Italy to allow Romanians, with crime-fight caveat

Italy may open its labour market to workers from Romania if Bucharest agrees to co-operate on combating organised crime. Different conditions may apply to Bulgarian workers.

The Italian Minister of the Interior, Giuliano Amato, announced his intention to “sign, within the coming weeks, a treaty with Romania on strengthened co-operation in the field of combating organised crime”. He added: “There will be unrestrained free movement of workers only if this treaty works out well. The present level of co-operation is not sufficient.” Amato said that “the same approach does not necessarily apply to workers from Bulgaria”.

Vice Prime Minister Francesco Rutelli said that Italy was ready to lift labour-market restrictions to Romanians, “but only in the framework of a European agreement”. Speaking in Bucharest, Rutelli said: “Romania is no longer a country from which people have to emigrate for economic reasons. It is a country which has full employment in many parts.” He added: “It’s not so much about setting up new barriers to labour mobility, but to find a co-ordinated approach to regulating free movement, together with the other member states of the European Union.”

Six weeks prior to Romania joining the EU, Italy is believed to host more than 200,000 workers from the Balkan country. After Romania’s accession, many more may decide to temporarily migrate to Italy and Spain. Due to similarities in language and culture and as a result of other EU-15 governments’ decisions to keep their labour markets closed, the two countries have become the main destination for Romanians trying to find a job abroad. 

In Italy, which has enormous problems with home-grown organised crime, Romanians are linked to drug trafficking and prostitution, especially in the northern parts of the country, where the Italian mafia is less strong than in the south. Amato stressed, however, that the vast majority of Romanians living in Italy are “respectable people”. 

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