Romania’s leading Liberal member of the European Parliament has sent a letter to Nigel Farage inviting him to visit her country, after the UKIP MEP made disparaging remarks about Romanian immigrants in the UK.
“There has been quite a lot of discussion of my home country by you and your colleagues recently,” the letter said. It told Farage to, “face his fears” and visit Romania, suggesting he would be, “happier for it”.
“Romanians are a hardworking people, with a troubled past and an incredibly beautiful country,” wrote Norica Nicolai, an MEP from the country’s National Liberal Party, which is affiliated with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe parliamentary group.
The MEP, who is the vice-chair of the security and defence subcommittee in the European Parliament, hit back at UKIP characterisations of Romanians as a criminal threat. She said that the Romanians who work in Western Europe are “often highly skilled”, “keeping hospitals, IT companies and businesses alive”.
Nicolai cited the 2190 Romanian doctors working in the British National Health Service (NHS) as evidence. “But Romanians are also providing a large number of workers in key industries such as tourism or agriculture, generating tax revenues for host countries and contributing to their economic recovery,” she added.
Farage became the subject of fierce criticism last week after saying that he would not want Romanians as neighbours.
The UKIP MEP later appeared to backtrack on the comment, and said, “sometimes in life people get things wrong”. He suggested that the controversy masked the “real problem” of Romanian criminal gangs in London. He also took out an advert in national newspaper to defend the party’s characterisation of Romanian immigrants, citing crime statistics.
UKIP politicians have expressed concerns about the number of Romanian, and Bulgarian immigrants entering the United Kingdom, after EU restrictions on citizens from the two countries working in the UK were lifted in January.
Nicolai’s letter suggested that Romanians are unlikely to come to the UK in the large numbers that British UKIP and Conservative politicians have feared.
“Romanians, in a very large majority, do not want to leave our country for long periods. Despite our economic troubles and our problematic geographical location, sitting on the divide between East and West, we love it here and take a little piece of the country everywhere we go,” she said.
“You can see in Romania scenes which would make any landscape painter dream, filled with a myriad of castles, monasteries and picturesque villages”, she added. Nicolai also made reference to The Prince of Wales’ affection for the country. Prince Charles has bought and renovated a number of properties in rural Romania.
“Above all you should meet the people,” Nicolai told Farage. “You should experience their hospitality, try their diverse and delicious dishes and listen to their stories. That could be dangerous, however – you might find yourself wanting to return time and time again.”
Nicolai suggested that Farage’s repeated remarks about Romanian immigrants showed that he had “little else than one line” in his political discourse.
“So take this opportunity to visit Romania, to maybe take a first step in understanding these people you are so apprehensive of,” she said.
The eurozone debt crisis kindled an anti-European mood in Britain and emboldened politicians to talk of clawing back powers from Brussels, or even leaving the bloc altogether.
British Eurosceptics, such as the UK Independence Party, see the EU as an oppressive, wasteful superstate that threatens Britain's sovereignty, want a referendum on whether to stay in the EU. They are expected to make big gains in this week's elections.
- 22-25 May: European Parliament elections