Spain puts restrictions on Romanian workers

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Spain's government Friday announced tougher restrictions for Romanian citizens wishing to work in the country, where unemployment has soared to more than 21 percent.

It said Romanians will now 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," chief government spokesman Jose Blanco told a news conference following a cabinet meeting.

The measure "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 in which other members could limit access to citizens of the two countries 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 demanded it.

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.

Henceforth, "Romanian citizens who want to work in Spain for a company must ask for permission in advance, based on the existence of a work contract," Blanco said.

"It is something that is actually in place in the countries like Britain, Italy, France and Germany."

He said the measure would "prevent greater pressure on our labour market."

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

The employment ministry said the decision, which was taken in collaboration with Romanian authorities, "is purely technical," noting that the "Romanian community... is fully integrated into Spanish society."

The measure "will be the subject to evaluation depending on the development of the labour market."

© 2011 AFP

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