Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Romanian PM denounces Italy border checks plan

12 May 2008

May 12 (Reuters) - Romania's prime minister on Monday denounced a plan by Italy"s interior minister to reimpose border checks, saying it could fuel xenophobic attitudes towards Romanians. The plan, drawn up by interior minister Roberto Maroni of the anti-immigration Northern League party, would make illegal immigration a crime punishable by up to four years' jail, according to accounts in Italian newspapers.

The package is aimed mainly at Romanian immigrants and eastern European Roma people who have been blamed for a spate of crimes in Italy. It will be presented at a cabinet meeting this week. "I want to stress that, unfortunately, because of the elections in Italy ... there were mounting statements that created a perception that there is a critical situation concerning Romanians," Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu told reporters. "The feeding of xenophobic attitudes can have an impact on bilateral relations between Romania and Italy and this obviously is not in anyone's interest." Tariceanu said he will send Interior Minister Cristian David to Rome in discuss the issue.

He did not elaborate but said the cabinet could provide Italy with a team of prosecutors and policemen to support the Italian authorities' efforts to combat crime. Romania, which joined the European Union last year, is not part of the Schengen scheme. Italian authorities say its nationals enter Italy without checks through neighbouring countries covered by the agreement. The scheme allows for the suspension of the passport-free rules only for reasons of public order or national security. (Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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