Bulgaria hits back at Britain's EU migrant plans

28th November 2013, Comments 0 comments

Bulgaria denounced British plans to restrict EU migrants' access to welfare benefits as "discriminatory" on Thursday, saying fears Britain would soon be overrun by eastern Europeans were unfounded.

"We should first look at what effects the opening of Britain's labour market from January 1, 2014 will have," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin told journalists in Sofia.

"If all those fears fail to materialise, as we expect them to, these measures will be useless," he added.

Vigenin's comments came a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to restrict the right of European Union migrants to claim welfare benefits.

Cameron has been under pressure from his Conservative party and the media to take action ahead of an expected influx of Bulgarians and Romanians when restrictions on their working rights across the EU are lifted on January 1.

"We are worried that the British government is giving in to this propaganda and reacting with measures that are in part, in our opinion, frankly discriminatory," said Vigenin.

He also expressed concern over "a campaign that has been going on for months against the free movement of people, especially Bulgarian nationals."

"No statistical data indicates a hike in the number of Bulgarian immigrants to the UK. However, the developments we are currently seeing in the UK are a real problem for us, as they violate European norms."

Cameron's comments, made in the Financial Times, already prompted a rebuke Wednesday by the EU's employment commissioner Laszlo Andor, who described it as a "unfortunate over-reaction" and deplored British "hysteria" over the issue.

© 2013 AFP

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