UK, Romania to discuss EU and Iraq

BUCHAREST (AP) – Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott arrives in Romania on Tuesday for discussions expected to focus on Romania’s role in the European Union and its military commitment in Iraq. Before his arrival for what is scheduled to be a two-day visit, Prescott sought to soothe some of the irritation here over restrictions on Romanians seeking to work in Britain. Romania’s entry into the EU on January 1 was greeted in Britain with newspaper headlines warning that Romanian laborers would descend en masse. Britain and Ireland decided to maintain limits on workers from Romania and Bulgaria, which also joined the EU at the beginning of the year. «This is an exceptional time to be coming to Romania, and I am delighted to bring my prime minister’s and the British Cabinet’s message of confidence that Romania, as the seventh-largest member state, will actively shape the future of the EU,» Prescott said. The labor restrictions drew criticism from President Traian Basescu and Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu and prompted officials to lobby governments in other countries, particularly Spain and Italy, to open their labor markets to Romania. There are some 2 million Romanians working abroad, the majority in Italy and Spain. Prescott is the most senior British politician to visit Romania since Prime Minister Tony Blair traveled here in 1999. Blair was a strong supporter of Romania’s bid to join the EU. Prescott will meet with President Basescu and his foreign minister, as well as with Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, Defense Minister Sorin Frunzaverde and Interior Minister Vasile Blaga. Romania has about 600 troops in Iraq under British command. Basescu supports keeping them there, while his prime minister wants them withdrawn.

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