France to help Romania join Schengen: minister

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France will help Romania meet conditions to join the visa-free Schengen zone, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Monday, adding he hoped tensions between the two will be surmounted.

"France wants to help Romania meet the entry criteria," Gueant said during a joint press conference with Romanian counterpart Traian Igas.

"We know that the authorites have made considerable efforts" in this respect, he said.

But the Balkan country must reassure its European partners, "as it will play a strategic part, by becoming the keeper of one of Europe's entry gates".

He stressed that France planned to have EU member states' policemen deployed on the Romanian borders in order to assist their local colleagues.

European commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmstoem had said in February that according to EU assessments Romania had met all the requisite criteria to join Schengen.

But some countries such as France and Germany were opposed to its entry in March, as it had hoped, calling for more progress in the fight against corruption, she added.

France's opposition to Romania's Schengen bid and the expulsion of thousands of Romanian Roma have sparked strong tensions between the two countries.

But Gueant said both Paris and Bucharest wanted to "resume their friendly dialogue".

The two countries also planned to reinforce their cooperation as there is "a rise in Romanian criminality in France", according to Gueant.

"This is both a political and an emotional issue," he said, stressing that several thousand wrongdoers should not be allowed to tarnish Romania's image in France.

© 2011 AFP

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