegro, as well as the quality of media content related to EU negotiation chapters, are the focus of the new EU-supported project.

birn-bih-participates-in-information-law-consultations

BIRN BiH Participates in Information Law Consultations

Representatives of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in a public debate on a draft revision of the Law on Free Access to Information, held in Sarajevo on February 23. 

balkan-insight-cited-in-council-of-europe-commission-report

Balkan Insight Cited in Council of Europe Commission Report

The latest European Commission against Racism and Intolerance country report on Bosnia and Herzegovina quotes articles from BIRN’s flagship publication Balkan Insight.

smear-campaign-targets-birn-journalists-in-macedonia

Smear Campaign Targets BIRN Journalists in Macedonia

BIRN journalists in Macedonia are being subjected to an incendiary campaign on social networks by supporters of the rightist VMRO DPMNE party.

birn-macedonia-s-vlado-apostolov-awarded-for-investigative-reporting

BIRN Macedonia’s Vlado Apostolov Awarded for Investigative Reporting

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia gave its annual investigative reporting award for 2016 to BIRN journalist Vlado Apostolov on February 22 for his series of articles on properties connected to a Macedonian official, Vladimir Zdravev.

birn-albania-seeks-investigations-on-financial-industry

BIRN Albania Seeks Investigations on Financial Industry

Grants offered for three journalists to uncover corruption and abuse of power stories in the financial industry as well as mentoring by experienced editors.

birn-kosovo-wins-anti-corruption-reporting-award

BIRN Staff Trained in Project Cycle Management

Twenty BIRN Programme and Project Managers have been trained to build their capacities in the field of project cycle management.

birn-macedonia-launches-foreign-investments-database

BIRN Macedonia Launches Foreign Investments Database

BIRN Macedonia has launched a new database called ‘Foreign Investments Uncovered’ which indicates that the amount of these investments is seven times lower than announced by government.