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

birn-macedonia-database-wins-eu-award

BIRN Macedonia Database Wins EU award

Aleksandar Dimitrievski, author of BIRN's database for agricultural subsidies, was awarded the first EU prize for investigative journalism for 2016, at a ceremony in Skopje, Macedonia on May 26.

birn-kosovo-organizes-a-discussion-between-law-students-and-the-head-of-eulex-1

BIRN Kosovo Organizes a Discussion between Law Students and the Head of EULEX

On May 25th, law students in Kosovo enjoyed an interactive discussion with Alexandra Papadopoulou, the Head of European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, at a forum organized by BIRN Kosovo in collaboration with the University of Prishtina’s Faculty of Law. 

kosovo-albanian-and-serb-civil-society-and-media-agree-to-further-cooperation

Kosovo Albanian and Serb Civil Society and Media Agree to Further Cooperation

On May 23rd, in Prishtina, a third roundtable was held with the title “Perception of NGOs and Media in their role and engagement in the Brussels’ dialogue,” organized by the NGO New Social Initiative (NSI) from Mitrovica and BIRN Kosovo as part of the project “Increasing capacities and credibility in Albanian and Serbian NGOs and media in Kosovo”.  The purpose of this UNMIK-funded project is to establish cooperation between Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb civil society and media organizations.

birn-macedonia-shortlisted-for-data-award

BIRN Macedonia Shortlisted for Data Award

BIRN Macedonia’s database, Foreign Investments Uncovered, has been shortlisted among five others nominated for the Data Journalism Award 2017 in the small newsrooms category.

justice-sector-in-bosnia-needs-urgent-reform

Justice Sector in Bosnia Needs Urgent Reform

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, organized its third and final presentation of its analysis, “Bosnia’s Justice Sector Reform: Optimism and Delay’,” on May 23, 2017 in the American Corner in Mostar.

justice-sector-reform-debated-in-banja-luka

Justice Sector Reform Debated in Banja Luka

The Balkan investigative reporting network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, organized a debate on an analysis of the implementation of the State Strategy for Justice Sector reform between 2014 and 2018 in Banja Luka, Bosnia, on May 19.

birn-serbia-film-comes-second-in-eu-investigative-journalism-awards

BIRN Serbia Film Comes Second in EU Investigative Journalism Awards

The film “Flatland without Birds?”, by journalist Dragan Gmizic, a documentary about illegal bird hunting in Serbia, won second prize for 2016 in the EU Investigative Journalism Awards.

birn-consultancy-cooperation-with-friedrich-ebert-stiftung

BIRN Consultancy: Cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

BIRN Consultancy has begun producing a new bi-monthly political, security and socio-economic review of regional developments in cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 

birn-bih-joins-visit-to-nato-headquarters

BIRN BiH Joins Visit to NATO Headquarters

Denis Dzidic, editor of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, joined a visit by the International Republican Institute, IRI, to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. 

birn-bih-unveils-analysis-on-justice-reform

BIRN BiH Unveils Analysis on Justice Reform

BIRN in Bosnia and Herzegovina has published an analysis of the implementation of the State Strategy for Justice Reform between 2014 and 2018, which shows that serious delays have blighted the processes.