Ion Jinga, the Romanian Ambassador to London, said: 'In extreme cases, inflammatory rhetoric could even lead to acts of racially aggravated assaults against them, as we have witnessed recently a case in Brighton.'
By Dr Ion Jinga, Ambassador of Romania to the Court of St. James’s
5:29PM GMT 21 Feb 2013
I am Romanian and I never thought to be anything else but Romanian. After living for five years in the United Kingdom, I can also say that I understand, respect and love Britain.
Romanians rediscovered themselves in 1989 with the fall of the Communist regime. They have learnt what democracy is for the past 23 years, whereas Britons have learned it in 800 years, since the Magna Charta Libertatum. Romanians have recreated their country from scratch, without forgetting to live in harmony with the traditions, ancestors, nature and history. Between the Two World Wars Romania was a regional power, our currency was convertible and fully covered in gold deposits and our elites were educated to London, Paris and Berlin. Nobody asked Romanians if it is their wish to embrace the Communist regime, but they had to experience it for decades. Without the 42 years of Communism, Romania would have been today at the same level of prosperity as the United Kingdom, France or Germany.
In the current context of a predominantly negative rhetoric on immigration, I would like to dwell upon the values of freedom of movement and to underline some basic facts about the presence and the role of the Romanian community in the UK. Immigration is a legitimate concern for UK citizens and therefore it is important that the British public is not served with distorted figures based on emotional and biased assessments.
The United Kingdom had an essential role in shaping and developing the Single Market that brought prosperity at the scale of a continent. I hope it will continue to do so. As a highly performing market-oriented economy, the UK is well aware that the four freedoms, including the freedom of movement of persons, are an integral part of the Single Market and, consequently, essential to its proper functioning.
The Romanian community in the UK is characterized by a high proportion of specialists and includes an increasing number of students. Many of the Romanians in the United Kingdom work in shortage occupations (such as the health and social care sectors), others work in universities or run their own business, while hundreds of highly skilled Romanians have been employed in the performing arts, financial, IT or trade sectors. According to a report commissioned in 2010 and released in 2011 by the British Government – “Identifying Social and Economic Push and Pull Factors for Migration to the UK by Bulgarian and Romanian Nationals” – Romanian and Bulgarian migrants (A2 countries) have a higher proportion of highly educated people compared to all other migrants in the UK (A2 - 38.3%; other migrants - 31.7%) and the proportion of A2 migrants employed is also the highest (A2 – 84.2%; other migrants – 71.8%), whereas their unemployment rate is the lowest (A2 – 4.4%; other migrants – 6.4%).
Romanian workers are net contributors to the social security and revenue systems by exercising their right to work in the UK, as more than 70% of those who came to the UK are aged 18 – 35, with very few of them claiming health care, social housing or benefits. According to the same report, when it comes to the number of dependents brought along by primary migrants, 62.5% of A2 migrants in the UK have none and 31.5% have 1-2 children.
In a nutshell, the overwhelming majority of the Romanian community is well integrated into the British economy and society. Romanians’ migration to the UK is to be understood in this context, as it is determined to a large extent by the increasing market-interconnection in the EU and their presence here is mainly the result of the demand of the British market.
A report released on January 30, 2013 by the British Office for National Statistics shows that Romanian is the first language of 68,000 people in England and Wales, which brings to the logical conclusion that in six years after the accession to the EU less than 100,000 Romanians have chosen Britain as they work destination, whereas there are around one million Romanians in Spain and one million in Italy. Actually, recruitment agencies have recently pointed out that the British employers’ demand for workers in certain sectors can no longer be answered by the Romanian labour market.
We are aware of the arguments of those who fear a “flood” of Romanian and Bulgarian workers starting with January 1st. However, taking into account the near-exhaustion of Romania’s potential to “export” workers and the fact that most of the Romanians who wanted to leave their country in order to work in other Member States, Britain included, have done so since 2007 – because there is no visa requirement, and the possibility to work as self employed was the way to get access to a legal job irrespective of the temporary restrictions - we highly doubt that the lifting of restrictions for Romanian workers, on January 1st 2014, would lead to any significant increase in the number of Romanians coming to the UK.
On the contrary, I believe the effect of lifting restrictions will actually prevent exploitation, ensure a fair, non-discriminatory treatment for Romanians already working in the UK and bring an additional contribution to the British Treasury through a more efficient tax collection. All these arguments need to be taken into account when talking about the effect of migration on the British economy, health and welfare systems.
Emotional approaches to this issue are counterproductive. They do not benefit the British public and they do not benefit the Romanian community in the UK either, as there is an increasing sense among the Romanians here that they are being discriminated and treated as second-class EU citizens. In extreme cases, inflammatory rhetoric could even lead to acts of racially aggravated assaults against them, as we have witnessed recently a case in Brighton.
Romanians in the UK are not a menace to British economy and society. They are a bridge between the two countries, as Romania and the UK enjoy excellent bilateral relations, with a Strategic Partnership agreed in 2003 and strengthened in the last years. Britain is one of our most close allies, friends and partners in Europe. In some areas it is the closest.
On the specific topic of migration to the UK, I do not believe in prepared forecasts of likely inflows from Romania and Bulgaria. They proved to be wrong in 2004 when underestimated the number of new comers from eight Central European countries. There is little reason to think they will be reliable this time, when predict alarmist figures just for the sake of not repeating the mistake of 2004.
Therefore I remain fully confident that the British government will make a fair, fact-based analysis, and any measure envisaged to avoid possible abuses will fall within EU law which is designed to facilitate the free movement of people, and will apply to all EU nationals living in the UK.
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