The current inflated debate regarding migration in the UK is wrong and must stop.
The European Union was created as an instrument for overcoming divisions and hatred, for stimulating growth and prosperity all across the continent. It has later developed into a full-blown instrument working towards reducing poverty and polarisation. It was not created as a club for rich countries to contemplate their richness and devise additional ways to extend their affluence. On the contrary, one of its main purposes is to generate uniformity - it exists to integrate poorer states and stimulate their progress, thus raising prosperity all over Europe and giving more and more European citizens the chance to have a better standard of living.
Such generous principles seem to be all but forgotten, to anyone who reads the UK press of the last few months. Apparently, the EU is at war - or, more correctly, the UK is at war, struggling to find ways of defending its stronghold against "waves", "floods" or "invasions" of immigrants who should be kept outside the country's gates. The Mayor of London - a respectable and important figure of the establishment - laments that "we can do nothing to stop the entire population of Transylvania... from trying to pitch camp at Marble Arch". The country's Prime Minister David Cameron writes that "free movement within Europe needs to be less free".
Another leader - Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party - fears the imminent invasion of the UK by 29million Romanians and Bulgarians (note to the reader: Romania's entire population is around 20million, and Bulgaria's - a little over seven million). Why has Britain declared war against an imaginary enemy?
The current character and tone of the migrant debate in the UK are both dangerous and profoundly incorrect. The UK is not a member of the EU solely to have access to a larger consumer base, or to recruit customers for its mobile phone companies, banks and pharmaceutical corporations. UK's membership in the EU is a much greater role, and it must encompass believing, respecting and upholding the basic principles of this organisation. One of these fundamental principles is free movement of workers.
There are two levels to this debate. One is polemic, the other - more philosophical. Let's start with the polemic level.
Those who oppose the lifting of the restrictions do so mostly on the basis of the assumption that the UK would be flooded by Romanian migrants asking for social benefits. This is inaccurate. Romanian migrants coming to the UK (as few as they are) come looking for better-paid jobs than they get at home, are mostly young or mature adults who have no need to ask for social benefits. Those who would leave Romania for the UK, when millions of their compatriots easily settled in Italy or Spain (where the languages are similar to Romanian, and where there are already established Romanian communities, making things very easy for new migrants to integrate quickly), are certainly dynamic, well-prepared for an unfamiliar environment, ready to learn quickly and face challenges - not your average benefit-seeker.
Let's move on to the philosophic level. What if Romanian migrants did indeed move to the UK to ask for social benefits? Why would that be wrong? Is it illegal to take advantage by a system which has been set up a certain way, if you respect all the rules, terms and conditions that govern that system? Certainly not! Did Romanians take to the streets and riot when fabulously-paid jobs in big companies functioning in Romania went to British citizens, who "stole" them from our own citizens? Definitely not! We live in a free market; we are governed by the principle of free movement of labour. Anyone can try their luck to get a job in any EU country, as long as they fit the requirements and respect the law. At the same time, anyone has the right to benefit from the social system of the country they choose to settle in, temporarily or permanently, as long as they do it with complete respect of the legislation and no abuse takes place.
This is my message to the people of Britain: Ignore the populist nonsense served to you by vote-hungry politicians during the last months, especially since they paint this profoundly absurd picture: Romanians will come to the UK to steal jobs, ask for benefits and abuse the public health system - all three situations being highly contradictory (how can someone obtain a job and receive unemployment benefits at the same time? How can anyone work in a new job and spend his time in the hospital at the same time?). Do not believe them. UK is not besieged by waves of migrants waiting at the borders to invade you. EU is not at war. And the next time a doctor treats you, make sure you ask where he's from - he might be Romanian.