Last week we brought you the news that the UK government was thinking of using a negative advertising campaign to deter potential immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria. While the article was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, (it included a series of suggested negative posters from UK residents – they were mainly weather-related) the Romanian government is not finding it very funny. 

Titus Corlatean, the gloriously-named Romanian foreign minister, has sought assurances from the British government that the UK would comply with its obligations under EU law.  Corlatean has been assured that the negative advertising campaign will not go ahead, but the issue of restrictions on access to the NHS has been raised. 

Over the past seven years 100,000 Romanians have moved to the UK, out of 3 million Romanians living abroad. However, the fear for some in the UK is that once the transitional arrangements restricting the rights of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens from living and working in the UK expire in January 2014 there will be a large influx of immigrants.  The Romanian government believes that these fears are unfounded:

“Bucharest said that, of the three million Romanians now working abroad, only 100,000 had moved to the UK in the past seven years, and that the vast majority have been well-integrated and valued members of British society.

Romania believes those who wanted to work abroad are already doing so. Its minister for labour, Mariana Campeanu, said that there was no reason to believe there would be large influx to the UK in 2014.

The Romanian language was Latin-based and Italy and Spain were more popular destinations and home to a million Romanian workers, she said.”

As the Guardian further reported, according to Campeanu:

“Britain is behind Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Germany as targets for her people. Those who wanted to live abroad now do so, with a million Romanians each in Italy and Spain. There are at most about 150,000 Romanians in the UK: 80,000 working in agriculture, 6,000 working as doctors or nurses and 5,000 as students. Most of the others are in construction or jobs requiring a high degree of education. A tiny, negligible number are without work.”

Interestingly, entry into the EU brought about a huge change for Romania. In the seven years since entry, the Romanian population declined from 22 to 19 million.  The drop was mainly due to working-age migrants moving to other parts of the EU, so much so that Romania itself is experiencing a shortage of skilled labour and has organised job fairs in Spain and Italy to entice construction workers to come home.  Aside from this skills-drain, the EU has also impacted on other areas of Romanian life:

“The popularity of the EU has inevitably waned since the country joined the club on 1 January 2007, when there were raucous parties in Revolutionary Square and nearby University Square. The economic crisis has not helped, of course, and if Britons have their gripes about the EU banning bent bananas, then the Romanians are irritated that they can’t slaughter the family pig at Christmas and Easter in the traditional throat-slitting way.”

Although the free movement of labour is one of the premises of the EU, it is still a stumbling block for many of the member states.  Migration and immigration can be answer to over- and under-population (or population ageing) but as we’ve said before, it’s not necessarily an easy process for those who move or for those in the target country.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...