SPAIN has this week followed Britain in placing a two–year restriction on Bulgarian and Romanian immigration after these two countries become full members of the European Union on next January 1. Some other major EU members have taken similar action, provoking complaints from Bulgaria and Romania about discrimination. In fact such transitional arrangements are perfectly legal in the EU but they naturally lead new members to wonder whether ”transitional” will become ”permanent”. Britain and Spain have been among the leaders in EU to operate liberal immigration policies but their latest decisions show that they both see the need for a more cautious approach. Both countries have benefitted from their open door policies as incomers have helped to keep their economies buoyant but the level of immigration has reached a point where a new and uncontrolled influx could lead to economic and social problems, especially if an economic downturn were to lead to large–scale unemployment. Wages in Bulgaria and Romania are the lowest in the EU and the incentive for workers to move West will be strong and Spain would be an atttractive destination; there are already an estimated 400'000 Romanians (the third–largest foreign community after Moroccans and Ecuadorians) and 160'000 Bulgarians here. For both Britain and Spain the experience of encouraging immigration has so far been a positive one and both countries will want to return to an open door policy as soon as they consider it wise to do so.


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