Romania sets up first UK consulate in Edinburgh

THE first Romanian consulate in the UK is to be launched in Edinburgh to serve the growing community in Scotland.

Officials from the Romanian government's only UK diplomatic hub - the main Embassy in London - have secured a base on St David Street in central Edinburgh and hope the consulate will be open by the end of the year.

It will provide passport and visa services to Romanian citizens in Scotland and the north east of England and visa advice for UK citizens wanting to work in the country.

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The news comes as members of the Romanian community celebrated the opening of the UK's first Romanian library in Glasgow.

Residents of Baia Mare, a city in the north of Romania, have donated more than 3,400 Romanian-language books to the facility, which will be run by the Romanian Orthodox Church community in Glasgow's Shettleston area.

After the fall of Communism, in 1989, Scottish libraries and universities held book drives and sent thousands of volumes to schools in deprived communities in Romania.

Carmen Podgorean, deputy head of mission for the Romanian Embassy in London, said a consul had been appointed and the office was likely to open within the next few weeks.

"Considering the size of the UK, it is really very difficult for Romanians in Scotland and the north of England to travel to the Embassy in London, which is why we want to open an office in Edinburgh," she said. "This will be an extension of the consular section in London."

The Romanian Embassy has estimated that as many as 4,000 Romanians currently live in Scotland - part of the 100,000 strong community in the UK as a whole.

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Ms Podgorean said Romania's succession to the European Union in 2009 had made it easier for citizens to travel to the UK, but added that restrictions which make it difficult for Romanians to obtain UK work permits had stemmed the growth of the community.

"Many of the Romanian citizens who are here are students," she said. "But we have people of a wide range of professions. We still have restrictions on the labour market which means that the growth has been only fairly steady."

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The Scottish consulate, which is likely to have only a handful of staff, will support events organised by the Romanian community, but is unlikely to have the resources to host its own cultural programme.

"We are very happy that the community has these kinds of events," said Ms Podgorean."We will support them in any way we can, but our presence in Edinburgh is likely to be limited to consular services."

There are currently seven honorary Romanian consuls in the UK, although these are figureheads and community leaders rather than formal embassy positions.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said consent for the consulate had been granted earlier this week.

Ioana di Mambro, a leader of the Romanian community in Glasgow, said the consul would help Scotland-based Romanians who found it expensive to travel to London.

"It will be of great benefit to us," said Mrs Di Mambro, who lives in Glasgow with her husband Marco and children Christopher, 6 and Elisa, 1.