EU to meet in Bucharest over Roma aid: commissioner

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The Eurpean Union will hold a conference in Bucharest next month to discuss aid programmes for the Roma minority, EU social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor announced in an interview to be published Monday.

Participants at the conference will discuss ways "to better implement aid programmes for Roma," Andor told the Austrian weekly Profil.

No specific date was given however.

Andor's announcement came after France's expulsion of Roma prompted a war of words between Paris and Brussels this week.

In his interview, the commissioner also condemned the French government's expulsion of Roma as a cheap ploy to boost its popularity.

"People are trying here cheaply and obviously to boost their popularity at the expense of a particularly vulnerable group," Andor said.

"But there can be no room for racism and xenophobia in Europe," he insisted.

Not only France, but other EU members as well had done too little for the Roma minority, he added.

Although the EU had set up a "comprehensive support programme" for Roma and gypsies, member states like Romania and Bulgaria had failed to make the most of these subsidies, he said.

This was one of the reasons for the October meeting, he said.

France has been under fire for weeks over Sarkozy's controversial drive to deport ethnic Roma living in travelling communities in France back to Romania and Bulgaria, and Paris now faces the threat of European legal action.

© 2010 AFP

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