Romanian Minister on beggars: "We have no discrimination in Romania"
Romania's minister for Labour, Family, Social Protection and Elderly was in Stockholm today for talks with her Swedish counterparts about the issue of homeless Roma from Romania sleeping rough in Sweden.
Many of the homeless begging on the streets of Stockholm and other towns and cities around the country are Roma from Romania, able to come to Sweden to beg for three months at a time due to European Union rules governing the free movement of people.
The ministers agreed to do more to work together to fight poverty in Romania, in the hope that that will mean fewer will be forced to beg abroad.
Romanian minister Rovana Plumb said that since her government was formed in 2012 they have been doing what they can to improve conditions, including increasing their use of EU social funds on vulnerable groups in society.
Meanwhile, Swedish minister for Social Security, Annika Strandhäll, and the Swedish minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality, Åsa Regnér said that one of the concrete things that did come out of the meeting was a decision to write a common memorandum of understanding, to be signed in Brussels in March. Åsa Regner said at the press conference that she hoped they were now moving in the right direction, with the focus on helping the Roma in Romania. She added that ministers from both countries had plans to meet again in the future.
But when it came to the reasons why the Roma come and beg on the freezing streets of Stockholm, which many put down to prejudice among the majority population in Romania, the Romanian minister was less forthcoming.
"There is no discrimination in Romania", Rovana Plumb told Radio Sweden journalist Adam Szoppe, "I think that the strategy and the action plan that we adopted and want to enforce, will be an important tool to help the vulnerable groups" she said, adding that while she had met with representatives from the Romanian diaspora in Stockholm, she would not have time to visit the Roma camps around the city.