France to propose emergency Roma plan for Romania

9th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

France will call on Romania to draw up an emergency plan to integrate its Roma community, France's European affairs minister said Thursday in Bucharest ahead of talks with the countries' leaders.

"France will call for commitments on police and judiciary cooperation, fight against human trafficking and integration of Roma in Romania, as part of a national emergency plan spanning 2010-2013," Lellouche told reporters.

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.

Lellouche, arrived in Bucharest with French Immigration Minister Eric Besson, said European funding would finance such an emergency plan to the tune of a billion euros.

"The truth is the Roma are not integrated in Romania," he added.

Paris was seeking a commitment from Bucharest that they would 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.

"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 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 explusion of Roma immigrants 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."

Besson and Lellouche were due to meet Prime Minister Emil Boc, Interior Minister Vasile Blaga and Baconschi later Thursday.

France's President Nicolas 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 the latest 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

The remarks brought a sharp response from France, with Lellouche saying he would be calling for an explanation of the comments, which came in a Twitter posting to the Internet.

© 2010 AFP

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