Date01 February 2021
AuthorBalaban, Delia Cristina
  1. Introduction

    Romania is one of the EU member states reported to have a high rate of intra-EU migration. This phenomenon started even before 2007, the year of Romania's accession to the EU, and intensified in the following years. In 2017, Romanians together with Germans, Italians, Polish, and Portuguese made up more than half of all movers in the EU-28/EFTA region with 6.6 million people (OECD, 2018, p. 25). According to Eurostat, Romanians have built the largest community of EU-born immigrants (1,024,800), followed by Germans (211,600) (Eurostat, 2017). Only recently, starting in 2015, Romania reported a positive net migration three years in a row, with citizens from Moldova, Turkey, China, Syria, Israel, and other EU countries such as Italy, Germany, France, Hungary, and Greece moving to Romania.

    There is a temporary labor migration, but also Romanian migrants decide to leave their country for good. The model of the traditional long-term migrant (Eisenstadt, 1953) becoming more and more integrated into the destination country with weaker ties to the country of origin is no longer suitable for the current situation. The intra-EU migration includes short-time working or studying migration, cross-border commuting, seasonal migration (Peixoto, 2001). Thus, in some families one or both parents are abroad, working for several months or sometimes for years and their children are left in the care of their grandparents or other close relatives. This phenomenon has a large economic, cultural, and social impact on society, with the northeastern region of Romania being especially affected. The county of Suceava is the second largest in Romania in terms of population but occupies the first position regarding the number of people that are working abroad, about 20% of its total population.

    We aimed to develop an in-depth approach to define the relationship between local authorities from a county that is still confronted with the above-mentioned situation from the perspective of dealing with issues related to the left at home children of the temporary and long- time migrants. The present research focused on how local authorities such as the County Council of Suceava and Social Work and Child Protection Services Suceava deal with the issue of the children left at home without parents, but with their grandparents or other caregivers. We examine the policies and practices of the local authorities in this particular Romanian county that faced large scale intra-EU migration of their labor force. We aimed to identify best practices but also to formulate recommendations for policymakers. The main objectives of the present research are to analyze the social measures applied by the local authorities, especially the County Council and Social Work and Child Protection Services to strengthen the ties with the diaspora, and to deal with the problem of the children with one or both parents working abroad and, secondly, to determine how the local authorities communicated on this issue, as scholars in the field underlined the role of communication to develop a strong relationship with the Romanian communities abroad.

    The present paper was elaborated in five sections. After underlining the context and the relevance of the research in the introduction we looked in the second section at the development of the Romanian intra-EU migration in the last 30 years focusing on the social impact of the phenomenon and especially on the issue of the children left at home. A literature review of migration and return migration theories where we look in particular at the best practices of local and national public institutions in building a strong relation to the diaspora for the benefit of the home communities was undertaken in the third section. Research objective and research questions, data collection, content analysis, and in-depth interviews are derived in the fourth section. Findings and their interpretation followed in the fifth part. The final section is dedicated to the conclusions with a focus on the relevance of our findings for other EU regions that faced the phenomenon we analyzed and on recommendations for local authorities and policymakers at the national level.

  2. Intra-EU migration of Romanians and its social impact: children left at home

    Migration is not a new phenomenon for Romania. It also existed before 1989, especially the migration of the population between regions in Romania or of ethnic minorities such as Germans, Hungarians, and Jews who left the country during the Communist regime (Diminescu, 2009; Serban and Voicu, 2010). During the so-called 'transition' that took place in the 1990s, Romania was one of the countries from Eastern Europe that was confronted with a large emigration towards EU member states such as Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Sandu (2006) emphasized the relevant role of migration for the Romanian transition, even calling it the 'third post-communist transition path' beside the economic and political transition. Migration is part of social transition and it has a spontaneous character.

    In the 1990s, a significant number of Romanians migrated to southern European countries such as Italy and Spain driven by the high demand for a low-skilled workforce. Even in the period before Romania's accession to the EU, specific bilateral agreements between Italy and Romania and several rounds of regulation facilitated the predominantly female working movements towards Italy (Popescu, 2008). Existing networks played an important role in the choice of location and in finding employment (Mara, 2012). Another important pull factor was the agencies for labor recruitment, part of a 'complex governance structure of labor flows between Romania and Italy' (Ban, 2012, p. 11). Spain was a popular destination during the 1990s when Romanians needed a visa to travel to this country due to its relatively higher tolerance for illegal migrants and seasonal work (Stanek, 2009; Virga and Iliescu, 2017). The regulation processes implemented by the Spanish government in 2000-2001 and 2004, eliminating visa obligations for traveling in 2002, and Romania's accession to the EU (2007), were important elements related to Romanian's migrations to Spain (Serban and Voicu, 2010; Ciornei, 2016). Between 2007 and 2009, Spain required applications for working visas for Romanians, except for self-employed migrants. Until 2010, Italy and Spain were the main destination countries for Romanian migrants, the majority working in agriculture and the construction sector (Jobelius and Stoiciu, 2014; Hanganu, Humpert and Kohls, 2014; Ricci, 2015).

    The main reasons to migrate to Spain and Italy were economic, i.e. the search for better job opportunities, for financial resources to build a house in their hometown or village, to buy land in Romania, or to pay for their children's education at home. They often accepted unpleasant conditions on the unregulated market to earn a higher income than they would have secured in their home countries (Bleahu, 2007). According to the results of field research, return motivations such as family-related considerations, emotional attachments to the country of origin, as well as a lack of integration or sense of belonging to the host country were also taken into consideration by Romanian migrants, building a so-called 'back-and-forth' circular pattern of migration (Marcu, 2011).

    The economic crisis and the slow economic recovery that followed contributed to a decrease in the migration flow from Romania towards Italy and Spain (Bertoli, Brucker and Moraga, 2013). The peak of return mobility from Spain to Romania was reached in 2012 when Romanians who had already settled in Italy or Spain relocated to other EU countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom. During 2014 and 2015 Romania ranked second after Poland as the EU country of origin with the largest number of immigrants working in the UK. According to OECD (2017) in 2015, Romanians (221,400) made up the largest inflows of foreign European nationals migrating to Germany. Compared to Spain or Italy, Germany has attracted a large number of highly skilled workers from Romania, the share of academics being on average 3% higher than the share of academics among Germans without any migration background (Hanganu, Humpert and Kohls, 2014; Engler and Weinmann, 2015). A special case in the recent history of Romanian migration to other EU countries is the migration of physicians, which has a large impact on the Romanian healthcare system that has been constantly rated as poor or even the poorest among EU member states; France is one of the main destinations for this type of highly educated migrants (Saghin, Luches and Marici, 2016).

    Besides the positive effects on economic status improvement, labor mobility also has negative effects on Romania. In terms of demographics, Romania's population has decreased since 1990 and the demographic potential has also decreased because of the children that migrated with their parents, the loss of labor force potential, the deficit in the labor market (in constructions, healthcare, ITCs, etc.), an increased numerical and structural employment deficit (Vasile et al., 2013). Social problems in the country of origin are complex. Often children grow up with one parent, with grandparents, or other caregivers. Thus, they are affected by the negative consequences of migration. Even if they have a higher economic status than their peers in school, migrant children left at home are often confronted with problems at school (dropout, juvenile delinquency), with psychological insecurity or anxiety. The elderly population left in home communities faces specific problems as well (Sandu, 2009; 2010). Deciding to leave the children at home with their grandparents or other caregivers is part of a complex decision-making process. Large numbers of EU-migrants coming from Suceava decided not to take their children with them, this...

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