Remaining labour market restrictions on workers from Bulgaria and Romania end on December 31 2013 and no EU country can unilaterally extend these restrictions beyond then, European Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner László Andor said on February 28.
He was speaking ahead of a briefing for EU ministers on the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania.
Andor’s comment comes against a background of unofficial estimates by anti-immigration group Migration Watch, sections of the British press and some politicians about a supposed deluge of workers from Bulgaria and Romania into the UK after December 31.
“Free movement of workers is a fundamental principle of the single market and indeed of the European Union. It brings very considerable benefits to the individuals concerned, and to the economies of both the host and home countries,” Andor said.
“Derogations from this principle must be very strictly limited in time. The remaining restrictions on the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania will end on December 31 2013 and no member state can unilaterally extend these restrictions beyond the end of this year.”
Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on January 1 2007. In the UK and some other EU countries, citizens of the two countries continue to be subject to labour market restrictions.
Migration Watch has said that it projects that 50 000 Bulgarians and Romanians would come to the UK every year after the restrictions fall away.
The UK government has indicated that it has no reliable official estimate while British diplomats in Sofia have said that the UK stands by the opening of the labour market on January 1 2014 in line with EU rules.
Bulgarian government leaders have dismissed as highly improbable the possibility of a torrent of Bulgarians heading for the UK, for reasons including that Britain is far from the first choice of Bulgarians who want to work abroad.
On February 25, German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich was reported to have called on Bulgaria and Romania to take measures to tackle emigration to wealthier member states of the European Union, including Germany.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)