Tuesday

24th Apr 2018

Roma are EU citizens too, Romanian President says

  • Roma are the poorest and most discriminated ethnic minority in Europe (Photo: Council of Europe)

Romanian President Traian Basescu on Friday (31 January) strongly defended freedom of movement within the EU, saying Roma have the same rights as other EU citizens and should not be misused for populist campaigns.

Seven years after Romania joined the EU, Basescu said that his country is still not "fully integrated" as it is waiting to be accepted in the border-free Schengen area and, sometime in 2018-2019, in the eurozone.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"But I am happy from 1 January we are now fully integrated on the EU labour market," the President told journalists in Berlin, in reference to the lifting of labour market restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens.

Basescu criticised the campaign against so-called social tourism in Germany, led by the Bavarian Conservatives (the CSU), whose slogan for the EU elections is "who cheats is kicked out."

"First of all I reject the term migration within the EU. We are all EU citizens, there is a single market, so there is no 'migration'," he said.

Basescu noted that he understands the concerns of "some governments" - a reference also to the British government - that people from Romania and Bulgaria may abuse their welfare systems.

"But what we categorically reject is to apply some measures strictly to Romanian or Bulgarian citizens. If there are restrictions in the way social benefits are allocated, they should apply to all EU citizens in equal manner," he said.

Given that there are already EU rules in place preventing welfare abuse and that the actual numbers of people applying for social aid when they go abroad is small, Basescu said other governments should "rest assured that people coming in will not lead to a collapse of their social systems."

He admitted that there are still integration problems in Romania with the Roma minority and said that it is also part of their "cultural background" to travel, as a nomadic people.

Over 600,000 Roma live in Romania, according to official statistics. But given that almost two thirds of them have not indicated that they are Roma for fear of discrimination, the real figures are estimated to be around three million out of an overall population of 20 million.

"Of course they are very visible, they ask for money, food, they annoy people. They are perhaps more annoying than a banker who makes tens of billions disappear from a bank. Bankers don't annoy anyone, but then governments have to pay billions for them, as it was the case during the crisis," he said.

But all in all, he said, Roma remain EU citizens with the same rights as everybody else.

"When we joined the EU, there was no paragraph in our accession treaty saying that the Roma should be kept out," Basescu quipped.

With high percentages of illiteracy and school drop-out rates, education remains the main challenge in integrating the Roma, he said.

"We are ready to send teachers, trainers, close to the towns where they are settling, as long as local administrations are setting up facilities where the kids can learn how to read and write."

Basescu also noted that brain drain is a problem for Romania, with 14,000 doctors having left in the last 10 years - "a serious blow to the healthcare system, given that the cost of training a doctor is very high."

Tens of thousands of IT developers also left the country - lots of them to Germany - in the search for better jobs and wages - a trend that the government cannot stop as long as the wages are so low in Romania.

"We never accused any state for accepting these high-skilled workers. But in return, we would like it to be reciprocated when it comes to lower-skilled workers or the Roma. We could take the criticism, if at the same time we would be thanked for the money the Romanian state has invested in doctors and IT engineers," Basescu said.

EU takes step closer to 'posted workers' deal

Negotiators from the member states, EU Parliament and Commission reached a 'common understanding' to guarantee equal pay for equal work in the EU. They hope to reach a final agreement in June.

Magazine

A sustainable death wish

No one can escape death. But choices over how one's body is disposed of could either lessen or increase your carbon footprint.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  2. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  3. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  4. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  5. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack
  6. European Commission proposes whistleblower protection law
  7. Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP
  8. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations