Romanian PM dispels British fears of immigrant 'invasion'

25th February 2013, Comments 0 comments

Romania's prime minister on Monday dismissed Britain's fears that floods of Romanian immigrants are heading to its shores -- and invited Britons over to his own country for a beer.

Writing in The Times newspaper, Victor Ponta insisted that rising wages and improved job prospects at home mean that Romanians will not be rushing to Britain when EU migration rules are relaxed in January 2014.

"Britain can rest assured. Romania needs its workers. They will be busy developing their own country," Ponta wrote.

He added that a nation such as his that counts Prince Charles among its fans "can't be that bad".

The heir to the British throne owns two holiday homes in Romania, one of which is run as a guesthouse. The prince also claims he is distantly related to Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Romanian warlord who inspired Bram Stoker's 1897 novel "Dracula".

Ponta said Romania would happily welcome other Britons for "a holiday in the sleepy villages that Prince Charles loves so much" or "a strong pint in the Old Town in Bucharest".

He said he was "rather perplexed" by reports in right-wing British newspapers that thousands of impoverished Romanians and Bulgarians were planning to move to Britain next year.

The hostile British media coverage has already prompted Romanian news website Gandul to launch a tongue-in-cheek campaign named "Why don't you come over?", encouraging Britons to visit.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but Britain and several other European countries moved to restrict the new members' access to their labour markets until January 2014.

Ponta said most of the three million Romanians who have left home since 2007 have headed to countries with Latin-based languages, particularly Spain and Italy.

"If the immigration process continues, which is highly unlikely, it will definitely not focus on the UK," he wrote.

He added that one of the biggest ambitions of his premiership, which began in May last year, is "for Romania to cease to be an emigration country".

"Our people are, by far, our most valuable, cherished and significant resource," he wrote. "We will do our utmost to keep them in the country."

© 2013 AFP

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