Romania, France to work together to help Roma: minister

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Romania and France should "tone down" the rhetoric and work together to improve the lot of Roma in the wake of the French government's crackdown on the minority, Romanian foreign minister Teodor Baconschi said Wednesday.

"Yesterday (Tuesday) I had a telephone conversation with my French counterpart Bernard Kouchner. We agreed not to limit the relations between the two countries to this single topic, to tone down the rhetoric and seek solutions", Baconschi said during a press conference.

He and Kouchner will publish a joint editorial in Romanian and French newspapers stressing their "common political will" to resolve the Roma issue, he added.

Baconschi however stressed that Romania "will not accept any form of discrimination against its citizens living in other European countries nor any restraint to their freedom of movement."

On Tuesday the country's European Minister Bogdan Aurescu said the French justification for Roma expulsions on security grounds was "invalid" in talks with European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding.

Baconschi, who had earlier this week said the French policy of sending Roma back to Romania on a voluntary basis with cash would not solve the problem, called for "modest, if quantifiable solutions" to improve the lot of the minority.

France launched a crackdown on Roma earlier this month after a group of Gypsies allegedly attacked a police station.

The government deported 283 Roma last Thursday, bringing the total number of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma expelled so far this year to 8,313, up from 7,875 expelled throughout last year.

© 2010 AFP

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