UK accused of 'negative' campaign on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants

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A series of Bulgarian MEPs have accused the UK government of waging an "aggressive and negative" campaign against Bulgaria and Romania.

The comments were raised during the European Parliament's session of one-minute speeches on 4 February 2013, the monthly opportunity for deputies to raise topical issues.

Since 2007, Bulgarians and Romanians have been able to come to the UK as self-employed businessmen or women, or as students, provided they do not seek benefits or any other employment.

But the end of existing controls will give Bulgarian and Romanians who want to work in the UK the same rights as foreign nationals from the other 24 EU nations.

Media reports say the UK government is considering restricting access to public services for future migrants, among potential responses to the easing of immigration rules.

Bulgarian socialist MEP Iliana Iotova insisted the right of Bulgarians to live and work anywhere in the EU should be the same right as any other EU citizen.

Meanwhile Monika Panayotova from the centre-right EPP group accused the UK of "stoking up resentment" and engaging in "negative stereotypes".

"These offending statements about the 'inundation' of the British labour market are not permissible," she warned.

She said the UK and other EU governments should "respect" Bulgaria and Romania for largely avoiding the deficit crisis that has plagued many other EU countries.

UK ministers are coming under increasing pressure to act, from MPs concerned about the repercussions of any increase in arrivals for public services and commitments to cut net migration.

The government's own migration advisory committee says there is evidence Bulgarians would move to Britain because of its stronger economy, and it is "plausible" Romanians would come for the same reasons.

In response to the debate a Home Office spokesman said the government was looking at the "pull factors" that may encourage nationals, including those from Bulgaria and Romania, to come to the UK.

He added that the government was working to cut net migration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament.

Useful links.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

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