European Doors Kept Closed for Romanian and Bulgarian Workers

Romanians and Bulgarians are still not seen as full-fledged citizens of the European Union. Many member states continue to keep them out of their job markets, particularly now that their economies are falling into recession.

A large number of European Union countries, including the Netherlands, will continue to restrict labor market access for citizens of recent EU newcomers Romania and Bulgaria, says a European Commission review. The older EU member states are worried about the loss of job opportunities and they are using the current financial crisis as an argument for protecting their job markets longer. "First we have to protect jobs for our own workers," Phil Woolas, British minister of state for borders and immigration, said in a statement.

The concern voiced by Woolas has been present since 10 countries, including Poland, joined the bloc in 2004. Under the terms of the Eastern European countries' accession to the EU, Western Europe countries were allowed to limit access to there labor markets for up to seven years. The same conditions were applied to Romania and Bulgaria when they joined in 2007. Restrictions were lifted for Polish workers in most member states in 2007 (though they remain in effect in Germany). Spain, Portugal, Greece, Hungary and Denmark will open their job markets to Romanians and Bulgarians in 2009.

Most of the EU countries which are maintaining (partial) restrictions to their job markets are among the original members of the EU -- countries like Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

According to the enlargement agreement, all EU member states will have to fully open their labor markets to Romanians and Bulgarians by 2012, unless there is evidence of a "serious disturbance" to the labor market. Until then there are considerable differences in each country's restrictions. Many countries open their job markets in sectors with a shortage of workers, like agriculture and horticulture.

The closed job market for Romanians and Bulgarians plays into exploitation, says Gerlof Roubos, director of the Association of International Employment Officers. "The crisis puts pressure on prices in the temporary employment world. It's then attractive to hire cheap Romanians and Bulgarians," he says. "Because the income of those who work here illegally is uncertain, they can't put up much resistance." (Spiegel Online)


full-fledged: having reached full development

recession: an extended decline in general business activity

statement: the act of declaring, a declaration

concern: matter, anxiety, uneasiness

restrictions: limitations, curbs

enlargement: expansion

evidence: sign, proof

agriculture: farming, agronomy

horticulture: gardening

exploitation: abuse, misuse

to hire: to employ