Call for EU strategy on migration of Roma


ROMANIA HAS called for a European Union-wide strategy to deal with Roma migration, after raising concerns about France’s plan to dismantle hundreds of Roma camps and send their residents back to the Balkans.

France has deported some 200 Roma to Romania and is expected to expel about 650 more this month under a scheme championed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has linked crime with immigration and declared a “war” on delinquency.

The plan is part of a broad crackdown on crime by Mr Sarkozy that critics call a cynical bid to boost his flagging popularity. They also say the deportations are pointless, predicting that most of those ejected will quickly return to France.

“What has happened in Paris shows that we must have an integration plan across Europe for Roma citizens,” said Romanian president Traian Basescu.

“We understand problems created by Roma camps outside French cities. But we also support the right of every European citizen to travel freely in the union,” he added, noting that Bucharest and Rome had co-operated over issues with Roma living in Italy.

“We resolved the problem effectively by sending more police officers there. We will do the same with France,” he said.

Romanian foreign minister Teodor Baconschi warned of the “risks of populism and xenophobic reactions in a context of economic crisis”, and said Romanian officials would discuss the issue with French counterparts this month.

The French leader has been lambasted by rights groups and his Socialist rivals at home, and Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Vatican’s Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, said “the mass expulsions of Roma are against European norms” and that responsibility for crimes “is individual, not collective”. “One cannot generalise and take an entire group of people and kick them out,” he added.

The move has not been criticised by the government in Bulgaria, however, which is also expecting the return of hundreds of Roma from France. Bulgaria’s leaders are now pursuing their own crackdown on crime.

“I find unacceptable this baseless and artificial dramatisation of a completely normal practice,” said Marin Raykov, Bulgaria’s ambassador to France.

“There is nothing more normal than for a member state of the EU, like France, to try and ensure that its laws, as well as European norms, are obeyed.”