Promotional spots proclaiming "I am a European citizen and I have rights" have been, for some time now, broadcast on nearly all Romanian television channels.

The ads show individuals in normal daily situations: a person has bought a faulty laptop; another wants to return a product bought on line; a third demands a refund on a hotel room because it lacks air-conditioning.

Confronted by the refusal of service providers to offer redress, the person proclaims in a resolute voice, "Do you know who I am? I am a citizen of Europe and I have rights!" This is certainly a useful campaign. Europe's Romanian citizens are learning that the EU has brought them some rights: that they can return a flawed product or request monetary compensation for unsatisfactory service.

But this campaign is constructed in the somewhat tedious style of the European Commission and its bureaucrats. For years Europe has been submerged by brochures and other TV and radio spots aimed at European citizens. Yet, citizens of Europe, even those that know their rights if their lap-tops crash or if they find horsemeat in their frozen lasagnes, seem very downcast these days. This is because some of their rights, including some considered as "pillars of European construction," such as the right to work and settle in any EU country, are not respected. The days of a "Citizens' Europe" have come and gone but the deliberately confident and sound bite-ready "informational material" it generated continues to be issued by the Commission and to live on in the speeches of politicians.

A show of solidarity is needed!

The economic crisis is not the only culprit, although austerity can still be found on our aging continent. For example, due to an EU decision, European citizens of Cyprus saw their bank accounts plundered. But this move was motivated by the need to save the euro – our common currency – hence we must all show solidarity. But this chaotic solidarity, decreed from the top, cannot function as long as isolationism blooms and the notion of the biblical scapegoat becomes fashionable nearly everywhere in the EU.

Populist movements in a good number of countries have seized upon the notion that European institutions lack democratic credentials and that, consequently, the citizens are not represented. Blaming others is a simple device that can bring in votes. The British, whose euro-scepticism has always been a guaranteed source of amusement, have recently fallen prey to the sad obsession of the Romanian/Bulgarian invasion.

The facts speak for themselves. Anti-immigration policies, such as those devised and applied by the European nations, are resounding failures. Europe is full of millions of immigrants from around the world who arrive by all possible means, often illegally.

Poverty fuelling immigrantion

It is true that poverty pushed European citizens to leave Romania. It is true that some of them live lives as "perpetual immigrants". It is true that some work off the books. But this is because the states have failed to eradicate their parallel economies rather than because of the implementation of the "pillar" of the EU treaty dealing with the freedom of movement of citizens. Some 2m Romanians simply applied the letter of the law. This principal cannot be meant to apply only to those who retire in the Canary Islands or in Southern Portugal.

Perhaps Romania does not bring a substantial contribution to the EU, but it must be given credit for trying to implement an idea that – on paper – is noble and beautiful: the right of European citizens to settle anywhere they choose within the EU.

Unfortunately, our old continent, which soon really will be needing immigrants, allows member states to be responsible for regulations regarding "foreigners". This opens the door to new failures which cannot be mended by the right to have a laptop under warranty repaired or by compensation for a holiday without air conditioning.