23rd Oct 2016

Poland vows to veto British changes to EU migration rules

  • Warsaw wades in on the British immigration debate (Photo: metaphox)

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Tuesday (7 January) vowed to block any British changes to EU laws that would prevent migrant workers from having access to welfare benefits.

"If anyone, whether it is premier Cameron or anyone else, will want to change the European treaty to make this possible, Poland will veto it, today, tomorrow and forever," Tusk told reporters in Warsaw.

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He acknowledged that Britain can change its national rules on migrant workers to prevent abuses.

"But it can't apply to just one national group. It must apply to all potential beneficiaries," Tusk said.

"No one has the right to single out Poles as a special group that is abusing or taking advantage," he added.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the EU treaties should be changed to allow member states to withhold child allowances and other social benefits for workers from other member states.

He singled out Poles as a large group of beneficiaries and said it had been a "monumental mistake" for Britain to open its doors in 2004 to migrant workers from central and eastern Europe, who then cashed in and sent the social benefits back home.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski retorted that Polish immigrants contributed "twice as much" to the British state than they claimed.

"If the British want a less-generous welfare system then they have the right to introduce that – but any changes should apply to all people living and working in the UK," he said Monday.

Cameron's rhetoric has intensified over the past few weeks ahead of 1 January when national restrictions for workers from Romania and Bulgaria had to be lifted, in line with EU law.

British tabloids carried several articles predicting a "flood" of Romanians and Bulgarians from the beginning of January.

A plane landing in London from Bucharest on 1 January was met by scores of reporters eager to count the new arrivals.

Of all Romanians who travelled that day, just one was truly a new migrant.

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