France, Romania sign Roma repatriation deal

Romania and France have signed a two-year framework agreement on September 12 for the repatriation of Romanian citizens of Roma descent, the Romanian government said in statement.

The agreement was signed by Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta and French interior minister Manuel Valls in Bucharest, on behalf of the Romanian labour and interior ministries and the French integration and immigration office.

As part of the pilot project, 80 families of Roma from northwestern Romania who wish to return to Romania and settle for the long-term will be given financial support for the move by the French authorities, including “financial support for economic reinsertion”, according to the statement.

Romanian authorities have agreed to ease access to state housing for the Roma and insure that underage Roma have access to the education system.

Earlier this summer, French authorities resumed the levelling of makeshift Roma camps, drawing parallels to a similar initiative two years ago, during the administration of president Nicolas Sarkozy. These actions have drawn an uncomfortable comparison for current president Francois Hollande, who promised during his electoral campaign that, unlike Sarkozy, his administration would work to find alternative housing solutions for the Roma. Instead, hundreds of Roma had been repatriated to Romania in August.

In response to the criticism, French authorities have expanded the list of available professions available to citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, the two countries from which most Roma immigrants hail, but did not open its labour market completely.

The agreement with Romania is the next step in France’s initiative to integrate Roma and stem the immigration wave at the source. The deal does not envision financial exchanges between the two countries, with authorities in Paris and Bucharest undertaking the costs of the programme in their respective countries, the statement said.

At the media conference that followed the signing of the agreement, Ponta emphasised the importance of education of Roma children (who habitually drop out of school or are pulled out after the primary grades). Ponta said that Romania would seek to access more European programmes for funding of Roma integration and had the support of French authorities in implementing integration strategies in Romania.

He said that his government will work closely with the French cabinet in developing the pan-European Roma integration pilot project.

French European affairs minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who was part of the Valls-led delegation that visited Bucharest, said that France would work closely with Romania and European institutions to “find solutions and set up projects for the integration of this people in their country of origin, in Romania.”

(Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta, left, and French interior minister Manuel Valls, right, met on September 12 in Bucharest to sign the two-year framework agreement for the repatriation of Romanian citizens of Roma descent. Photo: Romanian government press service)



The Sofia Globe staff

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