Some 20,000 Roma with Romanian citizenships are reported to live in France, more often than not accused of pickpocketing, aggressive beggary and burglaries.
The French Interior Minister, Socialist Manuel Valls, says the Roma have no intention of integrating into the French society. Numerous French politicians, both in the ruling coalition and in opposition seem to share his point of view and have asked for a postponement of Romania’s Schengen accession for fear of a massive wave of Roma ethnics heading their way.
The fears of many are now confirmed, as France’s issues with Roma migrants are far from over. Over the last couple of days the French media has given extensive coverage to the issue, which also seems to have caused in rift in the French Government.
On the other hand, Bucharest authorities have argued that the more or less indirect connection between a massive presence of Roma on the French territory and Romania’s bid to join Schengen is simply groundless. More precisely, the prospect of a mass-migration of Roma to France following Romania’s Schengen accession has no basis to support it, neither can such scenario be interpreted as an election ruse ahead of the French municipal elections of March 2014.
Schengen is strictly related to the security of its external borders, not to the free movement of Romanians, a right they had secured with their EU accession in 2007. Besides, Romania has done its homework and has fulfilled all technical requirements, which is why Romanian officials want Romania to join Schengen as of January 1st, 2014.
Moreover, Bucharest officials also speak of the strategic partnership between Romania and France, under which Paris has pledged to support Romania’s Schengen accession. Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean argues the terms of the partnership compel the two countries to mutual support.
Titus Corlatean: “The strategic partnership and roadmap signed with the French Prime Minister in Paris several months ago includes a common objective – supporting Romania in its efforts to join Schengen – as well as other political, strategic, economic and cultural objectives, and such a strategic partnership is upheld through reciprocity. If the terms of the partnership don’t go both ways, we should be learning about this from official communication channels, not from the French media”.
Vice-chairman of Romania-France Friendship Group Jean-Pierre Dufau said in Bucharest that Roma integration should not be linked with Romania’s Schengen accession. In turn Paris authorities are trying to keep the two matters separate, although it’s uncertain the French public opinion will do the same.
Even so, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls hasn’t backtracked on his previous statement, namely that the Roma issue cannot be solved through social insertion, due to the small number of people who want to integrate. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that Romania didn’t meet all Schengen accession criteria in order to join the Schengen area in 2014, a viewpoint also shared by French Government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.