EU demands data from Spain on restricting Romanian workers

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The European Commission asked Spain Monday to provide data to justify a decision to toughen restrictions for Romanians wishing to work in the country, where unemployment is over 21 percent.

The free movement of citizens from a new European Union member state can only be restricted under certain conditions, said commission spokeswoman Chantal Hughes.

"The government must prove and show there is a risk of distortion or major impact on the labour market," she said. "We need all the data."

The number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in Spain had dropped in the last years, she added.

Madrid announced on Friday that Romanians will in future require a work permit before settling in Spain, ending a two-and-a-half-year moratorium.

"The temporary measure will not affect Romanians who are already part of the labour force in Spain," government spokesman Jose Blanco said, adding it also "will not affect the free circulation of citizens within the European Union, a principle that Spain has always defended."

When Romania and Bulgaria entered the EU in 2007, their treaties of accession stipulated a seven-year transition period during which other members could limit access to their labour markets.

Spain lifted this restriction in January 2009, but warned it could reimpose it at a later date if labour market conditions so required.

Since then, Spain's unemployment rate has soared from 7.95 percent to 21.29 percent in the first quarter of 2011, a record among countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development.

More than 800,000 Romanians live in Spain, where the community suffers an unemployment rate of 30 percent.

© 2011 AFP

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