Contrary to the claims of Marine Le Pen and Thierry Mariani, there is no quota agreement between Romania and Pakistan.
While campaigning for the EU elections of 26 May, Marine Le Pen and Thierry Mariani of France’s Rassemblement National (RN, former Front National) claimed that Romania had negotiated an accord with Pakistan to bring in 500 000 workers. The party thus blamed the European Union for, it alleged, allowing into Europe substantial numbers of foreign workers. Except that the two countries have never negotiated such a thing. The Romanian foreign minister has denied the allegation.
What they said
Marine Le Pen mentioned this alleged agreement during a meeting in Draguignan (Var department) on 10 May:
“I would like to give you a concrete example of the insane machine that is the European Union. On 17 April 2019 Romania made an agreement with Pakistan to bring 500 000 Pakistani workers to Romania. You heard correctly, 500 000 Pakistanis will enter Europe through the Romanian door. And the Romanian minister explains to us sanctimoniously that a million are needed. And why? Simply because Romania, having exported its workers to our countries, in particular in the form of posted workers, finds itself short of labor.”
📹 « La Roumanie compte faire entrer sur son sol 500 000 travailleurs pakistanais. Pourquoi ? Parce qu'ayant exporté ses travailleurs, elle se retrouve à cours de main d'oeuvre. On marche sur la tête... Comment peut-on admettre de telles aberrations ? » #Draguignan #OnArrive pic.twitter.com/f0iuLkCJI9— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) May 10, 2019
She also brought up the subject in an appearance on French news channel BFMTV on 12 May:
“Did you know that Romania has just made an agreement with Pakistan to bring 500 000 Pakistani workers to Romania? Because two and a half million Romanian workers have gone to work in other countries, and because they are inexpensive.”
Talking to the radio station France Inter on 12 May, Thierry Mariani, a former French MP (Les Républicains) and current RN candidate in the EU elections, made the same claim:
“There is an extreme case that nobody is talking about, that I would invite you to look at in the press, it’s Romania. Romania, which has lost 2 500 000 inhabitants due an exodus to rich countries, is negotiating with Pakistan for 500 000 Pakistani workers to come and replace the Romanians in their country.”
Why it was contradicted
Marine Le Pen and Thierry Mariani talk of a meeting in Islamabad (Pakistan) on 17 April between Romania’s ambassador to Pakistan, Nicolae Goia, and the special assistant to Pakistan’s overseas and human-resources development minister, Zulfikar Bukhari.
"Romania is keen to import more than 500,000 workers from #Pakistan", His Excellency, Nicolae Goia, Romanian Ambassador to Pakistan, apprised SAPM Zulfikar Bukhari of the recent increase in demand of labor in #Romania.@sayedzbukhari pic.twitter.com/SsReTXbJuA— PTI Rwp Official (@PTIOfficialRWP) April 17, 2019
During this meeting, it was allegedly said that “Romania would like to bring in 500 000 Pakistani workers”. A press release of the Pakistani information ministry states that during this meeting “the two dignitaries agreed to create a mechanism allowing for the safe and secure migration of Pakistani workers to Romania”. The figure of 500 000 Pakistani workers was quickly taken up by both the Romanian and Pakistani media. The French far-right site Fdesouche also used this figure on 1 May, two weeks after the meeting. But the supposed news was already contradicted.
The Romanian foreign ministry published a press release on 18 April. This says that the meeting produced no agreement of quotas between the two countries:
“This was a courtesy meeting during which several subjects were discussed, in particular that of employment in Pakistan, from the point of view of its interest in regularizing and improving the export of labor and in the respect of legislation. Please note that the discussions did not include the fixing of quotas or figures for any exporting of labor from Pakistan, nor any concrete action plan for doing this.”
The press release points out that “in conformity with the legislation in force, namely government decision nº 34/2019, the contingent allocated to extra-EU workers for the year 2019 at the national level is 20 000”.
Translated by Harry Bowden, VoxEurop