Statement by Minister Teodor Baconschi at the joint press conference with the French side

Teodor Baconschi, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Visit to Bucharest by French Minister for Immigration, Integration and National Identity Eric Besson and State Secretary for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to welcome the presence at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of French Minister for Immigration, Integration and National Identity Eric Besson, Ministers Vasile Blaga and Ioan Botiş, State Secretary for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche and State Secretary Valentin Mocanu.

We had a day of hard work, we are satisfied that we have reasserted the shared principles we both believe in and, at the same time, have undertaken – as you can see in our joint press release – an Action Plan that will help us gradually deal with the problem we have been facing.

Ours is a privileged relationship with France, sealed by a strategic partnership and manifest at all levels of bilateral cooperation in a long series of ongoing projects that are equally important for Romania and France. I have reasserted the fact that through its linguistic and cultural traditions and affinities our country is the best friend the French Republic has in this part of Europe. We are convinced that by having both sides commit to this concrete Action Plan the bilateral relationship will revert back to its usual condition, keeping all prospects open to subsequent enhancement of dialog at all levels between Paris and Bucharest.

I believe it is high time to end the sterile polemics –  fact accepted by both sides – and take a critical and self-critical look at the results of our work so far, and focus on specific social reintegration projects that we will undoubtedly have a chance to tell you about, while the Ministers who are present here can provide more specific details.

We are in a position where we can issue you with this joint press statement as signed by three Romanian Ministers and the French Ministers who are visiting us in Bucharest. The first part is a reassertion in no uncertain terms of the principles we believe in, while the second part provides an outline of this Action Plan, which is to become operational by the end of this year.

“We will take our part of the blame in no uncertain terms concerning our own citizens, but we cannot agree that the Roma issue in Europe is as an exclusively Romanian problem, for the simple reason that the Roma, far from being newcomers, have been living in the majority of European states for many centuries.

We are aware this group is vulnerable, that it has some genuine insertion challenges to overcome, that the children need to go back to school and that the adults need to exercise an occupation so they can raise their children to join the labor market.

We are sure our two countries – France and Romania – will be successful in persuading the European Commission to also put a formal mechanism in place for coordinating policies at the level of the 27 as concerns the social integration of the Roma. Of course, we count on France, which we respect and admire as the motherland of human rights, to be the first defender of all principles that illustrate the European spirit nowadays, including unrestricted circulation. We need to make a distinction between criminal rings that need to be addressed with the full might of the law and the fragile situation of those communities; this way we will be able to make progress in their genuine integration.

We have expressed reservations about the way each one of us has been doing things so far, and are determined to jointly implement the social inclusion programs in the communities of origin of those of our citizens who go to France or other countries; this is not to restrict their free circulation but to make sure their presence in France or any other Member State is legal. Directive 38, that we’ve talked about a lot, provides the right to unrestricted circulation and the right to stay in any Member State for 90 days; however, if after 90 days one has not secured a job yet, does not have the resources to sustain oneself, has no form of participation in the labor market, no labor contract, well, there appears a threshold beyond which it is down to enforcement of the laws applicable in each Member State.

I will stop here for the moment, but will express my satisfaction that after this direct, sincere and very friendly dialog we have been successful in identifying the most effective joint approach and have hopefully ended this rather torrid summer to make room for applied work on concrete projects. In that respect we do need more European funding and the Mechanism of Coordination the Commission should render operational, but we also need cooperation from the Rroma NGOs which will undoubtedly be able to help the Romanian Government in this effort to improve the way and conditions of life of our fellow citizens.