ECONOMY

Minister: Romania should keep UK and Irish workers out

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania may curb access to its labor market for workers from Britain and Ireland, which opened doors to migrants from other Eastern European EU states but want to close them for Romanians, a cabinet minister said. Romania and its smaller southern neighbor Bulgaria are due to join the European Union in January after missing the bloc’s first wave of eastward enlargement in 2004 due to slow reforms. They face tougher labor market restrictions than their Eastern European peers after Britain said workers from the Balkan EU entrants will not enjoy the same open-door policy that has sparked a flood of workers arriving at its shores. «We should consider whether we could impose restrictions on those EU members that have changed their position toward Romania, compared with the 10 states that joined two years ago,» Labor Minister Gheorghe Barbu told Reuters. A country of 22 million, Romania is due to become the second-largest new EU member from Eastern Europe after Poland, fanning fears in some old EU states that their markets cannot take another wave of migration. However, Barbu has said he did not expect mass migration from Romania, which has unemployment rates around 5 percent, below EU levels. Many Romanians have already emigrated since the fall of communism in 1989, driven out by hopes of better pay and dying local industries. Very few people from Britain and Ireland are expected to come to Romania seeking work.