The North Rhine-Westphalian local minister Ina Scharrenbach (CDU) has expressed concern about the poverty immigration from south-eastern Europe to NRW. “After eight years of free movement of workers with Romania and Bulgaria, the European Union urgently needs to review what went well and what went badly,” she told the Essen-based “Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” (WAZ, Saturday edition). The EU should not turn a blind eye when there are developments in individual regions that lead to “frustration and annoyance”. “The low voter turnout in Gelsenkirchen in the state elections should also have something to do with it.”

Regarding the forthcoming accession of states from the Western Balkans to the EU, the minister said: “These states belong in the EU. But mistakes shouldn’t be repeated.” The policy’s mandate is to protect the freedom of movement for workers. “But if I notice that this freedom of movement is sometimes being undermined for other reasons, because the economic gap between Germany and Romania and Bulgaria is so great, then you have to ensure that this is corrected.” Otherwise, the reservations of citizens against increase this freedom.

Scharrenbach also criticized the rules for registration: “I don’t understand why someone who comes from another EU country has three months to register with the authorities, and every German citizen has to register within 14 days.”

According to the NRW municipal ministry, the number of foreign nationals living in NRW from Bulgaria rose from 31,097 to 96,715 and from Romania from 49,154 to 156,480 between 2013 and 2021. Regular immigration from the two countries takes place in the course of taking up work in North Rhine-Westphalia, for example by recruiting workers through the meat processing industry and in the logistics sector.

As a result of a change in the law on the Dutch side, according to the ministry, there is an increasing number of migrant workers from the EU member states of Romania, Bulgaria and Poland in the municipalities of the German border region, combined with taking up or continuing to work in the Netherlands. In addition, people from south-eastern European countries have immigrated who have a special social need for support, the so-called poverty immigration.