No room for Bulgarians and Romanians?

After what many consider showing true leadership in Europe by opening their doors to the workers from the 10 accession states in 2004, it seems both Great Britain and Ireland (Sweden was the only other EU country) are considering imposing restrictions on people from the last two countries to join the EU under the Nice Treaty, Bulgaria and Romania, due to join the EU at the beginning of 2007.

This even though all restrictions will have to be rescinded by the end of 2010 and Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Finland have since joined the list of open labour market countries within the original EU 15. Also, evidence suggests workers from these countries are more likely to travel to Italy, Spain and Greece so it’s obvious other factors are at play.

It seems the main reason why the Irish Republic seems to be getting cold feet is simple: an election is just around the corner and despite over a quarter of a million PPS numbers being handed out to East Europeans from the original 10 new-member countries with relatively little bother it seems the government is running scared of any potential Bulgarian-Romanian influx having an adverse effect on its re-election chances.

Despite the booming economy, the surging tax returns and the full employment it seems the argument that Irish workers will or are losing out still has traction – the clearest evidence being Labour’s playing of “the foreigner is displacing me from my job” card when party leader Pat Rabbitte reminded the nation that there are 40 million Poles.

Shane Coleman in the Sunday Tribune raises the morality of such a decision, pointing out that Ireland has exported millions of its people over the last 150 years – including to EU countries.

“Now we have an opportunity to balance the books a little for two countries that have struggled badly during the 20th century. Do we really want to close the door to Bulgaria, a country that six decades ago – despite being allied with the Axis powers – heroically refused to hand over the 50,000 Jews living inside its borders to the Nazis? That gesture alone surely warrants that we extend the hand of friendship…”

“Sixty years ago, at the height of German efforts to deport Bulgarian Jews to concentration camps, a member of the Bulgarian parliament, Todor Kojukharov, argued: “The only moral capital a small nation has is to be a righteous nation.” In relation to Bulgarian and Romanian workers, it’s not too late for us to be a righteous nation.”