Titus Corlatean, Romanian Foreign Minister
Sky News, Murnaghan

DERMOT MURNAGHAN: Well now, from 1st January next year, 2014, Britain’s borders will be opened up to migrant workers from Romania and Bulgaria. Estimates of the numbers vary hugely but a YouGov poll commissioned for this programme has revealed that two-thirds of people in the United Kingdom are worried about it. Well let’s go to Bucharest now and talk to the Romanian Foreign Minister, Titus Corlatean, a very good morning to you Minister. No doubt you’ve been following the debates in this country very closely about the number of people who may come here from Romania, what do you make of the way it is being couched?

TITUS CORLATEAN: First of all thank you very much indeed for this invitation, good morning to you. My first comment is related to this British domestic political debate concerning the so-called huge migration of the Romanians, Bulgarians after 1st January 2014. I should say that as a politician I can understand the fact that it is always very easy to win supplementary points, votes, electoral advantages using the already classical topic of migration but I should say that this is of course, from our perspective at least, this is fundamentally wrong. I should mention the fact that Romania is already a member of the European Union starting with 1st January 2007 so more than six years. The Romanians who were interested in the working or making the studies outside of the country, they are already there especially in Italy and Spain because we are speaking about Latin countries which are very similar to us and much more easier to accommodate, to integrate the Romanians. On UK I should say that our expectations are related to not at all a huge presence of the Romanians after 1st January 2014. If you allow me, I will add just another brief comment. We don’t speak about the Romanians as migrants, they are European citizens, we are European citizens, we are members of the European Union so we have our legitimate rights according to the EU Treaties.

DM: Okay, it’s interesting what you say about legitimate rights because there are discussions here about perhaps restricting access of Romanians and Bulgarians to certain benefits including perhaps access to our National Health Service. Would you say well, we are European Union citizens and we have our full rights if we work in your country to those benefits?

TC: You know what is missing most probably from this discussion is the lack of mentioning the huge opportunities that appeared after the central Eastern European countries acceded EU for the Western countries, including UK. As concern the market, as concern the British companies and the profits and the good business which is conducting in those countries. The fact that some of the jobs, important jobs in UK were maintained precisely for this part of the positive European process on the other side, I have to mention the other side and I know precisely because I have contacts previously with Romanians living in UK, in London for instance. They all those years contributed very in a very substantial way to the economic growth of UK, they contributed by the way to very successful and I want to congratulate you even on a retroactive basis, to a successful Olympic Games in UK, helping to the building of the Olympic stadium. These important topics are not mentioned during the debate or the major part of the Romanians, the big major part of the Romanians are well integrated in the British society. They are contributing, they are paying the taxes and this is a very positive thing.

DM: But do you think there is almost a racist element to the debate in some parts? There are figures being quoted here about criminality, about 27,000 people of Romanian origin being arrested in London alone since 2007 out a total population in Britain of only 87,000.

TC: Well that depends on how you present the figures. For instance if you take the same figures you will discover that the Romanians are not involved, the major part of those who are committing offences, they are not involved in the serious crimes and this is an important topics to be mentioned and second, my second comment, I really don’t accept and we cannot accept the transfer of some individual’s criminality towards the community. This is fundamentally wrong, it is fundamentally against the principles of the European Union. Those who at an individual dimension have committed offences, they must be punished but I will not make the mistake for instance to assimilate the hooligans in the British football to all the British people, it would be nonsense. It is the same manner of thinking in the Romanians case, the so-called criminality of the Romanians, I cannot accept this.

DM: What did you think about the horsemeat scandal, still going on, when it turned out early on, from the UK’s point of view, that some of the horsemeat appearing in our meat products came from Romanian abattoirs.

TC: As usual, the guilty charge towards the Romanians and fortunately because we reacted very fastly and we are very transparent and we co-operated very well with our European counterparts, it was proved very clearly and take once again the statement of the French Minister of Agriculture that confirmed the fact that the Romanian companies respected the European rules, it was a clear label to the meat that was exported from Romania, the food appeared somewhere else in some other European countries.

DM: So can I just ask you, just to be clear, it is something I asked you a bit earlier and I just want to touch on it again, in contacts you have with your British counterparts, are you going to make it clear to them that the benefits available to the general population of the United Kingdom, such as the National Health Service, they have to be made available to all European Union citizens who live and work in that country?

TC: What was our clear position, it is not only a Romanian but a European position, for those European citizens who are respecting the rules, the European directive, the European rules and the national rules, I think it’s not only an obligation to be taken into account but also the rights. I think it’s a fair treatment, it’s a treatment which by the way is applicable to all the British European citizens in all other EU member states, I think what is working for the British is working also for the other Europeans including the Romanians.

DM: And lastly, would you look at legal remedies if some of those rights are denies by the UK?

TC: Well received, we received official assurances from the British government that points to Directive 38 of the European Union will be respected. If everybody will respect this European legislation I think there is no need for to continue this debate on possible legal remedies, sanctions, I don't know what legal procedures. I am very thankful for the fact that the British government confirmed the fact that starting with the 1st January 2014, according to the European Treaty, the restrictions on the labour market also for the Romanians will be lifted.

DM: Okay, Mr Corlatean, thank you very much indeed. Titus Corlatean, the Romanian Foreign Minister talking to us live there from the capital.