Romanian president resents Italy's treatment of Roma
Romanian President Traian Basescu on Thursday told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that Bucharest disapproved of Rome's policies toward the ethnic Roma, including their fingerprinting, dpa reported.
"The Romanian government does not approve, I repeat, does not approve of part of a large part of the measures of the Italian government," Basescu said at news conference with Berlusconi in Rome.
Basescu was referring to a census of ethnic Roma - known colloquially as gypsies - ordered by the Italian government which also involves fingerprinting, including children.
Basescu said Berlusconi had assured him during their talks, that Roma children would only be fingerprinted with the authorization of their parents, legal tutors or in the presence of a magistrate.
Berlusconi reiterated his centre-right government's stance that the census and fingerprinting is part of plan to identify all Roma children living in Italy to ensure that they attend school.
Berlusconi also rejected a recent motion by the European Parliament which condemned his government's policies towards the Roma, many of whom are immigrants from Romania.
"The European Parliament intervened with a politically motivated response based on disinformation and unreality," Berlusconi said.
Earlier Thursday, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno accompanied Basescu on a visit to a camp in the Italian capital occupied by a group of Roma.
At the camp, Basescu witnessed some of the census process, which in Rome is being conducted by Italian Red Cross officials operating in camps and shanty towns occupied by Roma.
"We understand some of the measures taken by the Italian government, but we cannot agree with a form of treatment which is outside European Union norms," Basescu said.
"I know you have a problem, which I have come to talk about," Basescu told Roma representatives, adding that a solution had to be found for the unemployment problems of their community.
In a report issued Tuesday, the Council of Europe criticized Italy's treatment of its Roma and Sinti minority population and immigrants, accusing government officials of promoting a "xenophobic" environment in which a series of anti-immigrant attacks had taken place.
In May several Roma settlements were attacked by residents from neighbouring communities, following reports of an attempted child kidnapping by a Roma teenager.
Surveys show many Italians associate the Roma with an increase in crime.