BUCHAREST, Romania – BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Limiting welfare benefits to the hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans living in Britain was the key topic Wednesday as British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Romania and Poland.
Cameron met the new Romanian prime minister, Dacian Ciolos, before visiting the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, site of a horrific fire that killed 60 people on Oct. 30. Cameron placed a lit candle and a wreath of white lilies and roses at the site in memory of the victims, then went for talks with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Iohannis lit a candle Wednesday outside the club and vowed to use the tragedy to push for tougher public safety regulations.
Tens of thousands of Romanians protested lax safety regulations after the fire, which led to the collapse of the centre-left government and the appointment of a government of specialists, headed by Ciolos, a former EU Commissioner for Agriculture.
Some 175,000 Romanians live in Britain and the British leader is seeking to cut benefits as part of efforts to renegotiate the U.K.’s relationship with the 28-nation European Union. The proposal would also cover the hundreds of thousands of Poles now living in Britain, and Cameron is meeting Poland’s new leaders later Wednesday and early Thursday in Warsaw.
Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski called Cameron’s plans to limit welfare benefits to migrant workers “a point of contention.” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told a news conference she believes the proposed cuts are “not acceptable” but says she is open to discussing the options. Her talks will also focus on steps could be taken to make Britain stay in the EU, she said.
Despite the contentious benefits topic, Cameron, a Conservative, will find much in common with the new conservative leadership in Poland, which is Euroskeptic and does not want to adopt the euro currency any time soon.
Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.