Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Poles Apart

Posted by Andy Hockley on 23 August, 2006

Quite interesting being in the UK at the moment. Yesterday the government announced figures for the number of Eastern Europeans who have come to the country since the 10 new members acceded to the EU in 2004. Apparently the predicted figure of something like 15,000 a year has turned out to be more like 500,000 in the first two years plus, the vast majority of whom have come from Poland. Predictably this has led to calls from the Conservative Party (Motto: “Still the party of casual racism, whatever image makeover we may have tried to bamboozle you with”) to make sure Romanians and Bulgarians are not given the same rights to move here as everybody else was. Equally predictably the Labour Party (Motto: “Taking policy decisions from the editorial pages of the Daily Mail”) have started making noises of a similar limitation. Now obviously there’s no way they can tell Romanians and Bulgarians to fuck off without it looking terribly discriminatory (since they quite happily let everybody else come), so they’re kind of backed into a corner on this one.

Mind you, everybody (well, outside the Daily Mail and its Little Englander readership) are at pains to point out how beneficial all these people have been to the UK economy. And of these 500,000 ish people fewer than 1000 are on the dole and claiming benefits, so it’s a bit much to go on about the drain on social services. There is of course a serious downside to this influx of people – not on the UK, which is doing fine, but in Poland and Lithuania and elsewhere whose workforces are being sucked dry of most of the young qualified workers who have opted to become builders and hotel workers in the UK rather than put their qualifications to good use at home.

Today’s Guardian editorial points out that there are likely to be fewer Romanians wishing to move to the UK, for a number of reasons – the major one being that there really isn’t much of an established Romanian community here, whereas there was a Polish one. [Although to ruin their argument they also say that there are fewer English speakers here, which while true in real terms is probably not true in per capita terms – Romanians young people speak excellent English in my experience, and the number of people passing advanced level exams from the University of Cambridge’s suite* of international English language qualifications is very very high in Romania. (*I use the word “suite” because I’ve done a fair amount of work with them and know that’s what they call them, so it’s not just me being poncy)]

Anyway, since Germany is apparently now changing its mind again, it sounds like Romania may not get in at the end of this year after all, so it all may be academic for now.


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