The dissatisfaction expressed by Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz about the fact that the Austrian state pays too high state benefits to Romanian children whose parents work in his country has caused vehement response from Bucharest.
The Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, explained for the ORF public television channel that, for two Romanian children whose parents worked in Austria, the Austrian state pays approximately EUR 300 every month. ‘The amount is almost as high as an average wage in Romania’, said Sebastian Kurz.
The Austrian chief diplomat would like the value of state benefits in Austria to correspond to the value of similar payments in the country of origin. In that way, Austria would pay about 30 euro rather than 300 euro for two Romanian children whose parents work there.
‘We share the same opinion as the British. Great Britain wants reforms in the EU and that needs to happen fast’ said Kurz.
“Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) disagrees with the public positions adopted by the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria regarding the social benefits for intra-community workers, as more as he was especially targeting Romania, and warns that, by artificially amplifying such positions in this context prior to the regional elections in Austria, there is a risk that Romanian citizens who now work legally in Austria might becomes victims of an internal dispute, but also to affect the bilateral relations, currently reaching an unprecedented level. MAE already made known its position related to the matter to the Austrian side, earlier in the week, via diplomatic channels, at ambassador level,” a communiqué released by MAE shows.
Romania’s position expressed by Foreign Ministry in four points
“1 The special mentioning of Romanian in the context related to the implementation of the European norms concerning the export of social benefits (child allowance) is unjustified, since Romania is only ranking 5th among the members states where these allowances are transferred to (after Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Slovenia). Thus, according to the measurements conducted by the Austrian side, it results that the Romanian citizens are not toping the ranking of beneficiaries of such allowances, which is an aspect that was also publicly confirmed recently by the Austrian Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstrofer.
2. The free movement of people and workers is one of the fundamental principles of the EU, which implies concrete aspects, among which the non-discriminatory access to social services. The same as the other European citizens working in other member states, the Romanian citizens must also have access to allowances generated by their work and social contributions, since a different approach would only be profoundly inequitable and contrary to the in force European norms.
3. In addition, the rate of integration of Romanian nationals in Austria in the host society is very high, something that has been repeatedly confirmed by Austrian officials.
4. European legislation offers sufficient safeguards for preventing and deterring abuse in the area of social welfare and the Romanian side is always willing to examine, on a case-by-case basis, in its dialogue with Austria, any potential violation of relevant regulations, while keeping a tight cooperation with Vienna in the EU’.
PSD’s Plumb: Legally incorrect and politically unacceptable message
The Social-Democratic Party (PSD) has reacted to the statements made by Austria’s Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, who was for decreasing benefits paid to Romanian children in Austria down to the level of those in Romania. Labour Minister Rovana Plumb says the message of the Austrian minister is legally incorrect and unacceptable from a political point of view.
‘We were surprised and disappointed to take note of the message expressed by the Austrian foreign minister on the benefits for Romanian children. The measures Minister Sebastian Kurz mentions and which I hope are just an unfortunate thought, are against the fundamental EU principles – the anti-discrimination and the free movement of people principles’, Rovana Plumb, President of the National Council of PSD, the second most important position in the party, said.
The labour minister also adds that, from a political point of view, the position of the Austrian official is ‘totally unacceptable and incompatible with his office as minister in a Government that is supposed to comply with the EU legislation and principles’.
‘At the same time, I consider this message to be politically unacceptable from the point of view of Romania – Austria relations. I can assure with all responsibility that the Government of Romania watches over the observance of all the rights of Romanian citizens as European citizens and will not accept any form of discrimination against them’, Labour Minister Rovana Plumb said.
Geoana: Let us have Austrian companies in Romania pay wages and taxes as high as in Austria
If the foreign affairs minister of Austria says the benefits for the children of Romanians who work in his country should be decreased to match those paid by Romanian authorities, Senator Mircea Geoana expands the ‘principle’ to Austrian companies operating in Romania.
‘If the European rule no longer applies and the children of Romanians based in Austria are not entitled to benefits the same as Austrian children for the reason that benefits in Romania are much smaller, why not have Austrian companies in Romania pay wages and taxes in Romania at the same level they would pay in Austria? The social differences would be very quickly levelled in that way, differences some raise in Europe as they are Ok with making a big profit at the expense of the low wages and taxes in Romania, but scream when they must give equal entitlements to the new-comers to Europe’, says the president of the Social Romanian Party (PSRo).
Diaconu: Austria, hands off Romania’s forests!
The leader of the United Romania Party (PRU), Bogdan Diaconu, wants ‘Austrian companies that clear log Romanian forests to become subject to the rules in Austria, meaning they should not be allowed to get anywhere near a Romanian tree or face prison sentences! Let them cut trees in Austria if they can afford that…’
Diaconu also says he has ‘had enough of the pretensions of some <Europeans> who just want to milk the resources of Romania while treating us as second class citizens’. The call of the PRU leader posted in his Facebook page is unequivocal: ‘Austria, hands off Romania’s forests!’
MP Bogdan Diaconu indirectly refers to the Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer, the biggest operator of logs in Romania. The company was in the centre of a scandal following a journalistic investigation showing that the Austrians didn’t care about Romanian laws in the pursuit of their interest.
FADERE: Instead of Romanian forests, Austria wants to cut Romanian children benefits
FADERE, the Federation of Romanian Associations in Europe, says the positions expressed by the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria on the benefits for intra-community workers, with direct reference to Romania, are unjustified.
‘The Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, has said he was unhappy with the fact that Austria had paid EUR 206 M in 2013 as benefits to intra-community workers’ children and that it seemed inadmissible to him to pay EUR 160 benefit to a Romanian child whose parents work in Austria, as long as in Romania that child would only receive EUR 9.
The debate on Romanian children is totally unjustified in the context where official data places Romania in the 5th position after Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Slovenia, which means that Romanians are not those who make the most of the Austrian welfare system. On the other hand, it is not at all a negligible fact that there is a well integrated Romanian community in Austria, made up of reliable and hard-working people.
We don’t understand why the politicians who cal themselves European always choose as for a subject of political dispute with their opponents. The free movement of persons and workers is a fundamental principle of the European Union and the access to social services should not be permitted in a discriminative manner.
The introduction of the subject of Romanian children benefits to this dispute could only be understood in the context of the firm attitude of the Romanian society against the cutting of forests in Romania by Austrian companies’, said Daniel Tecu, President of FADERE – The Federation of Romanian Associations in Europe.