BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's prime minister has called on Britain not to treat Romanians as "second-rate citizens" when work restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian workers are lifted on Jan. 1.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced measures to toughen welfare rules for migrants from the European Union amid rising concern in Britain that migrants from Romania and Bulgaria would exploit the British welfare system.
Cameron says 1 million people from Central and East Europe are living in Britain with migration at a level not seen since wartime. In a statement released late Friday, Premier Victor Ponta said people should be punished for abusing Britain's welfare system, but restrictions should not be used to "generate or justify abuse or discrimination toward European citizens."
"We will not accept being treated as second-rate citizens," Ponta said, adding that research showed "there is no reason for concern regarding a migrant wave" from Romania to Britain. Millions of Romanian had already chosen to work abroad in "southern Latin states," referring to Spain and Italy which have a Latin-based language like Romanian.
He said he hoped Cameron was not trying "to attack the fundamental principles of the EU, among which the freedom of movement is one of the most important values." Cameron's comments were criticized on Wednesday by European Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor as an "unfortunate over-reaction."