Europe Minister on Roma integration and Schengen Area
Italy/Roma/Bulgaria/Romania – Interview given by M. Thierry Repentin, Minister Delegate for European Affairs, to RFI (excerpts)
Paris, 2 October 2013
Q. – Should the French President break his silence on the issue of the Roma, at the Council of Ministers’ meeting this morning? (…)
THE MINISTER – This isn’t a simple issue. The assimilation of a foreign population whose way of life isn’t the one chosen by a large majority of our citizens pricks our consciences and should spur governments to take initiatives to integrate those people.
(…) Our fellow citizens are unaware of it but it’s a remit of the European Union, which has put in place funds enabling the member states to have specific programmes for those people, whether it be in the reception countries or their countries of origin – for example Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.
My responsibility is to ensure that, in the countries of origin, governments also do what’s necessary to integrate the Roma people who live there.
Q. – We’re going to talk about that aspect of things in a moment, but on your blog you write: “for the past few days, many untruths have been circulating about the European Union”.
THE MINISTER – (…) There’s no link between the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to Schengen and the fact that the Bulgarian and Romanian Roma can, like you and me, travel through all the EU countries, including those not in the Schengen Area like the United Kingdom and Ireland. The only difference when a state joins the Schengen Area is that you no longer show any identity papers at the border. And as I speak, the decision to open up the Schengen Area is far from having been taken. It’s a decision that will have to be taken unanimously by the 28 EU countries, and as things stand we don’t think this will be the case, given that there are still shortcomings in terms of the control of external borders in those two countries.
Q. – Government Spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem made it known a few days ago that – I quote – France isn’t in favour of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area, on the grounds that the conditions haven’t been met. (…)
THE MINISTER – (…) France won’t be alone in deciding on the entry of those two countries into the Schengen Area. It’s 28 countries that must take the decision unanimously. For our part, we believe there are still efforts to be made to open up Schengen.
Q. – The Romanian Foreign Minister will be our guest right here on Friday morning. What would you have to say to him?
THE MINISTER – I send him a friendly greeting in advance. He’s a great Francophile. I tell him that France will stand alongside him in the EU to mobilize Europe for funds that can support the efforts of Mr Ponta’s government. And I commend the responsibility of the Romanian Prime Minister. The previous government didn’t make the necessary efforts to integrate the Roma into their own country. So France stands alongside Romania. (…)./.