By ALISON MUTLER (AP)
BUCHAREST, Romania — The millions of Gypsies who live in Europe face widespread discrimination and need more EU funds and a better strategy to integrate them into society, Romania's foreign minister said Tuesday.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Teodor Baconschi said there are 9 million Gypsies, or Roma, living in the 27-member European Union. Romania has the largest Roma population, believed to be about one million, although many do not declare their ethnicity due to widespread prejudice.
Baconschi said more EU funds were needed for education, health and housing for Roma, who are often the poorest members of society. He said he discussed the Roma issue in a meeting Monday in Brussels.
"We need a strategy of social integration," he said in the interview at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Bucharest. "If we have 9 million who are excluded, we have to include them."
In 2007, there were tensions between Romania and Italy following the brutal murder of a navy officer's wife by a Romanian Gypsy in Italy. In 2009, more than 100 Romanian Gypsies were attacked with bricks and bottles in Ireland and driven from their homes.
Baconschi said Romania has pressed for a EU strategy to integrate Gypsies since 2008, a year after it joined the EU.
"This is a problem ... of the whole European community. We need to undertake measures very quickly at a community level ... to include the Roma population," he said.