Report: Workers from EU’s latest members prefer to stay at home

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A year after the two countries became full members, workers from Romania and Bulgaria are not emigrating en masse, found a new report by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS). The NGO concludes that the fears prior to enlargement were unjustified.

“Any expected influx of Romanian and Bulgarian job seekers simply did not occur,” says the report, which was simultaneously released on 15 January 2008 in Strasbourg, Sofia and Bucharest. The research follows two reports on workers’ mobility from the new member states released by ECAS in 2005 and 2006, following the EU’s 2004 enlargement wave (see above under “Related dossiers”). 

As was the case in the two previous reports, ECAS researchers showed that the so-called transitional measures, by which the EU’s old member states try to restrict the immigration of workers from the new ones, have little or no effect. ECAS stressed that those restrictions “contradict the spirit of the founding Treaties and especially articles 12 and 18 on non-discrimination on grounds of nationality and the establishment of a European citizenship”. 

The report’s author, Julianna Traser, pointed out that a number of countries, namely old EU members on the Mediterranean Sea, had a high influx of Bulgarian and Romanian workers for a long time before the accession of those countries. She went on to demonstrate that neither in those classic migration countries nor the rest of the EU had the situation with respect to Bulgarian and Romanian workers changed significantly since January 2007. 

The schemes that most EU-15 countries applied to Romanian and Bulgarian workers are similar to those for workers from the eight Central and Eastern European countries that joined the Union in 2004 (the ‘EU 8’). However, the UK, which researchers say benefitted from EU-8 labour immigration, put tight restrictions in place to protect its labour market from workers from Bulgaria and Romania. Other countries, such as Germany and Austria, have voiced concerns and plan to maintain labour market restrictions. In Italy, Romanian workers were subject to a wave of racial abuse last autumn. 

ECAS called for “an immediate consolidation of the situation of workers from the new member states and an end to transitional arrangements”. It went on to recommend “that member states harmonise their national regimes as regards Bulgarian/Romanian workers and EU-8 workers in order to avoid discrepancies and serious distortion of the image of ‘Europe'”.  

However, Traser observed that more research into the economic and social background of labour migration in the EU is needed, and she urged the Commission to release its report on the future of transitional arrangements with Bulgaria and Romania “as early as possible in 2008”. 

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