Romania scores minor concession in EU agreement with UK

Newsroom 22/02/2016 | 17:04

Last week, EU leaders negotiated an agreement over the relationship between Great Britain and the European Union during a meeting in Brussels, including over the controversial concession on migrant benefits, with the Central and Eastern European countries most affected by it, including Romania, scoring certain amendments.

Having already expressed concern during European Council president Donald Tusk’s recent visit to Bucharest over the EU-UK social benefits concession proposed to prevent a possible Brexit, Romania obtained an amendment for the decision through which the requests for restricting persons’ freedom of movement, according to Article 45 of the Union’s Treaty, “will have to be made based on solid justifications,” according to the president’s statement.

The agreement adopted by the EU will only come into force if Great Britain remains in the EU following a referendum. In his statement, Iohannis reaffirmed that “it is in Romania’s interest to be a member of a strong, integrated European Union based on respecting its founding values and principles,” adding that from that point of view, “maintaining the concept of ever closer union is essential.” Nevertheless, the United Kingdom succeeded in obtaining an exemption from the ever closer union goal, the EU recognizing that the UK “is not committed to further political integration in the European Union,” according to the Guardian.

Two mechanisms would be created as a result of the agreement, the first of which would allow Great Britain to benefit from a safeguard mechanism that would restrict the access of EU citizens to a limited category of non-contributory social benefits, specific to Great Britain, following further modifications of EU legislation. This is a non-discriminatory, exceptional mechanism that would be applicable only for a limited period of seven years and “Romanian citizens already working in Great Britain will not be affected by the mechanism,” said Iohannis.

The second mechanism would allow Great Britain to index child benefit payments to the cost of living for children living outside the UK, applicable to new arrivals to the UK once legislation has been passed, and to all workers from 1 January 2020. Initially, British prime minister David Cameron wanted to stop all payments of child benefits going to children living outside the UK, whose parents are working in the UK, but ahead of the summit the UK relaxed its demands. “Despite this concession – and the relatively small sums at stake – child benefits caused one of the biggest rows at the summit, as the Visegrad countries opposed other countries taking advantage,” according to the Guardian.

Another subject discussed at the European Council talks was the migration crisis, where an evaluation was made for the implementation of measures already agreed at the EU level and special attention was given to the relationship with Turkey when it comes to managing migration fluxes to the Union. “I reiterated that Romania is part of the solution to this crisis. Moreover, I outlined that we are holding our position that the underlying causes of migration must be approached and not just to try to combat its effects,” further said Iohannis.

Turkey’s role and Austria’s recent decision to introduce maximum daily quotas are set to be discussed further at the European Union – Turkey summit that will take place at the beginning of March.

Andreea Tint

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