Merkel sides with Romania on Gypsy issue

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday the expulsion of hundreds of Romanian Gypsies from France will not influence the decision about whether Romania can join Europe’s visa-free travel zone.

The recent expulsions of the Gypsies, also known as Roma, by the French government raised questions about whether European Union member states may block Romania’s entry to Europe’s visa-free zone on the ground that the nation is unable to integrate its own Gypsies.

Merkel said Romania will be assessed in November on whether it has fulfilled conditions that guarantee the security of EU borders. Such countries are allowed to grant EU visas for non-EU citizens. Merkel says Romania must show its visa processing is free of corruption.

Germany’s chancellor arrived in Romania late Monday after a visit to neighboring Bulgaria. Both countries joined the EU in 2007, but their justice systems have been marred by accusations of corruption. They are both still monitored by the bloc.

In Romania, Merkel met with Prime Minister Emil Boc and President Traian Basescu, and she offered Germany’s support to improve the country’s access to EU funds.

Romania was allocated billions of euros by the EU to help bring the country closer to the standards of other member states, but due to bureaucracy and inefficiency it has only accessed a fraction of what it could.

Merkel urged Romania to continue reforms and ensure transparency, saying that is important for German investors.

Boc hailed Germany’s decision to open its market for seasonal workers from Romania starting next year.

Germany is Romania’s third largest investor and its top trading partner. Merkel said an important tie between the two states is Romania’s German minority.

She urged Romanian authorities to speed up the restitution of properties that were confiscated under communism. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans migrated from Romania to Germany after World War II, under communism and immediately after the December 1989 revolt ended communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s 25-year-rule.

Today, only 60,000 Germans remain.

From Bucharest, Merkel will travel to Cluj, a city in northwest Romania, where she will receive an academic award at the Babes Bolyai University.

Associated Press

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