Politicians: "Romania should pay for beggars"

Two Liberal Party politicians are demanding that "Romania and other countries" take financial responsibility for their citizens who are begging on the streets in Sweden. In an op-ed article in Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm school commissioner Lotta Edholm, and Eriks Scheller, who is on the liberal list for the European Parliament, write that "it is time for the bill to end up where it belongs".

In an interview with Swedish Radio P1, Edholm says that: "there is a reason that people from Romania come here to beg on our streets and that is because Roma people in particular are living under terrible conditions in Romania, and that is due to the discrimination they are facing and because Romanian politicians are not taking this seriously enough".

Edholm claims that Romania is not applying for the EU funds that are available to address the problems.

"Out of the EU funds that could be used for this purpose, Romania has applied for less than 20 percent. That shows that there is a complete lack of interest in Rumania to deal with these problems," says Edholm.

She notes that a Swede who falls ill in Germany will be treated in hospital there, but the bill will be sent to Sweden for Swedish tax payers to pay.

"We ought to try if that can apply also to the costs that the City of Stockholm has," says Edholm.

At the moment, the council is providing beds, emergency food and sometimes transportation back to Romania to several of the beggars. Edholm says that it is not a question of any large sums of money, but she thinks it is important to put pressure on the Romanian government to take the issues seriously.

In addition to pressure being applied from city councils like Stockholm, she thinks the EU needs to do more.

"I think that Romania is currently not living up to what it promised when it became a member of the EU. Therefore it is also a European responsibility to make Romania act in a humane and efficient way towards its own population.

"And lets be clear: this is a Romanian problem, because 90 percent of the people who are begging on our streets come from Romania. There are no-where near as many people coming from other countries and this is because of the discrimination against Roma people in Romania."

In the radio programme, Edholm was criticised by the Left Party's Stockholm councillor Karin Rågsjö for not doing enough for the Romanian people who are living on the streets of Stockholm. She wants to see more accommodation at a Stockholm camping site, with proper access to showers and toilets.

Edholm replied that more could always be done, but she also pointed out that there is no legal obligation for the City of Stockholm to help the Romanian citizens in this way, more a humanitarian one.

Swedish Radio P1 contacted the Romanian Embassy in Stockholm, but they declined to comment.