Labour issue a social "time bomb" -Romanian premier
28 November 2007, Madrid - The ongoing influx of Romanian workers into Spain will become a social and demographic "time bomb" unless the Spanish government lifts labor restrictions imposed when the country joined the European Union in January, Romanian President Traian Basescu warned Tuesday in Madrid.
28 November 2007
Madrid - The ongoing influx of Romanian workers into Spain will become a social and demographic "time bomb" unless the Spanish government lifts labor restrictions imposed when the country joined the European Union in January, Romanian President Traian Basescu warned Tuesday in Madrid.
Basescu's dire warning - made at the start of the first official visit by a Romanian head of state to Spain since the fall of communism in the East European country in 1989 - reflects the escalating scale of the immigration issue for both nations.
Romanians now make up Spain's largest foreign community, with around 500,000 people - bigger than the entire population of Murcia or Bilbao. Most, approximately 300,000, have arrived since Romania joined the EU in January. Bulgaria also joined at the same time. As EU citizens they can reside wherever they wish, but, like most other countries, Spain decided against allowing them to take whatever job they want. Along with Bulgarians, Romanians face labor restrictions at least until the end of 2008 - and possibly longer.
"The situation could become a time bomb [...] We are therefore asking the Spanish government and other European governments to lift the restrictions," Basescu told Spanish business leaders in a conference in Madrid yesterday afternoon.
The biggest fear is that some Romanian immigrants, unable to work legally, are being forced into the underground economy or are turning to crime. That concern is already being confirmed by police, and the signs of desperation within the Romanian community are becoming increasingly evident. In September, a 44-year-old Romanian immigrant, Marian Mirita, set himself on fire in front of government offices in Castellón, Valencia, after finding himself unable to support his family. He died several weeks later in hospital.
"Romania cannot become a prison for its own citizens. We want our citizens to enjoy a fundamental right acquired with Romania's adhesion to the European Union - freedom of movement," Basescu declared.
The Romanian president, who was due to meet with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero last night, may, however, face an uphill struggle in getting EU countries to let Romanians take jobs like any other EU citizens.
Britain announced last month that it is extending its own ban on low-skilled workers from Romania and Bulgaria, while Italy recently passed legislation allowing EU citizens to be deported if they are deemed a threat to public security. The law was triggered in part by the murder of an Italian woman by a Romanian man.
Elsewhere, including in Spain - an attractive destination for Romanians due to linguistic similarities and far higher salaries - it has been the sheer number of migrants that have shocked officials.
"We thought a lot of Romanians were going to come, but many more have arrived than we expected," Consuelo Rumí, Spain's secretary of state for immigration, acknowledged last week.
Basescu blamed economic disparities for the exodus - a problem, he suggested, that investment in his country by Spanish firms could help solve. "We would like Spain as an industrial and technological partner," he said.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. / A. EATWELL / T. BÁRBULO 2007]
Subject: Spanish news