Fellow citizens or welfare tourists: our perceptions of EU migrants

Are Old Europe’s fears of a massive influx of immigrants justifiable in the context of lifting job restrictions for citizens of Bulgaria and Romania? Are those governments right that go on tightening nuts on visitors, blocking their access to social security – just as they did in the UK? More information about this is in the “Network” program.

Fears of an migrant ‘invasion’ from Romania and Bulgaria have gripped richer EU countries like the UK and Germany, now that visa restrictions for them expired at the start of this year. The UK has cracked down on so-called welfare tourism; Germany is considering similar measures.

How justified are these fears, given that studies show migrants contribute more than they receive from the economies to which they move?

To what extent will populist parties profit from these concerns in May’s European elections?

Those are the subjects under discussion in this edition of The Network hosted by anchor Chris Burns from our studio in Brussels.

His panel includes Minodora Cliveti, a Romanian member of European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, and a member of the Socialists and Democrats or S&D.

Also taking part is Stuart Agnew, a member of the UK Independence Party. He is on the Agriculture and Fisheries Committees at the European Parliament and is a substitute on the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.

Having her say from London is Alex Glennie, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Advisor to the Romanian Prime Minister Damian Dragichi believes that the British should not be afraid of the massive influx of Bulgarians and Romanians.

“I believe that these are more like political games, attempts to exaggerate the problem. I don’t think Romanians will overrun England. ”

But it was precisely about this on the eve of the lifting of restrictions that the British press persistently asserted.

Says a representative of the bus company Mihai Fertig:

“Most people who wanted to work abroad have long left their homeland. We expect orders to grow 10 percent with the lifting of restrictions. ”

The head of the British Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs, Kate Wes, who himself comes from a family of immigrants, is confident that the authorities will quickly adapt to the changes.

“We will need to clearly develop a strategy to solve the problems that may arise in connection with the removal of these restrictions. And if we do not, then in the coming years we will not avoid tragedies and crises. ”

London intends to tighten the rules for the provision of social assistance so that guests from Bulgaria and Romania could not qualify for state payments three months after arriving in Britain.

January 1, 2014 is the date that many Bulgarians and Romanians have been waiting for 7 years. From now on, they will be able to work freely in all countries of the European Union, in accordance with European law. The Trunk family from Bucharest has long made a decision. They know that they will have to make certain sacrifices, but they intend to move to the UK anyway.

“I am ready to deny myself the most necessary things, so that my child can go to school there. In this case, if he graduates, graduates from university, he will have work. It’s easier to live there, it’s easier to make money. I mean, you work less there than here, and you earn more in England, ”says Marioara Tranka.

In England, the minimum wage is ten times higher than in Romania and Bulgaria. According to recent opinion polls, from 3% to 4% of adult Bulgarians are ready to move to other EU countries after they open their doors. Beads Petrov is ready for this for the same reasons as the family from Bucharest.

“I want to move to England because life is normal there and salaries are higher. Nobody gets half the price of a good job here, ”he says.

In 2007, three years after joining the EU, 10 new members, mainly from Eastern Europe, came the turn of Romania and Bulgaria. But the European Union for 7 years postponed for them the right to free movement of workers, guaranteed by the 48th article of the European Treaty.

Since these two countries are the poorest in the EU. So far, they have the lowest per capita GDP. The unemployment rate, although high, is quite comparable with other countries affected by the crisis: 13.1% in Bulgaria, slightly more than 7% in Romania with an average unemployment rate of 12% in the eurozone.

Out of 3% – 4% of the inhabitants of these countries who are ready to emigrate, 70% are under 30 and 74% have secondary and higher education, like Rosen Yordanov, a golf course design specialist who is also planning to move to England, as it is becoming more difficult for him in Bulgaria find a job by profession.

“The intellectual level of those leaving allows them not to be afraid of attacks from the press, describing the influx of immigrants. So I think this will not affect my plans in any way, ”Rosen Yordanov believes.

Europe and, in particular, France, Great Britain and Germany fear a massive influx of migrants wishing to take advantage of Western social security after removing all restrictions. Will a wave of poor immigrants sweep over Europe? Not at all necessary, says expert on migration Klaus Bade:

“Mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, it’s not the poor who immigrate, but the elite. 80% of them enter the German labor market. 46% are qualified specialists, 22% are highly qualified specialists with a university diploma. ”

Mitko is a gypsy. He and his three children moved from Bulgaria to Germany 5 years ago. Since then, he lives on the street, never worked and did not receive any social benefits. I haven’t received yet.

This post is also available in: English Русский (Russian)

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