“I received a call from my (British) colleague European affairs minister yesterday [Thursday], and he pre-informed me about this statement and its key goals. And he assured me that they are definitely not directed against the free movement of persons,” Linkevičius told journalists on Friday.
His comment comes several hours after British Prime Minister David Cameron‘s speech in which he said he would demand changes to the EU treaty for Britain to be able to restrict access to the country’s welfare system for immigrants from other EU countries.
According to Linkevčius, the British proposals must be discussed “calmly and matter-of-factly” but it must be ensured that no revisions result in discrimination, and the free movement of persons is protected.
The importance of the free movement principles was also stressed at a joint press conference in Vilnius by Estonian Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimanus.
“The freedom of movement is one of the core freedoms and one of the core principles of the EU and, for sure, that must stay in this way. It is also clear that one country can change the internal regulations if needed but it also must make sure that there is no discrimination in place,” she said.
Figures show that 18,000 Lithuanians emigrated to the United Kingdom last year.
British Prime Minister Cameron has proposed barring immigrants from in-work benefits until they have been in Britain for four years. Also no social housing for four years and no child benefits or tax credits paid for children living outside the UK. Immigrants would be deported if they do not find a job within six months. And Britain would refuse to allow other countries to join the EU without imposing controls on the movement of their workers until their economies have reached UK levels.
Cameron also pledged to re-negotiate the country’s EU membership before holding an in-out referendum in 2017, if his party wins the upcoming general elections next year.