The British Government will make a decision on keeping or lifting restrictions currently applied to Romanian and Bulgarian workers at the end of this year, Foreign Secretary David Miliband says in an interview for HotNews.ro.
The British minister says he will discuss Romania’s fresh foreign policy strategy with his Romanian counterpart on Tuesday and defends the Ahtisaari plan for the future of Kosovo unless renewed talks on the issue fail to provide a new compromise.
Miliband arrives in Romania on Tuesday in his first visit to SE Europe since his appointment in June. David Miliband will meet President Traian Basescu, Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and Foreign Minister Adrian Cioroianu, and will also address the annual gathering of Romanian ambassadors.
One of the highlights of the visit will be a debate with students dedicated to globalisation issues such as climate change, a top priority for the UK.
HotNews.ro: What is the image British authorities have formed of Romania's new 10-year foreign policy strategy?
David Miliband: We consider Romania a close partner, and are pleased to have the opportunity to work with Romania in international fora such as NATO and the European Union, on issues as varied as Iraq, climate change and the fight against organised crime.
I haven’t had a chance to read the 10-year foreign policy strategy yet, but I am looking forward to discuss the main elements with my colleague Mr. Cioroianu later today.
HotNews.ro: What is the position of Britain towards the extremely cautious position Romania and other countries in the region have adopted towards Kosovo independence plans?
David Miliband: I recognise that Kosovo is a sensitive issue.
But the EU as a whole has consistently given strong messages in support of Mr Ahtisaari and his efforts, for example at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 February and most recently on 18 June.
In a union of 27, there will always be different shades of opinion. But the overall support given by the EU to Ahtisaari’s proposals has been and remains robust.
In the interests of leaving no stone unturned in the search for a solution, we have now begun a further fixed period of talks between the parties. We hope that the talks will lead to agreement. If not, we continue to believe the Ahtisaari plan is the best way forward.
HotNews.ro: What is the current reaction of the British Government to the intense media pressure put by British employers and other groups to open the British labour market to workers from Romania and Bulgaria? Please describe the process of reviewing the existing restrictions and please specify when the process is due to start - in September this year or in December, 12 months after Romania's EU accession?
David Miliband: Like most other Member States, we imposed restrictions on the access of Romanian and Bulgarian workers to our domestic labour market to enable us to manage that market. I have the impression that the system we put in place has worked well so far.
We undertook to review the situation within a year. The process of review has already started, and we are currently seeking evidence as to the effect of the workers who have come to the UK. I can’t, though, speculate on the Government's final decision, which will be taken at the end of this year.
HotNews.ro: To what extent is the British government pleased with the collaboration with Bucharest authorities to whom it provides assistance in Administration and Home Affairs reforms? What are the main hurdles and the main strong points of this collaboration, respectively?
David Miliband: The UK is supporting Romania in its fight against corruption, including reducing bureaucratic burdens in the Customs administration. The British Embassy has carried out anti-corruption work with the Ministries of Interior and Health, the Ministry of Justice, and the Anti-Money Laundering Office.
Work with the Justice Ministry includes projects to develop the Romanian Probation Service and to introduce the office of “court manager” and therefore reduce the administrative burden on judges.
It is always a great pleasure to work with our Romanian counterparts, and their efficiency and transparency is steadily increasing - as, I hope, are our own. One of the first lessons of public administration is that you can never do it well enough: there are always improvements to be made, and it is our duty as public servants to continue to make them.