Under fire, France urges emergency Romanian plan for Roma
France urged Romania on Thursday to draw up an emergency plan to integrate its Roma community but took flak from the European Parliament for forcing members of the minority to return home.
Expressing "deep concern at measures taken by France and other member states targeting Roma and Travellers", the resolution of the European Parliament urged them "immediately to suspend all expulsions of Roma."
The resolution is not binding.
Immigration Minister Eric Besson, in Bucharest for talks with Romanian authorities on the issue, immediately hit back, saying it was "out of the question" for France to suspend expulsions.
"The European parliament has exceeded its prerogatives and we are certainly not going to comply with a political diktat," Besson said.
A few hours earlier, France's European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche had asked Romanian leaders to do more to integrate their fellow Roma citizens.
"France will call for commitments on police and judiciary cooperation, the fight against human trafficking and integration of Roma in Romania, as part of a national emergency plan spanning 2010-2013," Lellouche told reporters ahead of a meeting with Romanian leaders including Prime Minister Emil Boc.
His comments came a day after Romanian President Traian Basescu warned that the French ministers' visit would be useless if they had come to lecture Romania.
But Lellouche said, "The truth is the Roma are not integrated in Romania."
Paris was seeking a commitment from Bucharest to help Roma, including those expelled from France in recent months, integrate into Romanian society, the minister added.
Paris in its turn pledged to mobilise funds to help Roma in France return and benefit from social inclusion programmes in Romania.
They would also help Romania implement the emergency plan, he added.
He said European funding would finance the emergency plan proposed to the tune of one billion euros (1.27 billion dollars).
"We have a road map on Roma inclusion, we have made several proposals, but things are not progressing," Lellouche said.
France has deported almost 1,000 Roma migrants to Bulgaria and Romania since President Nicolas Sarkozy's government launched a high-profile security crackdown in July.
Its policy has attracted criticism from both within the country and abroad, increasing tension between France and Romania in particular.
On the eve of the ministers' visit, Basescu warned that if they were coming "to lecture, that will resolve nothing."
But he added: "If they are coming to find solutions, we will find solutions."
And Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi attacked France's expulsion policy in an opinion piece in Thursday's edition of the daily Evenimentul Zilei.
"Neither a security crackdown nor a paternalist form of welfare are the answer to Roma problems", he wrote.
"Only a European strategy will allow for a lasting response to the problems and legitimate expectations of this vast community."
Banconschi stressed Romania had already adopted a national strategy for Roma integration and spent nearly 50 million euros since the beginning of the year on prgrammes meant to improve the lot of the community.
Sarkozy and his ministers have defended their policy in the context of a crackdown on foreign-born criminals.
But Bucharest has said that of the hundreds of Romanian Roma expelled, none had a criminal record.
In more international criticism of French policy, Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, on Wednesday likened France's rhetoric on the issue to that used by the Nazi and fascist regimes.
While the remarks brought a sharp response from France, Hammarberg Thursday said he had not targeted the French government.
© 2010 AFP