Sunday

21st Jul 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"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.

Stakeholder

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us