12/10/2013 14:11 BST

Romania's Foreign Minister Titus Corlăţean Slams" Xenophobic, Populist" UK Politicians

Romania's foreign minister has expressed his outrage at "xenophobic, populist" politicians in the UK, who he accused of being "fundamentally unprofessional" and misleading in the debate over migration.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, during a two-day visit to London this week, foreign minister Titus Corlăţean suggest Britons would actually be better off moving to Romania, rather than vice versa.

In a veiled attack on Ukip, Corlăţean, whose party is the left-wing Social Democrats, said his countrymen were "prisoners of national debates going on within a different country, about criminality, the economy, lack of jobs. It is easy to win votes with xenophobic politics."


Romanian foreign minister Titus Corlăţean

But what disappoints him the most, he told HuffPostUK, is how the debate has played out in the media, because, he says, he expected better of the British press.

"I do want to say we are very disappointed. I am not here to criticise the British media, but this, coming from the UK, is not something we expected."

Romania's economy is growing, its GDP expected to grow by 2.2% by 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund, compared to the UK's 0.3% growth. And so Romania is a better economic prospect for Brits, than Britain is for Romanian, Corlăţean hints.

"There are very important and profitable business opportunities in my country for British people. And it's a beautiful life, with an active British community.

"We want to encourage not just British investment, but British people. Last year, in the Romanian media, there was a campaign to invite British immigrants to Romania. It was a intelligent, funny campaign, very positive.

"We have solid banks, solid currency, solid infrastructure, agriculture, technology. There are real opportunities."

For Romanians, who are for the most part huge supporters of the European Union, a Europe without the UK is unthinkable, the minister said. "I am perfectly aware of the possible referendum, the possibility of a Europe without the UK.

"As an insider, I can tell you the UK has a substantial voice in the debate on Europe, on the legislation, on every different topics.

"It is very difficult to imagine a Europe, with the history of the Second World War, that no longer has the UK. Romanians are very pro-European. We had that black period of half a century, left on the other side of the wall, a traumatic period. It is so important to us to be back in the family. A united Europe, to us, means the UK."

But the pro-European voices in the UK must shout louder, he insists. "Rational, British politicians must speak more firmly about the huge benefits and profits of the European Union. The enlargement generated huge opportunities for British countries, with great business and huge profits.

"The benefits are much more substantial than the risks mentioned by the xenophobic and populist politicians in the UK about the so-called migration. Otherwise... there will be negative economic and political consequences for the UK."


As it stands, the UK is legally obligated to remove working restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian nationals on 1 January 2014. In August, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK rose by a quarter in three months.

The ONS said 141,000 were employed from April to June compared with 112,000 in the previous three months - up nearly 26%.

Corlăţean said the scenario presented by politicians like Nigel Farage, that hundreds of thousands of Romanians would flood to Britain to claim benefits from January 1st, was not something he recognised as reality, despite the forecasts of experts.

His country, he believes, has reached the maximum levels of exporting labour. "Romanians who wanted to leave, they left even before we joined the EU. If they wanted to leave, they already did it. They went to Italy and Spain, we are Latin, and it's easier to speak the language and integrate. This is the reality. We have no expectation that there will be an increase in Romanians leaving their country, after January 1st."

Romania has felt the loss of many of its "best people... engineers, doctors, bright minds", Corlăţean said. "What we are interested in, to be honest, is to create an attractive environment back home. We need them in Romania."

Squats and homeless encampments of Roma travellers, like the gang recently removed from Marble Arch, is the image projected by the media of all Romanians, Corlăţean said.

But, although the country's law enforcement is co-operating closely with the Metropolitan Police on crime prevention, Corlăţean says he does not believe Romanians are responsible for the number of crimes attributed to them.

He is very keen to disassociate his country with Roma, "we have 600,000 Roma citizens in Romania, according to the last census, out of 12 to 15m Roma living in Europe. Not all Roma are our nationals."

"We have an educated elite, more than 4,000 doctors and nurses are here in the UK, educated in Romania, on our budget, working here. We have researchers, professors, highly skilled people educated and trained in Romania. Romanian labourers are working hard and paying taxes, the Olympic village was the result of many Romanian labourers, 40% of those working on the village."

Both Hague and Corlăţean agree the exploitation of poor Romanian labourers by gangmasters and unscrupulous landlords and factory managers needs urgently addressing.

In his speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Ed Miliband described the exploitation of Romanian and Bulgarian workers as a “race to the bottom” and blamed “shady gangmasters exploiting people”.

Miliband declared that none of these practices would be allowed should Labour win the next General Election. “Not under my government,” he said.

"We are very active, to make the appropriate awareness among Romanian people trying to find a better job and better salary outside the country. We have launched a campaign very recently, informing our nationals of the very serious risks of coming here, other European countries and also outside Europe," Corlăţean said.

For Corlăţean, his country has two priorities when it comes to Europe, joining the Euro and the expansion of the Eurozone into the Western Balkans. He is pleased the country was not in the Eurozone these past years "for obvious reasons. We are interested, but we have much to work on."

For Romanian, the addition of countries like their neighbour Serbia into the European family is of vital importance. "We know the complicated history of the Western Balkans, world wars began there, even before 1990 the area had a bloody history. The only solution for a stable, democratic region is enlargement of the EU."

A foreign office spokesman said talks over the last two days with Romanian representatives had been well received by the UK. "We both recognised the principle of free movement in the EU as an important part of the single market, particularly in relation to growth, competitiveness and jobs.

"We also discussed the importance of working together to prevent potential abuses of the right to free movement of workers by EU and third-country nationals as well as labour exploitation. We agreed that British and Romanian officials will seek to develop formal cooperation on this," the spokesman said.