Free movement for Bulgarians and Romanians in the EU

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In this edition of U-talk our question comes from Laurent in Brussels. “Several EU countries still restrict the access of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to their labour markets. These restrictions will end on December 31. What changes will there be and are they for the best?”

Pascal Delwit, political scientist at Université Libre de Bruxelles, responds: “Indeed, with the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, a number of restrictions were introduced by some Member States. The unrestricted opening up of labour markets to Bulgarians and Romanians on 31/12/2013 will bring some changes.

“In terms of quantity, there’ll be very few changes, or rather we don’t expect any major population movements. However, in terms of quality, there should be some changes: Romanians or Bulgarians will be able to return to areas where they were much less present – such as areas of the Romanian community in Spain;

“More generally, it should be easier for Bulgarians and Romanians with strong educational backgrounds to settle in member states in which there were restrictions; and finally another qualitative change would concern the unregulated jobs market, that’s to say undeclared work among Bulgarians and Romanians in countries that used to impose labour restrictions.

“The fact that the lifting of the restrictions happens now will have political consequences because labour markets are under pressure in most countries, especially in southern Europe, but also in Northern Europe, including the UK.

“So the potential arrival of Bulgarians and Romanians in the labour market of other member states could create more social tensions, more political tensions, at a time when there are already national identity tensions, at a time when the EU and its objectives are challenged.

“Moreover, the free movement for Bulgarians and Romanians also means it will be easier for the Roma community to move within the EU. And this possibility could also create new tensions.

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