Cameron Takes Hard Line On Albania And Serbia

Downing Street sources say the PM will “put markers down” if EU membership for countries such as Albania is discussed in Brussels. UK, Thursday 19 December 2013 By Anushka Asthana, Political Correspondent

David Cameron will warn his European counterparts that steps must be taken to prevent mass immigration from Albania and Serbia if the countries join the EU.
The Prime Minister will say that Britain will only support enlargement alongside much stricter rules on migration – that limit the free movement of labour.

One idea Mr Cameron is keen to explore is requiring countries to reach a certain income level before free movement is allowed, or allowing individual member states to impose a cap on the number of EU migrants entering the countries each year.

Although defence is top of the agenda at this week’s European Council meeting, the possible accession of Serbia and Albania is likely to be discussed tomorrow.

A Downing Street source said: “He’s got 24 hours or so with European leaders and he will be talking about some of the issues on his mind and his priorities. This is about getting the debate going.”

The issue is not on the agenda to be discussed in detail at the formal working sessions but the source added: “But if they do discuss countries joining the EU in the future then you can expect the PM to make clear his view and to put markers down.”

It comes after the Prime Minister took action to limit the rights of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK from January, when transitional controls on immigration from the two countries are lifted.

One of the changes will mean that migrants can not claim benefits for three months and it will also be easier to deport people if they are found sleeping rough.
Mr Cameron was reacting to fears in Britain about mass immigration from Eastern Europe – particularly ahead of European elections in the spring in which UKIP are expected to perform strongly.

Under pressure from his own backbenches, the Prime Minister recently set out tough arguments on immigration in an article in the FT.

He wrote: “Bringing new countries in to give them peace and prosperity remains one of the EU’s greatest strengths.

“It will be many years, perhaps a decade, before another country joins. It cannot be done on the same basis as it was in the past.

“We must put in place new arrangements that will slow full access to each other’s labour markets until we can be sure it will not cause vast migrations.”

The Prime Minister is hoping to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU ahead of a referendum on membership in 2017 if the Conservatives win the General Election.