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French ministers meeting Romanian government about integrating Roma people

media France says it wants to work with Romania and Bulgaria to integrate their Roma minorities. Reuters/Robert Pratta

Two French ministers are meeting the Romanian government to discuss ways to improve the living conditions of the Roma people in Romania.

The French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, and France’s Europe minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, are due to hold talks with the Romanian President, Romanian Prime Minister and other officials in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, on Wednesday.

The Romanian foreign ministry said the government was "determined to talk in a constructive way about how the social inclusion of Roma could be improved."

Romania has the biggest Roma minority in Europe, and it is believed that many of them emigrated to Western Europe to escape poverty.

Last month, French police expelled hundreds of Roma from camps in the Paris suburb of Stains and elsewhere. Officials said the often squalid camps were a threat to the health and safety of their inhabitants.

France hosts an estimated 15,000 Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, less than Spain and Italy.

Valls says half of them would be sent back to their home countries by the end of the month.

But he also said on Tuesday: “We cannot afford to accommodate all these people who are often the wretched of the earth, who are persecuted in their country, who are discriminated against.”

France's policy of closing the camps and repatriating the Roma with a 300 euro incentive has been widely criticised by rights groups.

Damian Draghici, a famous Roma musician who has become senior advisor to the Romanian Prime Minister, told news agency AFP that the French handout could easily be used by Roma for a return bus ticket to France.

But he conceded Romania did have to improve its integration policies.

"We have our part of responsibility. The task is huge in this poor country,” he said.


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