Italy Prime Minister Romano Prodi claims, in an interview for Financial Times, that Europe underestimated the immigrant flow after Romania's accession to the EU, but considers that figures like 500,000 new Romanian immigrants in Italy this year are nothing but exaggerations.

"In numbers, the immigration was above what we expected. Nobody expected an inflow from Romania. It is a phenomenon we must study, since it comes at the same time with an inflow of Moldovan and Ukrainian immigrants in Romania", Prodi said.

According to Financial Times, a report issued by the Catholic charity NGOs Caritas and Migrantes estimate that some 3.7 million immigrants live in Italy, representing 6.2% of the populace. Romanians are the largest group, with 556,000 immigrants.

The last official data indicate 342,000 Romanian residents in Italy ay December 31, 2006, out of which 278,582 already got their residence permits.

Former supporter of European union's enlargement, Prodi still believes that the positive effects are felt more than expected.

"I don't think that the enlargement was a mistake, because it was the opinion all the states shared. I think it was a rather positive process, with results unique in the world" said Prodi.

Asked whether UK's or France's decision to impose restrictions for immigrant workers led to problems facing the immigration wave in Italy, Prodi admitted that "it is possible".

Prodi also mentioned that the Italian government established a quota for immigrant workers - there should have been 278,000 immigrants involved in constructions, industry or home care. Employers out pressure on the Government, asking for at least 300,000 labor permits.

At this moment, there are over 22,000 Italian companies in Romania, offering jobs for 600,000 Romanians.