Migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, between integration and administration

Madalina Cretu translated by Christiane Ngue
10 Juin 2013

Under EU rule, work restrictions for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria should expire on December, 31st 2013. Countries most affected by this change include France and the United-Kingdom. In theory, everybody knows the main outlines of this project. In fact, though, the whole situation is still unclear. What can we really expect?

Migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, between integration and administration
Since 2007, as Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union, citizens of both countries have faced work restrictions. Sometimes, this situation comes down to the long hours they spend waiting in front of prefectures, queuing to receive legal work permit. Eurosceptics see this situation as a precautionary and useful measure to ensure that “those people” will not sponge off their country. As far as pragmatics and realistics are concerned, this is an evidence of xenophobia and racism. Both views reveal that the current situation fails to promote equal opportunities for all. But there is still hope... 2014 should mark the beginning of a new Union more open, tolerant and flexible.
To show how peculiar this difference is, we will mostly focus on the administration in France and the UK, two key members of the EU. Generally, citizens from Romania and Bulgaria who migrate to these two countries need special documents to be able to work. In France, we call it “Titre de séjour”. In England, there is the Yellow card for students and work permits or work visas for the others.
So far, everything is clear, but what people tend to forget is that migrants from Romania and Bulgaria have to wait a long time to receive these documents though the two countries are member states of the EU. In France, we expect up to 2 or 3 months and in the UK up to one year. In both countries, students are not “really” entitled to work full time except in some cases. They even have a limited number of working hours per year in France and per month in the UK, which they cannot exceed. But then, there are always the same issues namely labour shortages, the difficulty to work, sometimes discrimination, but these are widespread issues.
If we compare the two countries, we can even say that it may seem better to be Romanian or Bulgarian in France than on the British soil. French people have gotten used to this situation. If not for the much known stereotypes and prejudices such as calling a Romanian a Gypsy, nobody talks about it. Graduates from both countries in France can work just like French people.
To go further, we must look at the current situation in the United Kingdom. Westminster seems to have a quite sensible and really sceptical approach on the changes that should occur next year. On one hand, we have the two extremes namely the Lib-Dems (Liberal Democrats) who are still pro-European and who even have accused the other parties of treating Romanians and Bulgarians as second-class European citizens, and the total opposite which is the United-Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a Eurosceptic right-wing populist political party. On the other hand, we have the two big parties namely the Tories and the Labour.
Here, there is some sort of mixture, because, there are opinions for and against among the Conservatives, while the Labour really focus on the European rights of Romanians and Bulgarians. The main difference between the United-Kingdom and other European countries, such as France, Italy and Spain, is that there are less Gypsies with Romanian or Bulgarian origin. Then, the British generally do not fully understand the sensible situation that has been created around these migratory people, and tend to stigmatize Romanians and Bulgarians, seeing them as people who will "damage" their country. The British Ministry of Foreign Affairs has commissioned several studies and surveys aimed at assessing the number of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants who will "invade" the British soil. Unlike David Cameron’s previous pronouncements, the results of these investigations show that the UK will not be overwhelmed by Romanians and Bulgarians. But the fact that even the British Prime Minister appears to be Eurosceptic and homophobic encourages the introduction of other ideas and even more daring proposals.

Leaving or staying

Labour turned 100 % pro-European by questioning David Cameron’s opinion, a change of line aimed at opening Briton’s eyes regarding the European legislation. David Cameron said that he would organize a referendum asking whether or not the UK should leave the UE by 2017. Indeed, conservatives are urging David Cameron to organize a referendum as UKIP has maintained its Eurosceptic line.
After the by-election of May 2013, Nigel Farage’s party obtained a larger number of votes than the Lib-Dem hence becoming the third major political force in the UK. This huge blow gave them the confidence to ask for the referendum to be held much earlier by highlighting the situation of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria. Even if David Cameron tends to have a reserved stance, he announced that the UK would remain in the EU until the general election of 2015 and that the referendum would be held in 2017.
Despite inner issues within the conservative party, the Prime Minister has said that the British borders will remain open to qualified migrants who want to come to the country and work to improve the situation within the country. In other words, he acknowledges that every year there are plenty of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria that are diligent students or even specialists in different fields namely engineering and medicine and who come to work to the UK and build a better life for themselves. In the Queen’s Speech, Elizabeth II mentioned that her government will consider reforming the legislation on immigration and making sure that only migrants who are ready to contribute would be able to settle in the UK.
The result of this analysis remains somewhat unclear, because one cannot precisely say what the situation will be like in 2014. The troubling situation of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania in the UK questions the principle of equality of opportunities for all, which for the moment seems rather limited. In France, Romanian and Bulgarian are still prejudiced against and set aside but it seems like this awkward situation has started to evolve. The integration in a host country encompasses different aspects ranging from the daily life, the work place, administration integration etc. Is it not the EU’s aim to allow the free movement of citizens of member states and to ease their integration into foreign cultures? Then why should this be denied to migrants from Bulgaria and Romania? In 2014, this question might be answered and the issue settled. Meanwhile, all we can do is wait and hope because we never know what the future holds.


1.Posté par akira le 14/05/2014 16:48
in Bulgaria. So long as applicants can deposit sufficient funds, they need only visit the east European country for two days to obtain all the rights of EU citizens. ... As with the first option, they can apply for Bulgarian citizenship after five years. more from http://www.high-net-worth-immigration.com

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