11th March 2013
Free Exchange on Free Movement
One of my followers on Twitter (@HMAMartinHarris) urged me last week to:
“please untangle the politicians heads. UK and Romania should be partners.”
I want to offer reassurance on two counts.
Firstly – the UK and Romania are partners, on a very broad range of issues. Second – the politicians are putting their heads together to keep that partnership strong and moving forward.
Tomorrow the UK’s Europe Minister, David Lidington (@DLidington) will arrive in Bucharest, one of the first Ministers from among Romania’s strategic partners to visit since the elections last December. He will be talking to Romania’s leaders about three important issues for our two countries.
One is labour restrictions. Next year Romania and the UK will become part of a single labour market, when the period of transitional labour restrictions comes to an end. This will be a milestone in our relationship, and of course it’s the cause of much comment in Romania and in the UK.
People in the UK, like in many other parts of Europe, want to be reassured that the benefits of freedom of movement for workers will not be threatened by abuses, such as people moving not to work but to access benefits and services in another Member State. That’s a general concern, not specific to particular countries or nationalities, and we need to address it with partners across Europe.
David Lidington’s visit is an opportunity to talk – for both governments to explain our respective perspectives on this issue and work out together how to address it.
But while this may be the hot topic at the moment, it is only one issue on a full agenda in our partnership. David Lidington will be meeting with British investors and exploring the options for increasing the UK’s commercial presence in Romania’s economy. There are three key facilitators for this – moving ahead with the IMF’s programme of economic reform; strengthening the judicial system; and getting EU funds to work to build infrastructure and boost growth.
The UK is ready to help on all three.
Finally, Romania and the UK share a very similar perspective for the future of the EU in Romania’s neighbourhood. The EU must not become introverted, but remain open – to Turkey, to new members from the Western Balkans and reaching out to the Republic of Moldova and other states around the Black Sea. These are huge challenges, and Romania and the UK should be at the forefront of the EU’s efforts to meet them.
So lots to discuss on a two day visit. You can follow it on our social media channels (our Facebook page and Twitter account and also my own Twitter account) Please do chip in with your own comments and reactions.