From January 1st restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians living and working in other EU countries were lifted, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU) to call for a clamp down.
But in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, from the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), defended freedom of movement and work within the EU. He said whoever questioned it “damaged Europe and damaged Germany”.
He said: "European freedoms are the core of our idea of Europe. The freedom of movement of workers is a vital part of European integration. Germany has benefited immensely from it and certainly much more than others.
"Right now, many young people from southern Europe come to us to learn and to work. This benefits us, and that also helps the countries they come from."
His colleague in the foreign office and Minister for Europe Michael Roth criticized the CSU for failing to understand Europe and not wanting to understand it.
He accused the party, who are in a "grand coalition" government with the SPD, of coming up with “stupid slogans”. “That is not the level on which the “grand coalition” should work,” Roth said.
The CSU has called for restrictions on the amount of state benefits handed out to new arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania.