Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bound to backfire: the British attempt to repel EU citizens

Bound to backfire: the British attempt to repel EU citizens

Tom Gallagher

Not welcome in Britain?

The campaign to deter Romanians from coming to Britain offers rare insight into how bureaucrats see their fellow British citizens, especially those from the lower orders. There is also striking ignorance of the Romanians and what they think will prevent them storming the channel. The advertising clip leaked recently presses home the message that not only the British weather is horrible but so are the British working classes especially when drink has been taken.

Well, the average Romanian male enjoys a drink or three and can get quite boisterous in the tavern, so no shock horror there. If the bureaucrats had been efficient they would have homed in on women below the age of 35 who have become one of the chief mainstays of the British drink trade and who often provide most of the bizarre open air 'entertainment' in town centres at weekends. By contrast, young Romanian women continue to be brought up to show a wary attitude to drink. It still doesn't prevent them being delightful companions who can relax without any artificial stimulants. They are (in my experience) also more hard-working and reliable than the average Romanian male.

It would take a lot to deter these plucky women but if it was pointed out to them that British streets after a certain hour of the evening are not always safe for women, it might do the trick. Back home, a woman will not think twice about walking up the equivalent of Leith Walk after midnight fully expecting no harm to befall her. For bureaucrats living in Dunblane or an outer London suburb, both facts are likely to come as quite a surprise.

Anyone who has travelled in the Balkans and caught sight of the often strikingly beautiful women and virile men will know that Britain is often a source of confusion to visitors from that part of Europe. Not to put too fine a point on it, the unforgiving Balkan verdict is that too often British women are rather manly while their menfolk often seem effeminate, that is when they can be told apart. Of course drawing attention to such matters violates the canons of political correctness and is not on for any bureaucrat who wishes to rise as far as the brilliant Sir Jeremy Heywood.

These days, the wise liberal elite has scant time for the bundles of superstitions that lie at the base of British Christianity. Surprisingly, they did not ram home the message to the Romanians that religion has had its day here and that moral instruction in schools will soon be offered through reading the secular homilies of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins.

By contrast, religion is big in Romania after the ravages of communism; well over 90% are believers in God and sitting on a tram, winding through the streets of Bucharest on a Saturday evening, I soon ceased to notice as the teenagers en route to the disco blessed themselves as some of the city's numerous churches were passed.

Romanians are probably the least racist folk in Eastern Europe which is perhaps not saying a great deal. In communist times they got used to the numerous Third World students whom the dictator Ceausescu allowed in because he coveted their foreign exchange. Romania is one of the few countries in the region without a skinhead movement. Its people are bigoted in certain ways but colour is not usually a big issue for them. However, two groups are not well-esteemed: Muslims, because of the country's lengthy experience of Ottoman control; and, in particular, gypsies because of their anarchic cheekiness and often disorderly approach to life's everyday matters.

A lot of Romanians will not be thrilled if they find themselves in a country where the natives are expected to adjust themselves to the customs of high-profile minorities. Romanians, proudly patriotic though many are, usually wish to improve themselves when they settle down in a new land. They will be amazed if officials tell them that in order to feel at home they can slaughter the traditional Christmas pig in front of Braehead shopping centre or drive their wooden carts along the M8.

This clumsy attempt to deter fellow citizens of the EU from pursuing the British dream is bound to backfire. That world citizen Tony Blair actually turned up in the Romanian parliament in May 1999 and promised them that the gates of Europe would be flung open for them if they would help NATO in its confrontation with the Serbian ruler Milosevic over his ill-treatment of his Albanian subjects in Kosovo.

Not only did they comply, but they made huge economic sacrifices to prepare Romania for full membership of the EU in 2007. Britain was their chief sponsor and the 20 million Romanians were regularly told that their living standards would start to approach the EU norms if they swallowed the harsh medicine. Instead, it will take centuries for this to occur. They privatised their industry, abandoned their price subsidies and allowed massive economic dumping by powerful EU states only to find that they cannot make ends meet at home with derisory salaries. Their sleazy political elite allied to the British Liberals and Labour have been the only real local beneficiaries of membership.

Britain owes the Romanians and unless it wants to walk away from the EU, it cannot stop these people coming, however great their numbers. My ancestors were part of a similar wave 175 years ago during the Irish famine and, if truth be told, it would have been better if many of them had continued to America given the problems that persist down to the present such as over the lack of toleration for Catholic schools. It may be just as hard for the gypsy portion of the Romanian diaspora to settle down as past problems in Glasgow's Govanhill indicate.

Perceptive Romanians will realise that this is really no country for them at least in the long-term – unless, that is, Britain experiences a revolution, hopefully less bloody than the one Romania witnessed in 1989. The negative images of ordinary British folk in the publicity material devised by the civil service shows that the liberal gentry here despise their own people just as much as Ceausescu did his. Romanians should indeed pick Australia or Canada over Britain where the ordinary citizen still has more room to breathe than is the case here.

Tom Gallagher has been visiting Romania for almost a quarter of a century and has written three books about the country

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